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GardenSMART Episode

Show #18/5205. Ghent/Bruge

Summary of Show

River Cruise
The crew at GardenSMART has been producing gardening shows broadcast across the country on public broadcasting stations for twenty years. Over those years we have visited gardens only in the U.S. because there are so many amazing gardens to see in this country. But, because of the twenty year milestone we decided to branch out and go overseas. We've been hearing a lot about RIVER CRUISES and thought we'd visit some beautiful gardens with a cruise ship as our guide. We were on the MS Amadeus Silver lll.
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Video Tour Ghent
We first immerse ourselves in the medieval majesty and rich heritage that is Ghent. GHENT is a historic city, yet at the same time a contemporary one. The modern daily life of the city's active inhabitants plays itself out against a gorgeous backdrop. Walking through the city of Ghent is like walking through a historical painting, an architectural masterpiece of castles, cathedrals, churches and old merchant houses.
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Ghent University's Botanical Garden
It's a SMALL UNIVERSITY GARDEN, was created under Napoleon's reign and gradually became a part of the town of Ghent and ultimately associated with Ghent University. Now it's mainly for teaching and education and, of course, for free visits for all of Ghent and the whole of the world and the public. One of the purposes of this garden is as a display garden so people can come look at the many very rare and unusual plants. There are also some substantial taxonomic collections here, some very, very special ones indeed.
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Garden Highlights
Eric asks Dr. Paul to walk us through some of the HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GARDEN or the sections that he particularly loves. It's like asking someone to pick their favorite child but, what are some of the highlights? Paul first points to an interesting tree, the umbrella pine. It's a Belgium champion meaning there is no bigger, thicker specimen of that species in Belgium.
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Microclimates
Paul earlier spoke about some of the very specific MICROCLIMATES in this garden. There's a beautiful Mediterranean garden, lets take a look at that garden first. Okay, lets go. In most gardens there are microclimates that are created either by structures or by wind breaks or changes in elevation, and those are really fun parts of a garden because it allows one the opportunity to work with plants that may or may not otherwise work in their adopted heartiness zone. In some cases those microclimate changes are significant enough that one can bring in a whole range of plants that would otherwise not grow in the region and this is a wonderful example of that.
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Unusual Plants
Eric would like for Paul to talk about some of the rare and UNUSUAL PLANTS here because so many of our viewers are fascinated by plants that we don't often see. And, in fact there are many in this garden that Eric has never seen. For example an interesting buddleia that has enormous leaves is very unusual. What are some of Paul's favorites? That's a difficult question. But Paul likes the Cupressus, common name cypress. There are other species but it's a real one with the big wooded cones. Easy to recognize. Another, from South Africa is the Melianthus colossus, honey flower. It is unusual, has large beautiful flowers and when you look inside the flower you find a blackish nectar. Wow. It has a sweet taste, like honey. That is delicious. And the name of the plant is well chosen. Melianthus comosus.
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Gardening In The Shade
One of the most common questions that we get from GardenSMART viewers is how do I have success GARDENING IN THE SHADE. Of course shade gardening is always going to be a little challenging. The lion's share of all flora on planet earth prefers some sunlight so there's a narrower range of plants that really want to thrive in shade but there are certain things that we can do to help them along
and Eric would like to discuss those with Paul.
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Moist Or Dry Shade
But it's very important to understand whether your shade is more MOIST OR DRY. For the dry shade Ophiopogon or Epimedium will do really well. As one gets into more of the moist shade there are plants like hostas, pulmonaria, heucheras or tiarella that will do well.
For More Information Click Here

Raised Beds
In a shade garden Eric finds that adding RAISED BEDS helps. Often times the soil under a tree is going to be a really difficult environment to grow in. And in fact there are certain trees like pecans and hickory that are allelopathic. The roots actually excrete a chemical that kills the grass and everything under it so the trees don't have competition.
For More Information Click Here

Glass House
As a continuation of our conversation on microclimates the guys next enter their GLASS HOUSE. This is a wonderful example of a highly controlled microclimate and these are so important to these types of display gardens because they allow for these collections that absolutely would not be growing in this region. Because you have nearly perfect control over temperature and humidity they are able to create multiple microclimates. Eric thinks they have three or four in this conservatory where they have housed these amazing collections. Eric asks Paul to tell us about the conservatory and the climates here.
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Video Tour Bruge
GardenSMART continues our video tour. Walking down the cobble walkways that flank the many canals of the CITY OF BRUGE, in northwest Belgium's West Flanders, instantly transports one to the medieval ages. Known as the Venice of the north, the gabled rooftops of the city's many preserved houses and buildings that line the intricate network of canals are as picturesque as a postcard.
For More Information Click Here

LINKS:

Show #18/5205. Ghent/Bruge

Transcript of Show

In this episode GardenSMART visits two beautiful ancient European cities and takes a tour through an amazing garden through the lens of a veteran gardener.

The crew at GardenSMART has been producing gardening shows broadcast across the country on public broadcasting stations for twenty years. Over those years we have visited gardens only in the U.S. because there are so many amazing gardens to see in this country. But, because of the twenty year milestone we decided to branch out and go overseas. We've been hearing a lot about RIVER CRUISES and thought we'd visit some beautiful gardens with a cruise ship as our guide. We were on the MS Amadeus Silver lll. Although a long ship, over 400 feet, it carries a maximum of one hundred sixty-eight passengers. The smaller number of fellow passengers made it possible to meet and talk with many of the guests and there was an interesting mix of both young and old. The accommodations were exceptional. Very comfortable rooms, excellent support staff, fantastic food and entertainment.

We flew into Amsterdam and then spent ten days visiting beautiful sites in the Netherlands and Belgium. Included were several larger cities like Rotterdam and Antwerp as well as smaller towns like Bruges and Ghent.

We first immerse ourselves in the medieval majesty and rich heritage that is Ghent. GHENT is a historic city, yet at the same time a contemporary one. The modern daily life of the city's active inhabitants plays itself out against a gorgeous backdrop. Walking through the city of Ghent is like walking through a historical painting, an architectural masterpiece of castles, cathedrals, churches and old merchant houses. A true gem in the Flanders region of Belgium, Ghent offers a fascinating cultural cocktail brimming with trendy, modern urban life, a place where anything goes, it's a city that feels very warm and human.

After a tour of the city, Eric pays a visit to Dr. Paul Goetghebeur the Director of Horticulture at Ghent University's Botanical Garden. And we learn about the more than 10,000 plant species that thrive on this 2.75 hectare site.

1 hectare = 2.47105 acres

Eric meets Dr. Paul and thanks him for joining us. Eric feels that Paul has a fascinating job as a professor of botany but also as the manager of this beautiful garden. What can Paul tell us about this garden? Paul responds, what can I tell you? How many hours do you have? All day, all day. Okay. It's a SMALL UNIVERSITY GARDEN, was created under Napoleon's reign and gradually became a part of the town of Ghent and ultimately associated with Ghent University. Now it's mainly for teaching and education and, of course, for free visits for all of Ghent and the whole of the world and the public. One of the purposes of this garden is as a display garden so people can come look at the many very rare and unusual plants. There are also some substantial taxonomic collections here, some very, very special ones indeed.

Eric asks Dr. Paul to walk us through some of the HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GARDEN or the sections that he particularly loves. It's like asking someone to pick their favorite child, but what are some of the highlights? Paul first points to an interesting tree, the umbrella pine. It's a Belgium champion meaning there is no bigger, thicker specimen of that species in Belgium. And that's due to the fact that they have a warm garden, it's a garden surrounded by the town, which means the temperature has risen four degrees above the normal level here in this region. So they can grow many plants from Mediterranean climates from New Zealand to the south of France, from Greece, Italy, you name it. And that is because of the radiant heat from the houses and the city, the heat island of the town of Ghent.

Eric notices they also have some beautiful perennial borders. There's a lovely alpine garden, incredible collections of azaleas and rhododendrons. There is color everywhere. Paul explains - they have ten thousand species in this university garden and really all of these species are labeled. That is really important for visitors because when you are walking around in parks or gardens of France you'll never see the labels but here you've got the information with the name of the plant, the family and the area it originates from. And that is very helpful for visitors. Many public gardens have inadequate labeling so if you find something that you really love it may be hard to track down.

Eric would like for Dr. Paul to talk a little about his specialization, grasses and carex. Eric finds it very fascinating, it's one of his favorite categories of plants and super important, especially from a texture standpoint in gardening. Paul feels that grasses have an image problem, they look dull, they have beautiful, brown spikelets which he finds quite interesting. He would say they are hidden treasures and the hidden treasures are oftentimes the best treasures. Absolutely.

Paul earlier spoke about some of the very specific MICROCLIMATES in this garden. There's a beautiful Mediterranean garden, lets take a look at that garden first. Okay, lets go. In most gardens there are microclimates that are created either by structures or by wind breaks or changes in elevation, and those are really fun parts of a garden because it allows one the opportunity to work with plants that may or may not otherwise work in their adopted heartiness zone. In some cases those microclimate changes are significant enough that one can bring in a whole range of plants that would otherwise not grow in the region and this is a wonderful example of that. Why? Because the two large greenhouses are protecting this part of the garden from eastern winds and northern winds and the spot with southern exposition gets really hot. This results in plus three degrees over the hot garden that they already have and that's why they have the possibility of growing hundreds of species from Mediterranean climates and others from all over the world. Eric wants to make sure - so this is a very protected space. Yes. The greenhouse behind us on the north side is painted white so you get a lot of reflected light. So we're giving these plants all of the opportunities they need to thrive in this part of Belgium where they wouldn't otherwise grow. In fact Eric saw an olive tree and questions. You have olives in Belgium? Only one. And, it is exceptional.

Eric would like for Paul to talk about some of the rare and UNUSUAL PLANTS here because so many of our viewers are fascinated by plants that we don't often see. And, in fact there are many in this garden that Eric has never seen. For example an interesting buddleia that has enormous leaves is very unusual. What are some of Paul's favorites? That's a difficult question. But Paul likes the Cupressus, common name cypress. There are other species but it's a real one with the big wooded cones. Easy to recognize. Another, from South Africa is the Melianthus colossus, honey flower. It is unusual, has large beautiful flowers and when you look inside the flower you find a blackish nectar. Wow. It has a sweet taste, like honey. That is delicious. And the name of the plant is well chosen. Melianthus comosus. Comosus is the greek word for flower and milli which is the Greek word for honey, so this is really honey flower. Blackish honey. How are these pollinated in South Africa? By birds, some compare them to, what do you call them? A hummingbird? Yes. Hummingbirds are American ones and in South Africa they have a similar bird called sun birds. The plant has a fullness to it that is very similar to sumac. That's kind of what it looks like, opposite leaves, highly divided leaves, almost fern like. It's a species from the Channel Islands off the coast of California. It's widely described as non-hardy but look at this one. That's what is so special about these micro-climates. It's for visitors to come in and see plants that clearly are not growing in their town, probably not even in their region. And then to actually see those up close, it's unique and very special.

One of the most common questions that we get from GardenSMART viewers is how do I have success GARDENING IN THE SHADE. Of course shade gardening is always going to be a little challenging. The lion's share of all flora on planet earth prefers some sunlight so there's a narrower range of plants that really want to thrive in shade but there are certain things that we can do to help them along and Eric would like to discuss those with Paul. What are some suggestions he would have for gardeners? Well avoid trees, that's where the shade comes from. Very true but here their shade comes from the shadows from the greenhouse. But never the less one can walk in the forest and everything that is growing in the forest is alright to put in your shade garden. It's cooler there. The genus Epimedium is an example. Many ferns are able to grow in full shade. The biggest thing is, of course, selecting the right plant and then understanding that in many cases the plants you have selected very well may fail. There's a meaningful section of Eric's garden that's deep shade and every year the range of plants he can grow gets narrower and narrower, to now it's mostly hostas and a few other ferns that do well.

But it's very important to understand whether your shade is more MOIST OR DRY. For the dry shade Ophiopogon or Epimedium will do really well. As one gets into more of the moist shade there are plants like hostas, pulmonaria, heucheras or tiarella that will do well. And this garden has some splendid examples. Eric particularly likes the names over the plants. Take notes, use your pencil, take a picture.

In a shade garden Eric finds that adding RAISED BEDS helps. Often times the soil under a tree is going to be a really difficult environment to grow in. And in fact there are certain trees like pecans and hickory that are allelopathic. The roots actually excrete a chemical that kills the grass and everything under it so the trees don't have competition. Of course you're not going to have any success gardening in that environment. So look at what your soil is doing, maybe introduce raised beds if the soil conditions are not ideal. Paul agrees, raised beds are a good idea, they have utilized that technique here. Additionally make sure there's adequate compost added to the soil so that you will have good moisture retention. The plants will be glad and you'll be answering your efforts. The plants will do well. And that is what we want as gardeners. We want happy, healthy plants, that is why we garden.

As a continuation of our conversation on microclimates the guys next enter their GLASS HOUSE. This is a wonderful example of a highly controlled microclimate and these are so important to these types of display gardens because they allow for these collections that absolutely would not be growing in this region. Because you have nearly perfect control over temperature and humidity they are able to create multiple microclimates. Eric thinks they have three or four in this conservatory where they have housed these amazing collections. Eric asks Paul to tell us about the conservatory and the climates here. They have three large greenhouses open to the public and twenty more small ones with scientific installations not open to the public. The three are the equatorial climates, the sub-tropical climates, and the tropical climates. The equatorial climate is 100% humidity and temperature around twenty, twenty-five degrees celsius so they are able to grow many tropical plants that one would never see living here. Several examples are epiphytes - giant water lilies, tropical vines, you name it. Each of the greenhouses has about five hundred species named and labeled for the visitors. It's so exciting to come visit these conservatories where we can see plants that we would never otherwise see. Eric comments that it's humbling as a horticulturist to walk through these collections and not recognize eighty percent of the plant material. It's a wonderful experience for all of us. Welcome to the tropics. Eric would like Paul to talk about some of the plants that a visitor coming over here will see, what are some of the plants that he thinks are the highlight or that he thinks are particularly special? This greenhouse is named after the plant the giant water lily, the scientific name is Victoria Amazonica, named after England's Queen Victoria. The plant was discovered when Queen Victoria was reigning and the immense plant was named after that immense queen, Queen Victoria. What are some of the other noteworthy plants in some of the other environments that Paul would encourage people to view? He would say the epiphytes, they have cacti from the rainforest, bromeliads, begonias, many species from tropical environments that one would never see in this region. One can see trees growing full of epiphytes and that is something you will never find outside of a temperate rainforest. What is so important about these display gardens and the collections is they are housed here and giving the community, and in this case the world, an opportunity to see all of these rare, unusual plants. It's just such a wonderful experience.

Eric thanks Dr. Paul for spending the day with us. We had a wonderful time, saw a lot of unusual plants and learned a lot.

GardenSMART continues our video tour. Walking down the cobble walkways that flank the many canals of the CITY OF BRUGE, in northwest Belgium's West Flanders, instantly transports one to the medieval ages. Known as the Venice of the north, the gabled rooftops of the city's many preserved houses and buildings that line the intricate network of canals are as picturesque as a postcard. The city reached its golden age between the 12th and 15th centuries, when its port became a major platform for trade and commerce due to the advantageous tidal inlet. It was during this time that most of the city's iconic structural landmarks were built, including the impressive Belfry of Bruges, a breathtaking medieval bell tower at the center of market square that soars upwards by 83 meters and is a symbol of the city's cultural pride.

In this Episode we visited two historical cities in Belgium and toured their streets and canals to lean more about their architecture and their gardens plus spent some quality time in a wonderful garden in Ghent. We enjoyed the experience and hope you did too. Be sure to tune in next week as we GardenSMART.

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By Karen Weir-Jimerson, Costa Farms, Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms

A Norfolk Island pine looks like a Christmas tree in miniature, so many people use these floor and tabletop plants as holiday trees. An interesting article, click here to read.


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