The World’s Biggest Flower Market: where do supermarket flowers really come from?

Presenter Cherry Healey follows the blossom trail from Kenya to your kitchen

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Ever wondered who actually grew all those flowers stacked in the front of supermarkets? New BBC documentary The World’s Biggest Flower Market goes behind the scenes of the booming bouquet trade.

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Presenter Cherry Healey and florist Simon Lycett follow the trail, from farms in Kenya through a massive auction in the Netherlands. It’s an incredible story.

1. Many of the flowers that we buy in the UK come from farms in Kenya, where they’re grown in hydroponic polytunnels and watered three times a day before being cut. When it’s cut, the stem is like an open wound: it needs intensive care, so is put straight into an antibacterial solution.

2. Each flower has to be cooled carefully for 12 hours and has an optimum temperature that will keep it in a state of suspended animation, ready to be transported. For roses and tulips, it’s 2 ̊C. The buds must stay closed for as long as possible so they open for the recipient.

3. The flowers are given a final drink of water before they’re packed up and x-rayed at Nairobi airport, and loaded onto planes to be flown across the world. In the Valentine’s period this year, 25 million stems passed through the airport every day.

4. The flowers grown in Kenya for
the European market, and other destinations, are transported overnight to Aalsmeer in the Netherlands, where they’re unloaded, brought to a temperature of 15 ̊C and taken to auction. The flower market is as big as Monaco and as hectic as a City trading floor as buyers bid on flowers from three different auctions simultaneously.

5. When the auction is over, the flowers are brought to “the buffer”, a giant floral trolley park. Within two and a half hours of the purchase, the buyers will have the flowers and they’ll be ready to be sold on
to florists and supermarkets across Europe.

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The World’s Biggest Flower Market airs Friday 27 May at 9pm on BBC2