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Meise Botanical Garden

Photographs and text
by CrisTina Archinto


A part of the forest with a carpet of Allium ursinum

At the Meise Botanical Garden, also known as Jardin botanique Meise which is located about 10 km northwest of Brussels, Belgium, you walk, walk and walk again! It is currently the largest botanical garden in the world and at the end of the day you feel all those kilometers but they were worth it.

Its history is quite ancient, it begins in 1796 when the Austrian government decided to create a botanical garden at the castle of Bouchout, in Meise. The main focus of the garden was to grow medicinal and food plants. Over the following centuries, the botanical garden developed considerably, also thanks to the collaboration with the University of Louvain, until it became the National Botanical Garden of Belgium. Today it covers an area of 92 hectares and is home to over 18,000 plant species from all over the world, many of which are kept in the garden's greenhouses. In addition, the garden carries out important biodiversity research and conservation activities, working in collaboration with other botanical institutions around the world.


Rododendron Fortunei and Rododendron Gladis rose

Entering the forest, the first enchantment is in front of the vast collection of azaleas and rhododendrons located in the shade of centuries-old specimen trees. This collection has ancient origins and is one of the most important in Europe, including many rare and endangered species from all over the world. The first azalea was planted at the Botanical Garden in 1796, but the real expansion of the collection took place under the direction of Édouard Morren, from 1869 to 1892, who made many botanical expeditions to Asia, Africa and America, where he collected numerous azalea and rhododendron plants. In addition, Morren was a pioneer in the creation of azalea hybrids, achieving results that earned him numerous prizes at international botanical fairs. Today, this collection comprises more than 2,500 species and varieties of azaleas and rhododendrons. During flowering, which usually takes place between April and May, there is this explosion of colours in various shades of pink, red, purple and white. A true visual experience. the Botanical Garden also organised an annual azalea festival, during which guided tours, lectures and other activities focusing on azaleas and rhododendrons are organised.