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New 'island garden' opens at Meise Botanical Gardens

06:19 23/09/2022

A new "island garden" has been officially inaugurated at the Meise Botanical Gardens outside of Brussels.

The island garden is formed by a group of islets on the large lake located on the larger grounds.

"It’s a special walk on the water," management at the gardens announced. "A group of islands and different levels create a range of aquatic biotopes. You only reach them via a 400-metre meandering walk across the water."

Several species of plants have already been placed, including water cypress (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) and serpentine pine (Araucaria araucana).

Still to come are new trees, shrubs and aquatic and marsh plants, with more than 400 species in total that will take root next planting season.

Artist-architects Gijs Van Vaerenbergh and Atelier Arne Deruyter were behind much of the unique garden’s design.

“In the heart of Belgian’s Meise Botanic Garden, a small island is situated in the centre of a centuries-old castle pond,” Van Vaerenbergh explained.

“It was the ambition to transform this island into a new and extensive collection of water - and shore plants, in addition to the numerous botanical collections on the site.”

In order to make the site accessible, a 500-metre-long concrete platform was built, using the landscape as a formwork and deep pillars for support.

“Then, by digging away the earth in very precise locations, we introduced water on the island and created a micro-topography for an ‘ensemble’ of different water and shore biotopes like a mangrove, a fern forest, a European swamp, a fen,” explained Van Vaerenbergh.

The project took nearly a year to complete and cost about €1.2 million in total.

Flemish ministers Jo Brouns and Zuhal Demir were the first to visit the new site.

Those who take the island path will enjoy not only the gardens and the lake, but views of the famous Boechout Castle they surround.

Written by Helen Lyons