Every two years, in the month of August, the Grand-Place at Belgian Capital Brussels is adorned with its most beautiful attire and becomes a gigantic ocean of flowers. This year will be even more special, as the famous carpet of flowers will be celebrating its 20th anniversary! In 2016, Belgium and Japan will be celebrating 150 years of diplomatic and friendly relations. It is therefore perfectly natural that the organisers have chosen to let the colours of Japan inspire the design of the carpet.
The general public will be invited to come and admire this Japanese creation on 13, 14 and 15 August 2016, from 10 am to 10 pm, on the Brussels Grand-Place. The traditional inaugural evening will be held on 12 August at 10 pm. The Flower Carpet is 75 m long by 24 m wide. 1,800 m2 of begonias, around 300 cut flowers per m2! A hundred volunteers assemble the carpet in 4 hours. The first Flower Carpet of Brussels was created in 1971 and has been a showstopper every two years on the Grand-Place since 1986.
Every other summer, on the weekend of August 15th, the Flower Carpet offers a chance to stroll across the Grand-Place, a jewel of Gothic architecture, to inhale the fragrant scent of the begonias and admire its details. This extraordinary spectacle is made complete by a visit to the balcony of the Town Hall, which offers a wide-angle view of the work. A musical theme is especially composed for each edition. A concert is given on the Grand-Place every evening and accompanies a magnificent sound-and-light show.
This is the historical heart of Brussels. Here Gothic style can be seen adjacent to opulent baroque, neo-classical as well as neo-Gothic. The Grand-Place is regarded by its admirers as “the most beautiful central square in the world”! Its construction began in the 15th century, with halls, guild houses and a Town Hall. It was virtually razed after 3 full days of bombardment by the French Army in 1695, yet was rebuilt in less than 5 years, notably by the different guilds. The tower of the Town Hall is 96 metres high. Every two years, the Flower Carpet offers a chance to (re)discover this architectural and cultural heritage jewel. Since 2000 the entire Grand-Place has been listed as a Unesco world heritage site.
The robust tuberous begonia lends beauty and freshness to the carpet. A native of the West Indies, the hearty begonia is resistant to all weather conditions: intense sunshine, violent winds, rain, cold . . . Begonias come in a rich palette ranging from the most vivid colours to delicate pastel shades, with in between the many-coloured and white flowers that reflect sunlight so well. Belgium is the world’s largest producer of begonias: 60 million bulbs each year! 80% of the total production, cultivated almost exclusively in the area of Ghent since 1860, is exported, primarily to the Netherlands, France and the United States.
Every two years, the non-profit association Tapis de Fleurs brings together a committee of professionals (illustrators, graphic designers, landscape architects) who come up with scale projects, with each edition illustrating a different theme (the commemoration of major events, a country, a continent, the coat of arms of a city, etc.). Once the theme has taken shape (as for this year its Japan and in 2014 it was Turkey) in the form of a model and symbols, the number of flowers is calculated and the combinations of colours are established. The hundreds of thousands of cut flowers necessary for the composition can then be reserved, very long in advance. Several days before the inauguration, a full-size drawing is executed on sheets of micro-perforated plastic that are laid down atop the cobblestones of the Grand-Place. The works can then begin.
More than 100 volunteer gardeners put together this giant floral puzzle in less than four hours. The day before the opening, the spaces between the floral motifs are filled in using rolls of sod. The flowers are so closely-packed (300 per square metre, i.e. around 600,000 flowers in all!) that they can´t be blown away, and indeed they create their own microclimate! If there´s a heat wave, the sod is watered to prevent it from wilting. If the weather is too wet, the grass can grow by 4 to 5 centimetres in 3 days. The flowers remain fresh and preserve their splendour during the four days.