Hidden Belgium: Begonia fields

Hidden Belgium: Begonia fields

English writer Lord Byron’s coach broke down in the village of Lochristi, near Ghent, in 1816. ‘I had the pleasure of seeing a number of very ordinary women in extraordinary garments,’ he wrote. Not the most flattering comment you might receive.

If only he had arrived half a century later, he would have had the pleasure of seeing extraordinary fields of begonias. The sturdy Ghent begonia, available in every colour under the sun, has been cultivated in the flat fields around Lochristi since the 1870s.

Originally a tropical plant, it was imported to Britain by Michel Begon, and introduced to Belgium by Louis van Houtte. He discovered that these tough little plants named after Michel Begon could survive the harshest Belgian winter.

The farmers around Lochristi now grow these exotic plants through the summer and autumn months, and display them in the spectacular Gentse Floraliën flower show every five years.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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