The following itinerary describes a range of gardens which we plan to visit. Several are accessible to the public, but many require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & dinners indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.
Antwerp - 5 nights
Day 1: Wednesday 7 June, Arrive Antwerp
- Tour commences at 5pm in the foyer of the Hotel ‘t Sandt
- Welcome Meeting
- Short Orientation Tour
Meeting Point: Tour commences at 5pm in the foyer of the Hotel ‘t Sandt located in the historic centre of Antwerp. We commence the tour with a short welcome meeting followed by a short orientation walk within the vicinity of our hotel. (Overnight Antwerp)
Day 2: Thursday 8 June, Antwerp – Berlaar-Gestel – Lier – Haacht – Antwerp
- ‘Morishof’: private garden of Marc Moris, Berlaar-Gestel
- ‘t-Kranske’: City garden renovated by Marc Moris, Lier
- Arboretum Wespelaar, Haacht
- The Potager, private garden of Sybille de Spoelberch, Haacht
- Welcome Dinner at the Sir Anthony Van Dijck Restaurant
Flanders was once the leading horticultural nation in Europe. Sixteenth century Antwerp was a centre of the study of botany. In the 18th and 19th centuries dozens of fruit varieties were created and the rarest plants grown and improved. In recent years a remarkable revival of gardening has created beautiful new gardens.
Today we encounter two of Belgium’s leading landscape designers, Marc Moris and Jacques Wirtz. Marc designs simple, mature, ‘timeless’ gardens. His nursery cultivates naturally developing trees and large shrubs which are up to 100 years old. This morning we visit ‘Morishof’, Marc’s private 3 hectare garden which includes a vegetable garden, a meadow, natural swimming pool and a flower garden.
We next visit ‘t-Kranske, a monastic complex restored by Marc Moris. As part of his renovation, Marc cleared its courtyard to develop a 6000 metre2 city garden. The original convent’s chapel was also restored. We shall tour the gardens and visit the flower shop of resident artist Raf Verwimp.
This afternoon we visit the Arboretum Wespelaar, in Haacht. Philippe de Spoelberch’s house is surrounded by 9 hectares of botanic gardens. An extension to the garden has become the Arboretum Wespelaar, with 2,000 different species and cultivated varieties in the the 20-hectare grounds. The main focus is on trees and shrubs, with many varieties of oaks, maples, magnolias and rhododendrons.
Adjacent to the Arboretum is The Potager, previous kitchen garden of Château de Wespelaar. By special invitation, we visit this 10 hectares private garden of Sybille de Spoelberch. In 1983, the old kitchen garden was partly re-designed by the famous Belgian landscape architect Jacques Wirtz. Hedges of Carpinus, Taxus and Buxus provide structure. Lemon trees in pots decorate both sides of a path and walls are covered with Ceanothus, roses and other climbing plants. The site has an Italianate water garden, a Japanese garden and contemporary garden of blue stone rocks. The garden has many perennials, a collection of old roses and choice shrubs, with antique garden ornaments and Baroque decorations. A new woodland garden under the canopy of oak trees holds a collection of remarkable trees and shrubs.
Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at the Sir Anthony Van Dijck Restaurant located in the medieval quarter of Antwerp. (Overnight Antwerp) BD
Day 3: Friday 9 June, Antwerp – Schoten – Essen – Antwerp
- Private garden of Jacques Wirtz, Schoten – featured in Monty Don’s Around the World in 80 Gardens (to be confirmed)
- Private garden designed by Jacques Wirtz (to be confirmed)
- Domain De Hemelrijk, Essen (to be confirmed)
- Museum aan de Stroom (exterior only) and Antwerp’s historic port
This morning we visit the private garden of the late Jacques Wirtz, the world-renowned Belgian landscape architect who, in his innovative gardens, enhanced his sculptural treatment of boxwood and yew hedges by drawing on his deep knowledge of plants and flowers. Jacques’ son, Martin, who is now CEO of Wirtz International, has kindly agreed to show us the family’s private garden. Nearby we visit another private garden designed by his father.
We next visit Essen, located just south of the Netherlands border. After lunch at Restaurant Kiekenhoeve we visit the private arboretum and gardens of the De Belder family’s De Hemelrijk. These private gardens were designed by Jelena and Robert De Belder and the internationally renowned garden designer Russell Page.
On our way back to Antwerp we view the impressive exterior of Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) an extraordinary ultramodern tower, composed of great blocks separated by undulating glass walls. It was designed by the acclaimed Rotterdam firm Neutelings-Riedijk Architecten. Across from the MAS is Antwerp’s new Port House designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, and the Red Star Line Museum designed by New York architects Beyer Blinder Belle. A short visit to the rooftop of the MAS provides panoramic views of the city and its historic port. (Overnight Antwerp) BL
Day 4: Saturday 10 June, Antwerp
- Rubens’ House
- Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady)
- The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA)
This morning we visit the house and studio that the great 17th-century artist, Peter Paul Rubens. Having garnered great wealth, Rubens built this palatial house and his adjacent studio. He displayed his impressive art collection in a beautiful art room. We visit the house, the workshop and Rubens’ charming garden inspired by his painting The Walk in the Garden (c. 1631).
We also visit the Cathedral of Our Lady. Four of Rubens’ most important paintings, including the Raising of the Cross and his Descent from the Cross, embellish this vast seven-nave UNESCO-listed Gothic cathedral.
In the afternoon we visit recently reopened KMSKA, whose collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings includes work by Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Frans Hals, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, and Anthony van Dyck. (Overnight Antwerp) B
Day 5: Sunday 11 June, Antwerp – Hoeven – Schijf – Vrasene – Antwerp
- Tielens and Tielens, Hoeven
- De Jorissenhoeve, Schijf
- De Wiedenhof, Vrasene
This morning we visit two private Dutch gardens. We first visit the garden of Albert Tielens in Hoeven. A 50-metre long swimming pond is lined with sumptuous mixed borders. Avenues of pear, lime and maple trees divide peaceful lawns, and to the garden’s rear is a vliedberg – an artificial hill surrounded by a canal. Such man-made hills were climbed to escape rising flood waters.
We next visit De Jorissenhoeve, an historic 19th century farmhouse owned by garden designer Ineke Lambregts. His garden ‘flows’ between verdant ‘rooms’: a stunning flower court with scented roses, a herb garden, a heritage vegetable garden, water features, a woodland garden, and a pasture where Lakenvelder cows graze.
We return to East Flanders to visit De Wiedenhof, the private garden of Leo and Suzanne Laureyns-Wynter. This brilliantly innovative, long, relatively narrow garden has a most unconventional layout. The length of the garden is emphasized by two 90 metre-long grass strips with superbly maintained pleached hornbeam hedges forming a powerful framework for sumptuous seasonal plantings of roses, iris and many other perennials. (Overnight Antwerp) BL
Bruges - 3 nights
Day 6: Monday 12 June, Antwerp – Oosteekloo – Damme – Sijsele – Bruges
- Bijsterveld, Oosteekloo
- Medieval village of Damme
- Kasteel van Oostkerke, Damme
- Private garden of Katrien Vandierendonck, Sijsele
Today we visit three very private gardens. Bijsterveld is an old walled farm that once belonged to a 14th-century Cistercian Abbey. Its wall, lined with majestic pollarded willows, encloses a romantic garden. A series of hedged enclosures leads to arches which groan under roses, and to meadows that erupt in sheets of wildflowers. Lovely old canals surround the farm. Its present owner, Birgit Rouseré, has continued to develop it assisted by landscape architect Steven De Bruycker.
We next visit Oostkerke Castle. Before our visit, there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the picturesque medieval village of Damme, its magnificent Gothic Town Hall, impressive Church of Our Lady, and canals lined with poplars. Allison Campbell-Roebling and her husband Baron Joseph Van Der Elst restored ruined Oostkerke Castle, aided by the great Dutch landscape architect Mien Ruys. The result is an idyllic combination of intimate spaces and grandiose avenues. Separate gardens include a private courtyard, a Maria garden and a rose garden. Footpaths run along the foundations of the old ramparts, and the ancient moats have been excavated and planted.
Our final visit today is to the private garden of Katrien Vandierendonck, an internationally celebrated floral designer. We visit Karein in her own idyllic garden, with numerous garden ‘rooms’, a huge Wisteria arch, and a pond and flower borders. At the end of the visit we will be treated to afternoon tea with delicious home-baked waffles.
We continue to UNESCO World Heritage listed Bruges, one of a few canal-based northern cities. (Overnight Bruges) B
Day 7: Tuesday 13 June, Bruges
- Private gardens designed by landscape architect Piet Blanckaert (to be confirmed)
- Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of our Lady)
- Saint John’s Hospital & the Hans Memling Museum
- Canal Cruise of Bruges
In the morning we visit private gardens designed by internationally acclaimed landscape architect Piet Blanckaert. His recent projects include the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden, London.
This afternoon we take a walking tour of Bruges. We first visit the Church of Our Lady, a treasure house of art such as the gilt-bronze tombs of Charles the Bold, last Valois Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, Mary. The most celebrated treasure of the church is, however, Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna (1504).
We next visit the St John’s Hospital Complex, which includes the small Hans Memling Museum. The German Hans Memling (1430-1494) worked in Bruges from 1465. His late masterpiece, The Shrine of St Ursula, is a carved and gilded wooden reliquary containing panel inserts painted by the master.
Until around 1600, Bruges was an important Hanseatic League port city. Canals were dug to facilitate the passage of exports to its harbour at Damme. We conclude the afternoon with a short canal cruise. This evening we dine together at a local restaurant. (Overnight Bruges) BD
Day 8: Wednesday 14 June, Bruges – Zedelgem – Oedelem – Beernem – Bruges
- Private garden designed by André and Wim Van Wassenhove, Zedelgem
- Private garden of landscape designer, Chris Ghyselen, Oedelem
- ‘Boereweg’ in Beernem: Chris Ghyselen’s first garden design
- A cottage garden ‘Kroempelhoef’ designed by Chris Ghyselen
This morning we visit a private garden designed by well-known landscape architect the late André Van Wassenhove, accompanied by his son Wim Van Wassenhove and garden designer Chris Ghyselen. In the rural municipality of Beernem Chris will show us his own private garden with playful hedges, water features, and a double border of high and small perennials. There is also a swimming pond and a flower meadow.
In the afternoon we visit two other gardens by Chris Ghyselen: a new cottage garden, and ‘Boereweg’, Chris’s first design project. Chris developed an original farmyard and garden using low hedges to preserve the open character of the farmland. The house has two terraces: one with a pond, the other with a view of a perennial ‘room’. Other garden ‘rooms’ contain an orchard, a nut garden with vegetables and cut flowers, and a meadow with pollarded willows. (Overnight Bruges) BL
Ghent - 2 nights
Day 9: Thursday 15 June, Bruges – Deinze – Ghent
Today we travel to Ghent via Ooidonk Castle which stands on a bend of the River Leie. We make a private visit to this medieval fortress, rebuilt in 1595. One of Belgium’s finest castles, it is a unique example of Hispano-Flemish Renaissance architecture. Its salons are filled with original paintings, engravings and antiques.
The castle is surrounded by gardens landscaped in the French style. Roses adorn its garden beds, supplemented by orange trees. Red beech and age-old oaks are planted together in groups of five. A bridge leads to a formal English park, laid out around a 19th-century pavilion.
This afternoon we view the huge 24-panel altarpiece, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in Ghent’s Cathedral of St Bavo. Begun by Hubert van Eyck (c.1390-1426) and completed after his death by Jan van Eyck in 1432, it is the greatest painting of the Northern Renaissance. St Bavo’s other treasures include Rubens’s Conversion of St Bavo (1623). (Overnight Ghent) B
Day 10: Friday 16 June, Ghent – Temse – Ghent
Daniël Ost is arguably the world’s leading floral artist. His design team is highly sought after for projects, from roof terraces in Tokyo to public and private gardens all over Europe. Daniël will accompany us (or if unavailable his General Manager) for a full day in Ghent, as we visit four of his gardens, including the garden of interior designer Marc Massa. This garden is noted for its beautiful wild shadow garden and a stylised south garden. (Overnight Ghent) B
Brussels - 3 nights
Day 11: Saturday 17 June, Ghent – Lasnes – Brussels
- Private garden designed by Erik Dhont, Lasnes (to be confirmed)
- Parc Reine Verte by Erik Dhont, Schaarbeek
- Brussels: Orientation Walk
Erik Dhont is an internationally renowned landscape architect known for his historic garden design. His prolific work includes private and public gardens, urban developments, farms and restoration work. He has created a number of spectacular private gardens throughout Belgium and Europe. His numerous large-scale projects including the gardens designed for the Musée Picasso in Paris (2014) and a 55-acre park for fashion designer Dries Van Noten.
Erik Dhont accompanies us today to a very large private property south of Brussels. Among its many features are a rose promenade, camellia promenade, Japanese garden, vegetable garden and aster garden.
After lunch we head for Brussels, where Erik will show us one of his social and urban development projects. The Parc Reine Verte was once a derelict site in a low-income neighbourhood. Dhont designed the site with architect Philippe Serck. It includes an orangerie and terraced retaining walls, newly planted trees that provide a translucent view through the park and a dense and colourful understorey of shrubs such as hazelnuts, lilacs, and rhododendrons.
We spend three nights based in a charming boutique hotel in the historic centre of Brussels. On arrival there will be an optional short orientation walk to Brussels’ Grand Place. (Overnight Brussels) B
Day 12: Sunday 18 June, Brussels
- Musée Victor Horta
- The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium: Musée Magritte
- Time at leisure
Brussels was the cradle of Art Nouveau. Victor Horta, who developed the style, inspired architects like Hector Guimard, France’s most important Art Nouveau architect, who applied Horta’s whiplash design in his work for the Paris Métro.
Today, we first visit the Musée Victor Horta, located in Horta’s private house and studio (1898 – 1901). Both have utterly exquisite, finely detailed interior decoration that has largely been retained, with the mosaics, stained glass, and wall decorations forming a harmonious and elegant whole.
We next explore the museum dedicated to Brussels’ most famous modern artist, the Surrealist painter René Magritte. The Musée René Magritte, displaying some 200 original paintings, drawing and sculptures, is the world’s largest collection of his work.
The remainder of the day is at leisure. You may wish to continue exploring Brussels’ Royal art collections. Artists represented include Northern Renaissance artists Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Hieronymus Bosch, Lucas Cranach, and Pieter Brueghel the Elder, whose Fall of the Rebel Angels and The Census at Bethlehem are highlights. Later artists include Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Rembrandt, Claude and Tiepolo. (Overnight Brussels) B
Day 13: Monday 19 June, Brussels
We begin this morning with a visit to the Arboretum Kreftenbroek. Etienne and Rose-Marie Van Campenhout transformed an old farm and adjacent land into a magnificent series of gardens. The ‘natural garden’ focuses on a small pond. The classical garden behind the house features a canopied alley of apple trees linking two large Louis XVI urns. Intimate green ‘rooms’, an alternating serpentine pond and an elegant staircase then lead to the ‘Valley Garden’ designed by Jacques Wirtz.
We eat lunch at the 2-star Michelin restaurant, Chalet de la Forêt, located at the edge of the Sonian Forest of European beeches and oaks. With Erik Dhont, we take an aperitif in the structured vegetable garden that he designed for chef Pascal Devalkeneer. It features local varieties such as mirabelle plum and apple trees.
We end with a visit to the extraordinary house of the banker and art patron David van Buuren. Its interior decoration presents a feast of Art Deco by Belgian, French and Dutch designers. He and his wife Alice Piette collected rare furniture, carpets, stained-glass windows, sculptures and masterpieces of painting from the 15th to the 19th century. The collection includes two Brueghels and works by Fantin-Latour, Ensor, van Gogh, Signac and Max Ernst. Its gardens were initially designed by Jules Buyssens, proponent of the Belgian Picturesque Garden movement. His geometrical ‘Picturesque Garden’ reflected the Art Deco style of the house. It includes a wild garden, water and bog gardens, a rock garden, a walled garden, a fernery and herbaceous border. In 1969 the Brussels designer, René Pechère, added the ‘Garden of the Heart’ and the ‘Labyrinth’. (Overnight Brussels) BL
Durbuy - 2 nights
Day 14: Tuesday 20 June, Brussels – Wépion – Dinant – Durbuy
We spend the day in the Meuse Valley visiting a private garden, the garden of a beautiful château and the lovely provincial town of Diant.
Outside Wépion we visit Le Sous-Bois, a private garden designed by owners Philippe Taminiaux and Karine Fonsny. It includes an English garden and over 100 varieties of climbing roses and affords sweeping views of the Meuse Valley. It includes expanses of shade-loving plantings and long, lushly planted mixed borders that lead the visitor deep into the garden. These borders mingle perennials with shrub roses and a huge variety of other colourful shrubs.
Our second visit is to the Jardins d’Annevoie in the Haute-Meuse, a region of forests and rivers. Annevoie’s gardens combine the splendour and majesty of the French formal style with English romantic whimsy and Italian refinement. These 250-year-old water gardens comprise cascades and fountains, majestic hundred-year old trees, trimmed hornbeam lanes and false grottoes.
From Annevoie we journey to the pretty, historic riverside town of Dinant, home of Adolphe Sax (inventor of the saxophone) and Renaissance landscape painter Joachim Patinir. There is time at leisure to explore the village, to visit the Collegiate Church of Our Lady and the Citadel, to walk across the Charles de Gaulle Bridge with its giant saxophone sculptures, or to visit the Adolphe Sax House Museum.
From Dinant we travel east into the province of Luxembourg, the southernmost province of Wallonia. About 80% of this sparsely populated province is covered by the densely wooded Forest of Ardennes. (Overnight Durbuy) BLD
Day 15: Wednesday 21 June, Durbuy – Wéris – Durbuy
- Nature walk to view the Wéris megaliths (6kms, 2.5hrs)
- The Maison des Mégalithes, Wéris
- Afternoon at leisure
Durbuy, on the banks of the Ourthe River, is one of Wallonia’s most charming medieval towns. It has tiny cobbled streets, timber-frame houses and a castle. It provides an excellent base from which to explore the Ardennes, a mountainous region of extensive forests, rich in fauna and flora, with steep-sided valleys, swift-flowing rivers, and picturesque villages and castles.
We enjoy a guided six-kilometre walk to the village of Wéris, well known for its half-timbered houses of limestone or sandstone, and its megaliths, including dolmens (chambered tombs) and menhirs (standing stones) which date from 3,000 BC. We shall visit the Maison des Mégalithes which traces the history of the region’s megalithic sites.
This afternoon is at leisure for you to explore Durbuy. (Overnight Durbuy) B
Maastricht - 1 night
Day 16: Thursday 22 June, Durbuy – Heers – Stokrooie – Maastricht
- Kasteel van Heks (Hex Castle), Heers
- Dina Deferme, Stokrooie
This morning we visit Hex Castle to view its world-famous rose collection. The 18th century castle was originally a hunting pavilion surrounded by formal gardens including a rose garden, a Chinese garden, and a vegetable garden. A landscape park inspired by Capability Brown was added later. The original formal Renaissance garden includes a Nut Garden and a walled vegetable garden. Its celebrated rose garden contains an exceptional assortment of about 250 varieties.
At midday we continue north to a wonderful 4-hectare romantic garden constructed around a restored farmhouse. Here, landscape architect Dina Deferme has used plant combinations which change colour every month. The garden, which also includes a natural pond, a shadow garden and herb garden, offers magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. .
In the late afternoon we drive to Maastricht, located on the River Meuse in the Southern Netherlands. (Overnight Maastricht) BL
Boppard - 2 nights
Day 17: Friday 23 June, Maastricht – Neusse – Hilden – Boppard
- Museum Insel Hombroich, Neusse
- HORTVS Peter Janke Gartenkonzepte, Hilden (to be confirmed)
This morning we visit the Museum Insel Hombroich. Art and nature unite in perfect harmony at this beautifully designed private modern art museum set within a large nature park. Landscape designer Bernhard Korte created an arcadian landscape of meadows punctuated by remnant trees and overgrown box plants. The Museum’s valuable art collection includes Persian sculptures, Khmer art and Chinese figures dating back to the Han period and works of Franz Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Gustav Klimt, Henri Matisse and Kurt Schwitters.
We next drive north to visit HORTVS, the garden and nursery of Peter Janke, a rising star in German landscape design. Peter is that rare combination, a true plant collector with an excellent design eye. His garden, which contains over 4,000 plant varieties, exudes a very strong sense of structure and rhythm, yet it is in no way a ‘formal’ planting.
In the late afternoon we drive to the beautiful small town of Boppard located in the UNESCO heritage-listed Middle Rhine. (Overnight Boppard) BLD
Day 18: Saturday 24 June, Boppard – Eltz – Braubach – Boppard
- Eltz Castle
- Medieval town of Braubach
- Marksburg Castle, Braubach
- Time at leisure
This morning we drive through the forest to medieval Eltz Castle, nestled in the hills above the Moselle River. It is still owned by the Eltz family who have lived here since the 12th century. Many of its original furnishings still remain in situ. The castle sits on a 70-metre rock spur surrounded on three sides by the Eltzbach River. To reach Eltz Castle, we take a short walk through the Eltz Forest. Victor Hugo wrote enthusiastically about the castle and J.W.M. Turner regularly visited and painted it from many different angles.
We next drive to the beautiful small city of Braubach that nestles below its grand castle. You will have lunchtime at leisure to explore its picturesque streets lined with half-timbered old houses before we drive up to Marksburg Castle on a dramatic high spur above the town. We shall take a guided tour of the castle before returning to Boppard for the night. (Overnight Boppard) BD
Rüdesheim am Rhein - 2 nights
Day 19: Sunday 25 June, Boppard – Rüdesheim am Rhein
- Cruise along the Rhine Gorge: Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein
Today we cruise along the Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage region, from Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein. This 65-kilometre stretch of the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen with its castles, half-timbered medieval villages and vineyard terraces, graphically illustrates the long history of human life in this dramatic and varied natural landscape. (Overnight Rüdesheim am Rhein) BL
Day 20: Monday 26 June, Rüdesheim am Rhein – Weinheim – Rüdesheim am Rhein
- Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof, Weinheim (to be confirmed)
- Afternoon at leisure in Rüdesheim am Rhein
- Farewell Dinner
This morning we drive to the charming medieval hilltop town of Weinheim to visit Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof, a renowned experimental botanical garden encompassing centuries-old rolling parkland. It is considered one of the finest and most exciting modern gardens in Europe. Director Cassian Schmidt is internationally recognised for his work using natural plant communities as models for sustainable plant combinations in urban environments and private gardens. The garden contains over 2,500 different types of perennials and a number of notable trees.
This afternoon we return to Rüdesheim am Rhein where there will be time at leisure to explore this winemaking town with its cobbled streets lined with historic buildings. In the evening we gather for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Rüdesheim am Rhein) BD
Day 21: Tuesday 27 June, Rüdesheim am Rhein – Frankfurt Airport
- Morning at leisure
- Transfer to Frankfurt Airport
After breakfast you will be required to check-out of the hotel. We then transfer to Frankfurt Airport arriving at approximately 12.00pm where the tour will officially conclude. B