Published: 04:00, 02 November 2015
Just as the nights draw in Meise Botanical Garden, near Brussels, lights up the horticultural calendar with a month-long celebration of orchids.
And why not? The orchid family represents 10% of the world’s flowering plants, with more than 25,000 species.
The botanic garden’s Plant Palace has an impressive 1,800 orchids to admire while walking through 13 interconnecting glasshouses which simulate different climates from tropical rain forests to South and North America, Australia, South Africa and the Mediterranean.
A Dry House is filled with cacti and succulent plants while in the Monsoon House plants follow the rhythm of the wet and dry seasons.
Most orchids grow in the treetops of tropical rainforests and the collection in the Meise includes many examples including the Vanda species in blousy blues, purples and magenta.
Not so vivid, but equally dramatic are the delicate Bulbophyllums including ‘Louis Sander’ and ‘Elizabeth Buckley’ which look like pieces of spiky jewellery. Despite their exotic looks they can be grown in our homes with no need for special treatment.
Although this wonderful array of orchids are the stars of Flori Mundi, garden lovers can admire more than 18,000 plants and the greenhouses also boast an important historical collection of plants from the former Belgian Congo.
The Belgian father of orchids, Jean Linden (1817-1898) was one of the 19th century plant hunters who travelled to Latin America and became captivated by the plant. He began to import orchids to Europe and made himself a small fortune as the bourgeois clamoured to own this magnificent, mysterious plant to show off in their homes.
Due to their continued popularity many orchids face extinction and Meise’s scientists focus on their preservation and a total ban on some species has been introduced through CITES, the Convention in International Trade of Endangered Species.
Director of public services, Koen Es, expects at least 27,000 visitors (last year's total) to Flori Mundi. He said: “We are only five miles from the centre of Brussels so we attract many people from the city but people also come in from other countries. We are hoping the British garden enthusiasts will also be tempted to visit.
“There is the most wonderful autumn colour across the park."
In fact, the 200 acres of parkland on the outskirts of Brussels, are worth visiting alone. There is a castle that dates to the 12th century which houses a magnificent exhibition of orchid water colours by Elisa Klopfenstein and an orangerie which overlooks the lake.
An absolute gem.
Flori Mundi runs from October 31 to November 29, 2015. Open 9.30am to 4.30pm with four live music evenings on November 5, 10 and 19. Admission 7 euros, under 18s go free. Address: Nieuwelaan 38, 1860 Meise. From Brussels north take the De Lijn bus 250 or 251.
Visit: www.visitflanders or www.florimundi.be