Brussels’ Grand’Place in Bloom

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You won’t believe your eyes when you pass through one of the seven entrances into the Grand’Place and are presented with a brilliant spectacle—close to a million begonias for one single carpet. This is certainly an extraordinary achievement.

Every two years, the Grand’Place in Brussels is transformed. The famous Flower Carpet covers 19,000 sq. ft. right in the center of Brussels, glowing with sparkling colors arranged in subtle designs. This monumental work, an original and ephemeral creation, requires months of design and preparation but is put in place in just one day with the help of a hundred expert craftsmen who follow meticulous plans—each of the begonias and dahlias making up this exceptional tableau has its exact place, in complete harmony.

The construction of the carpet is based on a plan worked out in advance, consisting of several stages. Everything starts, often a year in advance, with projects and scale models, illustrating a commissioned theme (such as the commemoration of great events, or the arms and shield of a town, and sometimes the proposals of local horticultural associations). Once the theme has been conceived, the number of flowers and color combinations are calculated. Then, the life-size drawing of the carpet is put on a transparent and micro-drilled plastic sheet and the outlines are drawn on the ground. Only then can the work begin.

Did you know that the flowers are packed together one by one (300 to every 10 sq. ft. on the ground) so tightly (no soil is used at all) so that they won’t be blown away by the first puff of wind, and create their own microclimate? In heat waves, the turf has to be watered to prevent it from shrinking, but if the weather is too wet, the grass can grow up to two inches in just three days. Oh, the wonders of nature!

The next Flower Carpet can be admired Aug. 15-19, 2012. For a special treat, recommend visitors take in the panoramic view from the balcony of the town hall (the balcony is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and admission is about $4). For more information, go to visitflanders.us or flowercarpet.be.