IMG_4488Once upon a time there was a prince-bishop building a beautiful castle and dito gardens in the luscious landscape of Haspengouw. This is not a fairytale though. Between 1770 and 1784 Prince-Bishop of Liège Karel van Velbrück commissioned to build the still existing castle of Hex and more importantly some beautiful gardens . The real miracle however is that these gardens are still standing and shine more than ever. This is all thanks to the noble family d’Ursel, who are living in the castle of Hex and are passionate about the gardens and nowadays share this passion with the public.

IMG_0702Twice a year they open the gardens and park of the castle and invite some world class plant breeders to present themselves to the public. And  those events are always marked in my agenda as a real must. One is always in June, when the impressive rose collection is in full bloom. The other event is in september, with a focus on the fruit trees and harvest. Let’s have a closer look on what you can expect to see.

Let’s focus first on the ornamental gardens. At the entrance of the castle you can admire the French garden, redesigned in 1913 by Jules Janlet, with its high hedges, 4 flower plots and some boxwood globes. Around the castle you’ll also find different other gardens. The terraced garden in the back, which got a make-over by famous garden designer Wirtz, has a graphic strong structure of yew hedges and a little pond. The for Wirtz typical cloud shaped boxwood and yew hedges surround the whole. In the little rose garden you’ll see a nice collection of historical rose breeds.

IMG_0703And than there is that odd and rare Chinese Garden with its 18th century Buddha statue that moves in the wind. It’s here where Countess Stéphanie d’Ursel puts her collection of oriental plants. The Prinsenhof garden contains some rare rose bushes that are already here from the 18th century as well and form the base of the marvelous rose collection of Hex.

When you leave the walls of the castle behind you, you enter the wonderful English landscape park. This was actually one o the first of its kind on the continent and replaces some old English gardens in the 19th century. Some beautiful old trees dot the park and an artificial valley runs through the landscape. It’s a real delight to explore the park and get new interesting viewpoints at every turn you make. Have climb to the column to have a nice overview from above. Under the large plane tree alley you can enjoy the stands of the many exhibitors and plant breeders.

DSC_0016_3And than now I tell you some more about one of the big highlights : the kitchen garden. This must be one of the most beautiful kitchen gardens I know. Not only is it nicely situated with a view on the surrounded landscape and the local church, but the lay-out and the amount of vegetables and flowers growing here are just amazing. This kitchen garden is already constantly in use for more than 240 years. Against the south oriented wall they grow some historic old fruit breeds and some of the espaliers are already more than 100 years old, still bearing fruits. Every year they also plant some old vegetable species such as sea kale, cardoon and dandelion greens. Part of the harvest is still kept in a so called vegetable cellar, where they keep their taste and freshness for a much longer time. In between the vegetable plots you’ll also admire many beautiful flowers and bush roses. It’s so relaxing to wander around in this garden and explore all those different things it has to offer. As I mentioned before, Hex is known for it’s roses and they have over 500 varieties planted all over the gardens and park. It would take me too far to go more into detail, but it’s up to you to have a look for yourself and explore all the varieties.

DSC_0026_3And yes, all this is open to the public twice a year. Next weekend is your chance to pay a visit to Hex and get in contact with some world-renowned botanists, plant experts and breeders. A whole program with lectures and demonstrations keeps you busy. Many plants and garden products are for sale as well. And of course they also thought of seasonal food and drinks on offer.

I didn’t have a garden for 20 years, but still I always tried to go to hex because I am really passionate about it. Now that I’ll have the chance to transform 1200m2 of rough area in our own little paradise the coming years visiting Hex wil have even more added value. I have to admit I was doubting to share this with you, because already a lot of people found their way to Hex and I don’t want it to get more busy.

IMG_4486Castle and gardens of Hex : Meerstraat, 3870 Heers-Heks (Belgium)

Opening Hours : Only twice a year, next weekend (12,13 & 14 June 2020) is your first chance. On 12 & 13 september 2020 it’s the autumn event. On those days the gardens are open from 10:00 – 18:00.  (No dogs allowed)