Orange, peach, yellow and red roses, soft and velvety, finished off with splashes of white and a green posy. This is what sits in a vase in my living room. No, not because my husband is feeling guilty about something, and not as an apology for some dastardly act, but just because. He buys flowers on an almost weekly basis because he is Dutch: no other reason. The Dutch and flowers go together like Italians and pasta, or teenage Brits and binge drinking. It's a culture thing.
There is almost permanently a bunch of flowers in our house, either bought by us, or by visitors. Guests bringing flowers with them is about as normal as you can get in the Netherlands, and the fact that there are always flowers in our house is one of the things I love about living here.
I was talking to a British friend once about my weekly gift of flowers. "Oh, he never buys me flowers," she said about her own husband.
In the UK, flowers are more reserved for special occasion purchases than they are in the Netherlands: birthdays, congratulations, weddings. Most houses are not constantly decorated with vases of colourful bouquets. I suspect it is related to the price.
I can go to the florist here and pick up an enormous bunch of flowers for the change in my purse. In the UK I would certainly be diving in to the note section of my purse to buy an equivalent sized bunch.
Sometimes I see the prices of flowers in the florists here and wonder how the flower industry ever makes any money. But of course they do, and furthermore, the Netherlands is at the centre of the European flower trade.
It would be difficult to talk about flowers in the Netherlands and not mention the Keukenhof, the world's largest flower gardens. Situated in Lisse, the Keukenhof becomes the region's star tourist attraction between March and May, flooded with visitors from across the globe. It is a magnificent sight, and manages to amaze visitors year after year. It has now been the home to an annual flower exhibition for sixty years and each year millions of bulbs are planted.
If you are yet to visit the Keukenhof, or are looking to entertain relatives or friends, then it opens again in 2010 on 18 March and stays open until 16 May with the theme "From Russia with Love".