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Belgian gardens, like Belgian chocolates, are intricate and exclusive. In recent years, garden culture in Belgium has evolved greatly, largely due to a wave of first-class designers such as Jacques Wirtz, Daniel Ost and Chris Ghyselen. They have all built on a strong tradition of plantsmanship and horticultural excellence. Structure and design are important in their gardens, which feature hedges, trellises and tight clipped topiary. On this tour you will admire fine collections as well as a specialist nursery and the delightful plant fair at Kasteel Hex. The tour is mostly set in Flanders, the north-eastern half of Belgium, where Flemish, a dialect of Dutch, is spoken. Sophie Piebenga will be your guide to this fascinating region. Well known to regular Boxwood travellers, Sophie is renowned for her charm and professionalism. You will stay for two nights in the heart of historic Antwerp at Hotel ‘t Sandt, and two nights in beautiful Bruges at Grand Hotel Casselbergh. These two stylish townhouse hotels are both within walking distance of the major sites in these cities.
Depart by Eurostar from London St Pancras, arriving in Brussels Midi Station at midday. Transfer by luxury coach to De Uil, where lunch is included. This was the former residence of artist Karel Aubroeck (1894–1986), now occupied by interior designers Marc Massa and Roger Liekens. The garden was designed by renowned floral artist and garden architect Daniel Ost and includes a beautiful wild shade garden and stylized formal garden. Continue to the stylish Hotel ‘t Sandt where you will stay for the next two nights, dining together this evening in a local restaurant.
A day in Antwerp starts with a slow ride through the Art Nouveau district of Cogels Osylei, Zurenborg, where the finest architects of the early 20th century defined the grandeur of the Belle Époque. Dutch-born artist and landscape designer Ronald van der Hilst moved to Antwerp in 1993, bringing with him a great love of tulips. You will see his Tulip gallery before visiting the small, enclosed garden of Hortus Conclusus where Ronald and his partner Marcel have created a flower filled heaven. At Rubenshuis Museum you’ll see where the artist Peter Paul Rubens lived and painted. What you see today is a reconstruction of a garden from Rubens’s era, taken from his painting A Walk in the Garden. The afternoon is free for you to find your own lunch and further explore this vibrant city. Tonight, enjoy dinner at the famous restaurant Sir Anthony Van Dijck in the shadow of the cathedral.
Travel into Zeeland, Netherlands, and meet Frans and Franny Geijsels at their small garden and nursery, In Goede Aarde (In Good Earth). Franny tends the gardens and Frans propagates and designs. They have a great reputation in this region for selling high quality plants along with sound advice on cultivation. Cross the border back into Belgium to visit the garden of landscape architect Chris Ghyselen. Known for his use of fine grasses and perennials, his garden leads through billowing borders down narrow paths that softly blend into the surrounding countryside. A simple lunch is included. You’ll then drive into the heart of Bruges to Grand Hotel Casselbergh where you’ll stay for the next two nights. Check in before enjoying a free evening in Bruges.
Start with a stroll through Bruges on a guided tour of this intriguing city. You have free time for lunch before heading to a region renowned for polders and pollarding. Explore the flower- filled gardens that surround the 14th-century moated Kasteel van Oostkerke.At the end of the Second World War, the garden was practically lost in a great flood. In 1946 Baron van der Elst commissioned Dutch landscape architect Mien Ruys to lay out a new garden. Today it is still much loved by the family. Return to Bruges for dinner together at a good local restaurant.
Today you visit Kasteel Hex where the specialist plant fair is held twice a year. September is the perfect time to visit the famous kitchen gardens in the castle grounds, as well as the wonderful array of stalls. You’ll meet nurserymen from Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Return to Brussels Midi Railway Station for your journey back at in London St Pancras.