This is the third post about the PGG study tour to Belgium. Please click here if you would like to read the previous post in this series. Enjoy!
The second garden of the day was a place called Hemelrijk, which has very close connections to Arboretum Kalmthout. The weather improved as the day continued, by late afternoon the sun was actually shining!
View of the lake
Robrecht Van Bauwel was again our guide and went into the history of Hemelrijk. The landscape park and botanical garden of the de Belder family is located on the old estate of Hemelrijk which Robert and Jelena de Belder purchased in 1961. They were happy to use it in order to extend their collections of trees and shrubs, which they had started at Kalmthout.
The estate covers 107 hectares of agricultural land and parkland, densely planted with rare trees and shrubs. The famous garden architect Russell Page designed the park to the north of the houses, with the great lake and clumps of trees surrounding it. A recent inventory has identified some 8000 surviving plants accessions, the garden has 24,500 labelled plants in total with 8,500 labelled species.
Some favourite tree specimens
The major collections are of Acer and Rhododendron species. There were striking tree avenues, all which date back to 150 years ago. The autumn colour was excellent, the acers really stole the show. The visit was enhanced by the simple show of sunlight, the lake gleamed like a mirror and highlighted the landscape and vistas into picture-perfect sights.
As well as being shown the parkland area we were also given a tour of the more intimate walled garden. It was just as well-maintained, with formal hedging, topiary, statuary and herbaceous beds. I was staggered when I heard that the whole of Hemelrijk is maintained just by its owners, with a few staff employed only for hedge cutting and mowing.
Inside the walled garden
I couldn’t get over the enormous woodyard near the walled garden, it was like a work of art. The collection of wood was almost as impressive as the collection of plants! When I saw a Slovakian style barn (built in the late 1880s) in the middle of a group of trees it felt like I was in a fairytale, seeing more magical sights round every corner.
There were a few plants I made notes of, which were:
Acer triflorum (three-flowered maple)
Lithocarpus densiflorus (tanoak, Fagaceae)
Lithocarpus glaber (Japanese oak)
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Harry’
Final view of Hemelrijk
The eclecticism of Hemelrijk gave it a dynamism unlike anywhere else. The more intimate part of the garden contrasted beautifully with the remaining open parkland and sensational vistas.