Saturday, December 19, 2009

Greenhouses In Laeken

The Royal Greenhouses in Laeken are city on the edge of city. They are where the heady scents of the colonial Congo are transported to everyday Brussels. Entranced visitors drift past orchids, azaleas, and camellias, breathing in the steamy fragrances of bitter oranges and damp ferns. The lines reveal shifting perspectives and sudden glimpses of green canopies, cupolas, turrets, and vaulted tunnels of glass.

The city’s tropical greenhouses began as a royal whim, a work of self-glorification spearheaded byKing Leopold II. Leopold never deigned to visit the Belgian Congo, but, as a passionate plant man, he expected the Congo to be shipped to him at regular intervals. The challenge was to create ” an everlasting springtime in a perfect place of glass”. teasing a tropical garden to grow in northern climes.

Leopold’s architects and gardeners fulfilled his every wish, but credit must also be given to the king, whose passion for building was matched by his fascination with exotic plants and palms; form rubber plants and weeping figs to pineapples and dwarf bananas. In these winter gardens, Leopoldentertained his friends, swam in his class-canopied pool, and paraded on an African elephant.

Do contact the greenhouses before you travel however, as they can only be visited in a limited summer period.

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