Brussels has an extremely rich green heritage: Brussels Park, the Botanical Garden, Leopold Park, the Bois de la Cambre, the Mont des Arts… A lot need to be told about them. . It is with the aim of rediscovering these hidden treasures that the Year of Flora will take place until March 2015. Exhibitions, visits, walks, conferences, there will be something for all tastes and ages.
Birth of Belgian horticulture precedes that of Belgium itself. In fact, its origins can be traced back to at least the 17th century. In Brussels the official creation of the Brotherhood of Saint Dorothy, patron saint of gardeners and florists, dates from 1664. Following Belgium’s independence under the reign of Leopold I from 1831 to 1865, Brussels became one of the capitals of European horticulture and rivalled Ghent for the extravagance and innovation of its horticulture market. Leopold II gave Brussels several of its green heritage treasures. He also encouraged painters to magnify all exotic plants. Today, Brussels is rediscovering its horticultural splendour. It was also very close to being named European Green Capital.
2014 marks the 350th anniversary of the creation of the Brotherhood of Saint Dorothy in Brussels. This event is a unique opportunity to show off the capital’s horticultural splendour of the past, present and future. It was for this purpose that the non-profit organisation Year of Flora was formed on the initiative of the Royal Brussels Linnean and Floral Society. Year of Flora is under the High Patronage of Her Majesty Queen Paola.
Year of Flora was officially opened on Thursday 10th April. Between spring 2014 and spring 2015, Year of Flora will be organising or promoting a certain number of events dedicated to the parks and gardens of Brussels including exhibitions, visits and conferences. These events will be directed at a large public audience, from 7 to 77 years, both French- and Dutch-speaking. Tourists will also be targeted. Year of Flora begins in the Royal Galleries of St. Hubert. With the support of the non-profit association Photo Gallery, there will be an exhibition devoted to the Brussels parks.
Following the exhibition in the Royal Galleries of St. Hubert, there will be the “Balades de Flore” organised by Bruxelles Environnement and Visit Brussels. From May until October, the public will be able to visit this fine heritage immortalised by Photo Gallery. Three zones will be created in the North, Centre and South of the city. These will include the capital’s most beautiful public parks: Mont des Arts, Brussels Park, Egmont Park, Petit Sablon, Leopold Park, Jardins du Fleuriste, Bois de la Cambre, Botanic Garden, Square du 21 juillet, Sobieski Park, Jardin Colonial, Osseghem Park, Garden of the Chinese Pavilion… Guided tours will be led by the non-profit association CAP. The guides will be accompanied by renowned experts.
This year, the Flower Carpet will once again light up the Grand-Place in Brussels. Intricately and gracefully sewn together, made up of the most colourful begonias, the carpet will be rolled out on the 15th, 16th and 17th of August 2014. Admirers will have the chance to take it all in from above. This time, the carpet will be taking you to mysterious faraway lands. It will be enchanting. By travelling no further than to the Grand-Place, your senses will be taken on a voyage, as if by magic! The glimmering patterns come together to create an elegant, harmonious floral masterpiece.
Carpet of flowers is 75 metres long and 25 metres wide. It takes 2 years to bring about, as the million cut flowers need to be reserved well in advance. Do you know how the flowers are kept fresh for 4 long days? On the day just before the opening, 120 volunteers bring colour to the carpet, based on a life-sized picture, drawn on micro-perforated plastic which is fixed to the ground and laid down on a fine layer of sand. The first Grand-Place carpet of flowers dates back to 1971 and the event you will discover this year is the 19th carpet of flowers to be designed for your delight. The themes are often chosen in relation to current events. A specific cultural event or a historic anniversary represents an opportunity to inspire our designers to excel.
It will be very pleasant to walk along the carpet 2014 and to experience the perfumes and colours close-up. But there is so much more to say of having a panoramic aerial view of it from the City Hall balcony. From above, the privileged visitors will experience memorable moments where each of them, according to his or her culture and imagination. The spectacle of the entire Grand-Place with its exceptional Gothic architecture and ephemeral and sparkling carpet will be offered to the amazed eyes of its visitors every day.
Let the music play!
Last, but not least, of the surprises: the inauguration concert will be as wonderful as the magnificence of the carpet. It will add its range of acoustics to the range of colours and materials and will cause our peaceful Grand-Place to undergo a metamorphosis to rise to the occasion and will vibrate, sound and resound. The concert will take place every evening, accompanied by a marvellous light and sound spectacle.
In collaboration with Bruxelles Environnement (Brussels Environment), VISITBRUSSELS has published a new “Flora Walks” mini-guide which will be released in the coming weeks. Illustrated with pretty maps, this mini-guide invites visitors to discover the horticultural high points of Brussels via the city’s most beautiful green spaces. From history to anecdotes… over 50 places are listed!
The first walk takes you to the south of the capital to stroll through the magnificent parc Tenbosch (Tenbosch Park), which contains remarkable trees and shrubs, some of which are unique to Brussels and Belgium, or even to the famous Bois de la Cambre (Cambre Wood), a remnant of the medieval age which was renovated last century. With its small woods, lawns, bodies of water and “island”, it is one of the focal points in Brussels, its history and hidden corners being relatively unknown to the general public. It is also home to the étangs d’Ixelles (Ixelles ponds) and their beautiful variety of exotic trees.
The second walk takes in the green spaces designed by Leopold II in the north of the city. With a rare beauty and elegance, these lesser known – except to their residents – parks and gardens feature as part of a walk which crosses parks and gardens that mainly lead away from the Royal Palace Park: Jardin Sobieski (Sobieski Garden), Jardin du Fleuriste (Florist’s Garden), Park de Laeken (Laeken Park), …
From Petit Sablon (Petit Sablon square) to Parc de Bruxelles (Brussels Park) passing through Parc d’Egmont (Egmont Park), Jardin de la Cathédrale (Cathedral Gardens) and the fabulous Jardin Botanique (Botanical Gardens), the walk uncovers the heart of the city, the historical centre and its immediate surrounds. History on a small and large-scale… and places to rest and relax in the city. All of this is encompassed in the third walk.