Tuesday, 17 March 2009

OOTS: If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium *


Of course I couldn't go off to a new country and not have a think about public planting whilst I was there - click on image to enlarge if needed. Visiting in early March probably isn't the most representative time to draw firm conclusions, so I'm hoping Anne Tanne will visit this post and add her own observations as a Belgian citizen. Joy may have something to add too after her residency in Holland and frequent visits over the border.

Most of the pictures are from Bruges, but I have sneaked one in from a quick side trip we did to Ostende in order to be able to use the post title I've been dying to use for ages. We travelled by Eurostar to Brussels and then by Belgian railways to Bruges (travel tip: if you travel by Eurostar your onward rail travel in Belgium is free), so I spent a fair bit of time staring out of the window into a lot of back gardens. Two observations from this time: pollarding is BIG in Belgium as are back gardens of just lawn with an evergreen hedge around them. As you can see pollarding was also big in Bruges (with pleached pollarding by way of variation), as were clipped hedges - mainly box and yew - so it was quite a relief to find beech being used by the concert hall (top left).

As central Bruges is a medieval city, the buildings are huddled up tight together, so there aren't that many gardens to see (public or otherwise) and most of these are very small. The top middle and bottom left pictures are a couple of examples, with hedging and pollarding again featuring strongly. There's also a lot of window boxes - containing mainly box or ivy - so it was refreshing to find somewhere using daffodils instead. One of the boat hire places had lots of bright yellow pansies to brighten up the place. Blocks of single species planting were everywhere, even at the seaside (left side second picture down), where the grass used echoed the colour of the beach.

The least formal planting was to be found on the circular walk I told you about yesterday. Here at last were the mass plantings of bulbs (middle row) I'd been expecting, many trees unleashed from trained forms and lots of hints of other kinds of interesting plants just beginning to push their noses through the soil. Judging by the postcards, the evergreen formal looking window boxes will get replaced later on in the year with something much more colourful. I saw one roundabout - in Bruges by the railway station - middle row, second photo up. It looked a lot like the ones around here, but bigger and with flags.

So certainly in March public planting is very formal and tending towards the evergreen. I also got the impression from the few people I spoke to that not many Belgians are passionate about their gardens. There were some notable exceptions seen from the train, but the next common garden use I saw after lawn+hedge, was back garden veggie growing. I'm sure I'm making some sweeping generalisations in what I saw and our trip to the local market (tomorrow's post) suggests there's more gardening and plant loving going on than I saw whilst I was there.

Don't forget - there's still time to show us what public planting's like Out on the Streets in your neighbourhood (or foreign country if you like) during March. Simply write your post on your blog and go here to add your link.

* = One of my favourite film titles of all time, but not a film recommendation

7 comments:

  1. VP .. YES ! The bit about the pollarding of trees is BIG time there .. but there are amazing rows of tall trees used as a wind break or land mark (we never knew for sure) since it was in the country side. The pollard thing went deep in my brain so that is the technique I used on my Sumac here .. if anyone remembers my pictures they saw the unusual shape for a Sumac ..
    Cobbles .. never be in a hurry to catch up with a tour with a box of chocolates and other assorted goodie bags .. you can trip and lose all those goodies with people looking at you like you are a BIG kid .. and no .. it wasn't me ! LOL
    Being on the borders,living in Holland, with Belgium and Germany for four years was spectacular : )
    The gardens public and private were amazing !! Thanks for the mention VP : )

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  2. Joy - thanks for reminding me! The trees you noticed are indeed windbreaks. Belgium is such a flat country and on the edge of continental Europe so trees (usually poplars) are needed to shelter the fileds being used for crops.

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  3. Oh yes, Joy, those cobbles! My feet remember them in particular...

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  4. Isn't Ian McShane in that movie? Lord I loved him as Lovejoy... he's going to be in some US series called Kings or summat... but he's all wrong with an American accent, I tell you!

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  5. Oh yes, Monica he was! I think he's been in a couple of US series with all wrong American accents hasn't he?

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  6. I'm afraid that Belgium isn't a great country for garden-lovers.
    There are exceptions of course, but many Belgians still seem to think that the main (or only) ingredient of an ornamental garden is a lawn.
    About pollarding... Many people seem to like trees in their garden, but they do not realize that a tree is a living being, and will be growing taller than it's size in the nursery. Our neighbour is pollarding each and every tree in his front garden every year in October-November, not only the trees that seem to stand pollarding (like his lime-trees and his weepinwillow), but also the birches and the maples. (Yes, he has 10 trees at least in his front garden, so they must remain small...)

    I sound like the typical exemple of the anti-chauvinistic Belgian, but there are of course exceptions. There is the Kalmthout Arboretum, that is famous worldwide for it's collection of Hamamelis), or you can visit one of the gardens 'certified' by 'Open Tuinen'. Those gardens are among the most beautiful you find in Belgium...

    When I started blogging, there were only a few garden bloggers in Belgium. Over the last six months, several Flemish gardenblogs have been published, and it seems that the majority of them have an interest in 'ecological' and/or 'wildlife' gardening (or maybe it's only those blogs that come to my attention?), so maybe there is still hope for gardening in Belgium...

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  7. Anne - thanks so much for coming over here and adding your views as about your country. However, your blog and the growing number of Flemish gardening blogs shows maybe things are beginning to change a little?

    Thanks for your link to Open Tuinen too - I shall enjoy having an explore...

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