BRUSSELS, Belgium: August is here and it’s the time of year when Belgium rolls out its colourful flower carpets. The floral extravaganza on the Grand Place (August 12-15) marked 150 years of diplomatic relations between Belgium and Japan. Over the next few weeks, more growers, florists and landscapers will team up to add their final touches to flower mosaics in the city centres of Leuven, Lochristi and Sint Truiden.
Flemish begonia growers are responsible for no less than 55% of the world’s production of tuberous begonias (Begonia tuberosa grandiflora). To spotlight their high quality and wide range of colours, the growers who are members of the AVBS growers’ organisation create several striking flower carpets every year. In mid-August the Grand Place in Brussels kicked off in marvellous style. This is now the 20th time it has been adorned with a brightly coloured carpet.
The production of tuberous begonias in Flanders is concentrated in the hands of about 20 companies, mainly in the ornamental plant area around Ghent. It covers 80 ha. and the annual yield is 25 million tubers, amounting to 55% of world production.
Flemish tuberous begonias are much loved abroad. This is also confirmed by Belgian dealers, who say that no less than 95% of production is exported. The main market for Flemish tuberous begonias is the United Kingdom, which takes a quarter of the total exports. The other neighbouring countries are also stable markets: France 10 to 15% and Germany 5%. The Netherlands are more of a trading market that transits the plants to other markets, and Scandinavia, which takes almost 3%, also shows an interest in this Flemish speciality.
Growth in exports to the Central and Eastern European region (Poland, Romania, Ukraine etc.) has been striking and it now takes 30% of the total. Although this growth has not been able to continue because of the situation in Russia, the region remains a strong trading partner for the Flemish tuberous begonia.
This product is also doing well far beyond the borders of Europe. North America, especially the United States, but also Canada, accounts for about 10% of sales. Japan is for the moment a smaller market (<1%), but there is definitely potential. Japanese customers are after all very enthusiastic about the range of products with their abundant colours and specific shapes. This was certainly clear from the numerous contacts linked to the 20th flower carpet in Brussels, where Japan was this year’s guest country.
The theme of the 20th flower carpet in Brussels was the 150 years of diplomatic friendship between Belgium and Japan. The design was the result of cooperation by the Belgian designer Marc Schautteet and the young Japanese designer Fuji Suzuki, who took inspiration from typically Japanese depictions of flowers, birds, the wind and the moon.
The carpet was 75 m. long and 24 m. wide, making a sea of flowers of 1800 m². 600,000 flowers were used: mainly begonias, but also with additional dahlias, various types of grass and coloured bark. A hundred-odd volunteers, including quite a few growers, succeeded in completing the carpet in 8 hours. It was recorded for posterity at www.flowercarpet.be.
The Flemish tuberous begonias used for the carpet have large flowers and are available in a wide range of colours. They also remain fresh for a long time thanks to their high water content. This makes them perfectly suited for use in flower carpets.