Last weekend we made a little visit to the Arboretum of Kalmthout in the Province of Antwerp. The arboretum started of as a tree nursery in 1856 and already at that time the owner collected some rare shrubs and trees. After 40 years the owner sold the property to Antoine Kort and it was him who started to collect witch hazels (Hamamelis). And that is what Arboretum Kalmthout is now world renowned for. Their Hamamelis collection is one of the biggest in Europe and many mother plants of commercial hybrids are still there. It was here that Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ was created, but that is just one of many examples.
But back to the history of the place now. Antoine Kort was unfortunate to have to close the nursery due to the great depression in the 30’s. In the early 50’s the property and the collection were in great danger, as some property developers were keen to make it into a housing project. George and Robert De Belder came to the rescue and both the property. Not only did they save the arboretum, the also founded the International Dendrology Society to promote and conserve endangered plants. Robert and his wife Jelena made it in the highly regarded arboretum it is nowadays.
As I mentioned before, the Hamamelis collection is where Kalmthout is best known for, but it is not really the season to admire them in their full glory. But luckily they have something of interest in every season. June is the month of the roses, so we went to admire the rose garden of the arboretum. Here no traditional rose garden and that for several reasons. The rose bushes are planted together with perennials and annuals, but they never overpower the roses. Jelena De Belder was very keen of having a rose garden, but the poor, humid soil and shaded areas were not ideal. It took a lot of perseverance to finally succeed. You will hardly find any tea hybrids here, as they are more prone to disease. In stead you can find a collection of around 500 strong species roses or hybrids with characteristics of these natural roses.
It will take me too far to mention all the other highlights, the amount of special and rare trees is enormous, and I just invite you to go and have a look yourself. You can easily make it into a day out. You have a nice cafe with terrace where you can have a break and something to eat. Or enjoy some time in the lovely shop with a nice collection of garden books, decorations and seeds (the tomato seed offer is quite spectacular). Or take some plants home from their plantshop (including a nice selection of hamamelis). PS : sorry for the lesser quality of the pictures, I forgot my good camera 🙂
Arboretum Kalmthout : Heuvel 8, 2920 Kalmthout, Belgium
Opening Hours : From Monday 6 January – 30 December, Every day from 10:00 until 17:00