This is the first of several posts about the PGG weekend in Belgium I attended in October 2014. It was a study tour to various botanical gardens and arboreta, five places in less than three days – it was an intense but wonderful weekend, I enjoyed every single minute of it.
I obtained funding from the RHS Bursaries which enabled me to go on the study tour. Part of the agreement of securing the funding includes writing a report about what I did with the money. What I wrote for the report is the same as what is in the blog posts, photos included. I hope you enjoy them. 🙂
In the lead-up to the study tour I was like an excited puppy. I couldn’t wait to see the places we were visiting for real, especially at one of the most beautiful times of year. I don’t know how my colleagues at work coped, I think they were glad to see the back of me for a few days!
I was fortunate enough to know another PGG student, Dagmar, who was going on the study tour as well. It made travelling much more companionable, as well as more straightforward. I had originally planned to get several different trains from Wales to London; however once Dagmar knew I was going on the trip she invited me to stay with her.
She is training (and living) at Windsor Great Park, so I drove to Windsor the night before the study tour, left my car at her place then we caught a train from Windsor to
London the following morning. We met the rest of the PGG study tour group in St Pancras station; it was easy to spot our group because we all looked the same, kitted out in sturdy footwear, waterproofs, and jabbering away enthusiastically in Latin as much as English!
PGG study tour group
I noticed several familiar faces such as a few former PGG trainees, the chairman of the PGG and organiser of the study tour, Tony Arnold and Colin Roberts. There were over thirty people in our group, getting the Eurostar from London to Brussels was a great way of chatting and getting to know people.
There’s nothing better than being with a group of like-minded people, even when you don’t know someone from Adam the fact we all had one thing in common meant everyone gelled instantly. I swear all horticulturists have radars and can sense another plant lover from a foot or less away!
We arrived in Brussels at 2.30pm and got a coach straight to the first arboretum on the list – Arboretum Tervuren. The Geographical Arboretum of Tervuren features over 450 species of trees and shrubs grouped in 40 sections, each representing a forest type or regional vegetationassociation of the northern hemisphere (North America, Europe, Middle East and Far East).
The collection was exceptionally well arranged in a splendid landscape park, which covers an area of approximately 100 hectares. It is located in the “Kapbos” a beech forest planted between 1875 and 1880 at the North-eastern edge of the Sonian Forest.
Our guide for the afternoon, Wilfried Emmerechts, explained that the majority of the trees in the Arboretum were planted between 1902 and 1912. The planning of the Arboretum began in 1902 under the aegis of Charles Bommer, curator of the National Botanical Garden of Meise and professor at the Free University of Brussels. He mixed and grouped the plantations according to the geographic regions in which the different species naturally occur.
In the middle of one of the forests
More autumn colour
There wasn’t enough time to see the whole of the Arboretum in one afternoon, our tour was mainly of the North American area. The weather wasn’t at all welcoming, drizzle persisted for the whole visit but it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. The contrast of the grey skies against the deep, rich green of conifers such as different species of Pinus and Abies made the Arboretum even more stunning.
Paths snaked through rolling hills and dipped valleys, drawing the eye straight to cleverly positioned focal points. Jewel-like colours of Acer, Liquidambar, Fagus and Quercus highlighted views of otherwise evergreen trees. The group planting of Araucaria araucana was an unusual sight, one I had not seen before. The structure of the arching, spiked foliage ensured the monkey puzzles stood out next to the other conifers.
Araucaria araucana (aka Monkey puzzle trees)
My favourite moment was seeing the avenues of Fagus sylvatica trees, laid out in a cross shape. At first glance I thought it was simply a single avenue of beech, then I turned to my left… looked behind me then to my right… and realised I was surrounded by towering, breath-taking specimens from every angle. I’ve never seen trees as big as that with my own eyes before – it was a moment I’ll never forget.
Fagus sylvatica (aka beech tree) avenue
In hindsight Arboretum Tervuren didn’t have the immediate wow-factor compared to the rest of the places we visited, however it was the most natural looking out of them all – a true extension of the surrounding countryside. The fact it was so different made it leave a lasting impression.
If you’d like to find out more about Arboretum Tervuren then check out their website: http://arboretum-tervuren.be/