Tuesday 16 April 2013

On the cusp of spring in Belgium

The flowers of Acer pycnanthum, a rare Japanese species, at Arboretum Wespelaar.

A lowering sky on Friday afternoon soon delivered its load of rain, but in so doing banished the cold east wind.
I spent a very enjoyable long weekend in Belgium, as a guest speaker at the Magnolia Study Weekend organised by Arboretum Wespelaar, which has one of the finest collections of magnolias in Europe. Sadly, the bitter winter has either killed the buds outright or delayed their opening, depending on variety, so that Magnolia flowers were very sparse: even M. stellata and its close relatives were only just getting going. But there was plenty of interest to see in this great arboretum, and with 60 other plantspeople present there was no shortage of conversation (in a babel of languages). In addition to my own contribution there were four other speakers, all very illustrious indeed in the world of magnolias (which I most certainly am not), and their talks conveyed their passion for the genus and its continuing development. Most exciting to me was the news of wide and wild crosses being made in (especially) the United States, with hybrids now known and flowering between such improbable parents as M. grandiflora and M. sieboldii (upright-flowered but with red stamens), and M. insignis (formerly in Manglietia) and M. sieboldii (semi-pendulous with uniformly soft pink tepals), and the tempting (perhaps) prospect of something pink in the style of M. grandiflora...

The magnolias at Wespelaar are covered in incredible numbers of buds but many have been frosted.

Only the earliest magnolias were in flower, such sas this M. stellata (tetraploid)

Anemone nemorosa

Pieris 'Valley Valentine' at Arboretum Wespelaar
While in Belgium the weather and season changed from winter to spring: the cold east wind was pushed back on Friday afternoon by a front of rain from the west, which cleared to introduce mild air from the south, enabling a glorious sunny, warm day on Subday, when we visited Arboretum Bokrijk near Genk. Owned by the Province of Limburg, this is a relatively unknown gem, with a good selection of interesting trees and other plants, well worth exploring.

Lysichitum americanum in warm sunshine at Arboretrum Bokrijk on Sunday afternoon.

Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star' at Bokrijk.

The speakers: JMG, Andrew Bunting, Philippe de Spoelberch, Jim Gardiner, Koen Camelbeke.


  1. Dear John, thank you for your enthousiasm. We were affraid there would be nothing to see after this cruel winter but for people like you there's always something exciting to discover in the Arboretum of Wespelaar, even the smallest bird doesn't escape to your eyes :-). It encourages me to discover something new every walk I make: today I discovered the beauty of swollen buds of Acer opalus subsp. obtusatum : how beautiful all those shades of brown and gray on 1 bud!

  2. Hello John,
    more flowers every day now! You will have to come back.
    Thanks for your talk and enthusiasm! Koen

  3. WOW!! The Anemone nemorosa are lovely, it is surely beautiful..


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