August is not really a top month for blooming plants, but a visit to the national botanical gardens in Meise is always a nice experience. The Botanic garden of Meise is located in Flanders, but only 12 km from Brussels’ city center and can be reached by bus. It’s actually one of the largest botanical gardens in the world with a stunning collection of about 25.000 species of living plants. The most visited part of the gardens is the big greenhouse complex, which contains tropical and subtropical plants. Quite impressive are the world’s biggest water lillies, whose leaves can easily hold a small child. Visiting these 13 interconnected glasshouses will teach you a lot and brought my inner child back to life. Some parts of the complex are still being restored, but almost all places stay accessible for the public.
But this is only a small part of what the gardens have to offer. Behind the Orangery you’ll find a nice walled garden full of blooming Herbaceous and tender plants and of course most interesting to visit between June and October. In this part they also have a big collection of succulents. Next to the orangery there is a patch that focusses on Camellias and paeonies. The Orangery itself is now used as a garden café where you can have a drink or something to eat. The terrace has a nice view on the pond.
When we continue our walk we can admire a large collection of oak trees and maple trees, which are certainly a draw in autumn. The flowers of different kind of Hydrangeas bring some colour in the woods in summer. When you pass the beehives you are almost at another highlight of the garden : the beautiful ballot green house. This small but elegant glasshouse was constructed in 1854 by the Royal architect Alphonse Balat. First it was built in the Brussels Zoo in the Leopold Park. Afterwards it was moved into the ancient Botanic Garden of Brussels (now the Botanique concert venue) and in 1941 they moved it again to the current place. Later Balat got famous by constructing the monumental Royal Greenhouses in Laken. Around the glasshouse you’ll find about 1,300 herbs and perennials. In this area there is also a large conifer collection, a bamboo forest and a big variety of shrubs and woody plants.
Now we are almost back at the Plant Palace, but first pay a visit to the “Pachthof”, a series of buildings around a beautiful inner court dotted with palmtrees and citrus trees. Here is also the shop and a good place to have a picnic. And last, but not least pay a visit to the Bouchout Castle. Bouchout Castle has been altered many times; only the square tower, the eldest part of the castle, dates of the 14th century. The Empress Charlotte, the sister of King Leopold II, and widow of the executed Emperor of Mexico, lived here almost her entire life. The present architecture dates from 1830, the interior from 1980. Often there are some art exhibitions on the castle and it’s fun to climb to the roof to have a panoramic view of the whole park. Also in the park you’ll discover many old and new statues and artworks, which makes the visit even more interesting.
The botanical garden is not only there for visitors, but is also a renowned research institution. Besides the living plants, the garden has a herbarium of over 4 million specimens and classical herbarium studies are the main research area at the garden. The collection of African plants is one of the most important in the world and often visited by researches from all over the world. Also the tradition of botanical illustration is still very much kept alive here and artists, O. Van de Kerckhove and A. Fernandez, produce accurate, world class illustrations.
Botanic Garden Meise : Bouchout Domain, Nieuwelaan 38, 1860 Meise ( By Bus : click here )
Opening Hours : Winter (15th October – 14th March) : 09h30 to 17h00 / Summer (15th March – 14th October) : 09h30 to 18h30 / The Orangery garden café is open every day from 30 March till 30 November.
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