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The Traveller's Magazine
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Every two years Brussels’ Grand Place trades its cobble stone square for a lush carpet. This isn’t just any carpet though, it’s hand-laid with flowers. Colourful begonia blossoms create an intricate pattern, what is best viewed from the balcony in City Hall. It’s happening this year on August 12th.

Brussels’ flower carpet is an incredible sight. With close to 800,000 begonias spread over a 300 square metre area, this is one flower display that puts even the Rose Parade to shame. Visitor’s to the Belgian capital this weekend have their chance to see it, starting on August 12th and running until the 15th.

Belgium and Begonias

Why begonias? The flower was originally chosen for its robust qualities, being able to resists the rain as well as long periods of sunshine and still look fresh. It also comes in a variety of rich colours which greatly lend to the design of the carpets which change year to year.

Belgium has a long history with this flower, a bloom that is native to the West Indies. More than 80% of the total production of begonias in the Ghent region of Belgium is exported around the world since the 1860s. Each year there are more than 60 million begonia tubers cultivated and Belgium is by far seen as the largest producer of this lovely flower, some being shipped as far away as the USA.

How is the carpet made?

It all started with a gardener who was very passionate about begonias, E. Stautemans. He started making small sized “carpets” out of the blooms and the idea exploded from a very small carpet to a 77 x 24m one in the main square in Brussels.

Some quick facts about the carpet:

  • there are 300 flowers per square metre
  • each bloom is laid by hand
  • total there are more than 750,000 flowers
  • no soil is used at all, instead the stems are intertwined, really creating a blanket of flowers on the ground
  • the space between the design is filled with rolled sod

Plans are drawn up a year in advance and flowers ordered. The components of the carpet usually depict Belgian folkloric tales or myths. Once the design is chalked out on the ground in the square, 100 of the city’s best horticulturalists put the carpet together in less than 4 hours. This starts at 13:00 on August 12th.

Later that same day, at 20:30 there will be the official inauguration and then later in the evening at 22:00 there will be a musical and fireworks display. With dozens of cheap flights to Brussels from London still available, this makes a perfect weekend getaway.

The carpet will be on display and can be viewed from City Hall’s balcony between 9:00 and 23:00 for €3.

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