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