Dennis Lanzaat: meet the flower nerd who's changing botany learning in Amsterdam
The huge amount of flower shops in Amsterdam epitomizes not only the life-time relationship between the Netherlands and flora but also how keen Dutch people are to nurture a close relationship with the greens. Of ten Dutch houses perhaps seven of them have tulips, lilies, daffodils or roses (even if it's just a single vase of them) proving that buying and selling flowers is such an intrinsic aspect in the Dutch DNA.
But one shop, in my opinion, certainly stands out the most: Mooi Anders, an urban jungle that caught my attention since the very first time I passed by its doors. Located on a busy street in the Westerpark area, it's where the most different species of plants can be found in town, carefully selected by its owner, Dennis Lanzaat. Not by chance does the name Mooi mean beautiful while Anders stands for different. However, it's not just the unusual curatorship that makes this place easily noticeable but rather the effortless ability which Dennis and his green fingers’ team share botany knowledge with customers. For them, educating people is the main drive behind their métier.
"We started this business as a workshop", says Dennis, who used to lead almost one workshop per week before Corona forced him to put classes on hold. "What I miss the most about them is the teaching part and the energy that we get back from people, like, being able to make the apprentices feel proud of themselves", adds the florist, whose passion for nature dates back to his childhood. When still a little boy of eight years old, he would sneak hydrangea from the neighbor's garden to make bouquets for his mother: an early sign of the most colorful zest in his life ever since.
Speaking of gardens, they were always Dennis' cherished playground. By the age of twelve he got his first little allotment - a community plot of land for individual, non-commercial gardening or growing food plants - where he could develop his greenery experiments. Later on, he found all the encouragement he needed to pursue a path that was meant for him: a middle school whose studies were pointed towards the direction of gardening, floral art and animal care. "I just felt right at home. By that time, flower arranging was already so easy to me", recalls Dennis.
Afterwards and having already worked for different companies and absorbing experience throughout the whole country - which, by the way, is the biggest producer and exporter of flowers in the whole world - Dennis decided it was about time to have his own place. This was 12 years ago. At the beginning, a small and humble structure - half the current shop's size - served as the foundation for a venture of subscriptions and small workshops. Dennis' talent was so palpable that Mooi Anders immediately took off.
Now, the shop offers dozens of one of a kind alocasias – Dennis’ favorites! -, calatheas, begonias, aloe vera, caladiums and many more, besides 15 to 30 varieties of stunning daily fresh flowers of all sorts of colors, shapes and textures. "We are plant nerds; we are flower nerds. We want to sell those special kinds of flowers that you don't see at any old flower shop", says Dennis.
And so he does it, catering to every budget and occasion, from teaching newcomers how to start from scratch - making them comfortable and not intimidated as a novice might feel - to, surprisingly, wedding arrangements and also funeral garlands. "It's the last thing you can actually gift someone, and a lot of people tend to go back to basics which might not quietly suit the person who passed away. We are trying to change people's mind sets about this", explains Dennis who believes that listening to the family's wishes must go hand in hand with a thoughtful interpretation of the tastes and lifestyle of the deceased; thereby coming up with a flower design that will pay faithful homage.
In addition, Mooi Anders is incorporating ecologically ground flowers to its portfolio. At the same time that the eco ones bring great advantage being pesticide free, it takes time to motivate customers to accept and become familiar with them. "Take for example an organic apple: it has a few spots on it. But with ecological flowers, people reject them and think they are old just because of some brown leaves or tiny flaws", says Dennis.
Trading flowers might be something peculiar to the Dutch country and likewise a fundamental source to its economy. But dealing with nature cannot be something purely commercial. After all, it's one of the simplest ways to nourish our intellect and soul. Happily, the floricultural sector has shops like Mooi Anders, whose work is leaving a beautiful imprint in the market and for generations to come.
*Click here to watch the interview with Dennis Lanzaat and to marvel yourself at his gorgeous urban oasis!