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Belgian Horticultural Centre - Expo Liege 1905

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Although Belgium is above all a practical nation, it has never failed to combine the pleasant with the useful. The proof of this lies in the favour that horticulture has always enjoyed in our country. It is since the proclamation of our independence that this industry of pleasure and luxury took a new rise. The influence of men such as Jacob-Makoy, Van Geert, L. Van Houtte, R. Courtois, Ch. Morren, Drapiez, Dumortier, J. Kickx and so many others has been felt in this country. J. Kickx and so many others made a major contribution at the beginning, and since then science and practice have not ceased to combine their efforts to give Belgian horticulture the honourable position that it now occupies on the continent.

This element of national prosperity has just been reaffirmed on the occasion of the Liège World's Fair. Group VIII was responsible for everything that concerned the existence of greenhouses and gardens. It had the great fortune to be chaired by the late Count de Kerchove de Deiiterghem, whose recent loss will be a great loss to the whole country, but even more so to the horticultural world. If the love of this eminent citizen for his country had directed his activity towards politics, where his clear-sightedness, his great knowledge of business and above all the kindness and finesse of his character ensured him a place in the first rank among our statesmen, his unfailing attachment to his beloved city of Ghent had made him an enlightened patron of botany and horticulture. He never hesitated to contribute to the organisation of events or festivals where plants had a role to play; he knew how to pay for them personally and certainly had to moderate his expression of regret more than once when illness prevented him from attending the preparatory meetings for the horticultural exhibitions that followed one another at Cointe. Unfortunately, he was not able to chair any of these meetings.

Fortunately, the government had the foresight to appoint a committee to the president of Group VIII that was worthy of taking over his task. It would be too long to enumerate all the well-known names that appear on it; however, we cannot pass over in silence those of Messrs. A. de Rosen, A. Gravis, J. Closon, A. De Smedt, Gonthier, Polet, Belot, Burvenich, etc., who, right up to the end of the Exhibition, worked tirelessly to ensure the success of its horticultural section. Guided by the long experience and wise advice of the group's special commissioner, Mr. J. Cartuyvels-van der Linden, Inspector General of Agriculture, assisted by an elite secretary, Mr. Van Male de Ghorain, stimulated by the ardent zeal of an organising committee composed of Liège specialists and imbued with the desire to do well, the official committee could not fail to succeed.

Its organisation had moreover been completed by the establishment of several classes whose attributions were more special. One, class 43, dealt with the materials and processes of horticulture and arboriculture; another with vegetable plants, the next with fruit trees and fruits; class 47 dealt with greenhouse plants; finally, the last one, 48, had to take care of everything that had to do with seeds, seeds and plants for horticulture and nurseries.

The Cointe plateau offered an unparalleled location in terms of site and space. The Executive Committee, with the eagerness that characterised it in all circumstances, had a pavilion built on the playing field, at the top of the hill overlooking Liège to the south, which was specially dedicated to temporary international horticultural exhibitions and was therefore perhaps somewhat pompously called the Horticultural Palace.

In spite of the excessive sobriety of this building, from an architectural point of view, what riches, what beauties, what novelties were not sheltered there during the four competitions which gathered in this place the Belgian products and those of the neighbouring countries! Barely finished, the Horticultural Palace was occupied from 7 May onwards by a floriculture competition where all the lots, arranged with art, competed in charm and merit.

Here, the eye was drawn to ferns with majestic fronds evoking memories of antediluvian flora; there, elegant palms, from delicate coconuts to the most vigorous phoenixes, competed for the visitors' votes; further on, the symmetrical forms of various araucaria trees were profiled, some of them rigid, seeming to show their disdain for their flabbier congeners, whose branches humbly lower themselves to the ground. Mixed with other green plants of various shades, laurels, crotons, dracoena, musa, strelitzia, maranta, tacca, aspidistra, phornium, etc., These robust specimens of the greenhouse flora offered the viewer a shimmering greenery to rest from the multiple impressions provoked by the tastefully arranged display of superb collections of flowering plants that occupied the centre of the vast hall: calceolaria, pelargoniums, cineraria, cytis, reseda, boronia, erica, azalea and others, among which untimely large-flowered chrysanthemums testified to the extent to which the horticulturist's art can violate the laws of nature! - This exuberant flowering was sometimes in the form of huge, cheerfully coloured mats, sometimes in the form of bigarrangements combining all the colours of the rainbow. On the side tables were baskets, sprays, bouquets and wreaths of flowers of various sizes and compositions. Not far away, a few early fruit and vegetables, especially leeks and strawberries of phenomenal proportions, had dared to confront the company of floristic wonders.

But what's in this annex where an atmosphere of mystery and respect reigns? This is the caldarium. It is like a sanctuary containing all that is most precious in horticulture
the most precious object of its care. Only here is it appropriate to speak of marvels! For, apart from the aroids and bromeliads that hybridity manages to shape in every way, is there anything that surpasses in qualities of all kinds, if not in hardiness, alas! the admirable living gems that are the
orchids? So see with what jealous care they are buried. Like precious relics preserved in shrines, several collections of these delicate representatives of the plant kingdom are exhibited under glass shelters to preserve them, it seems, from the incongruous contact of indiscreet visitors.

Of particular note are the beautiful groups of exotic orchids from the cultivations of the passionate amateur Mr. Firmin Lambeau and the well-known and skilled practitioner Mr. Peeters. This was undoubtedly the highlight of the exhibition, which the public was able to admire for four days.

The second meeting of these floral assizes took place from 25 to 27 June. It was devoted to the rose and cut flower competitions. It was a great success thanks to the various consignments of plants, early plants, etc.

Alongside thirty-four lots of flowers, of which the roses with the sweetest perfumes and the most delicate colours formed the largest contingent and of which two lots of almost one hundred different varieties of peonies constituted the most salient group, there were twenty-two lots of vegetables and fruits, each more appetising than the last, and about fifty collections of ornamental and flowering plants, from aristocratic orchids to popular heliotropes. This time, the Luxembourg rose growers were the main winners of these peaceful jousts and particularly Messrs Soupert and Notting, whose products, occupying one eighth of the two hundred metres of tables set up for the occasion, caused a sensation.

After a truce of three months, the battle resumed in the horticultural camp. It was the turn of pomology, market gardening and viticulture to assert their rights. These competitions were to take place from 1 to 3 October. Everything had been carefully planned. Pomology was to take its place in the
The pomology was to sit inside the great hall, together with the products of our vineyards, while the vegetables would be set up in the gardens at the front of the pavilion. Unfortunately, we had omitted to test the floodgates of the sky which, quite inopportunely, came to pour their torrents the day before and the day before the designated day. It was thus in a soggy ground that we had to resign ourselves to display the gigantic vegetables that the bad weather did not allow to be grouped according to the letter of the program. Nevertheless, their exhibition, despite all these unfavourable conditions, did credit to our market gardeners who had the opportunity, once again, to uphold their reputation. The one hundred and seventy-five prizes they won are proof of this. Naturally, the pomology competitions, given their sheltered location, were more successful with the public; moreover, there is nothing more pleasing than the spectacle of these colossal apples and pears, spread out in innumerable quantities on endless trestles; that these peaches, plums and especially these grapes whose enormous bunches looked as if they had been picked from the vineyards of Chanaan. If, at the time of the preceding exhibitions, the sight and smell had been able to delight in the beauty and perfume of the flowers, here, our palates were not allowed to appreciate the gustatory value of these mirific products of arboriculture. Imagination alone had to replace our senses in front of the one hundred and thirty-one lots of fruit artfully arranged. Of the two hundred participants in these October days, market gardeners, pomologists and winegrowers, one hundred and fifty had the satisfaction of seeing their products rewarded, divided into three hundred and twenty lots.

The chrysanthemum and ornamental plant competitions were initially scheduled for 12 to 15 November, to coincide with the last days of our World's Fair. However, as it was later decided that the World's Fair would close on 6 November, the meeting had to be brought forward by a few days, from 4 to 6 November. It was not held at Cointe, like its predecessors, but on the Fragnée plain. This circumstance was not without harming somewhat the aesthetic character of which an exhibition of this kind was susceptible, and in spite of all
of this kind and in spite of all the art used by Mr. J. Maréchal, who was Maréchal, who was the architect of all these temporary competitions, the partial and successive impressions felt by the visitor were not of a nature to satisfy him: the eyes demanded a whole space, vast, allowing to embrace at a single glance the whole of these collections as varied as well supplied with chrysanthemums, so malleable, instead of the too limited horizons offered by the multiple compartments into which the Palace of Agriculture was divided.

Sixty lots of chrysanthemums, sixty of green plants, nine of flowering plants and nine of orchids belonging to fifty-one competitors were awarded in the last few days.

In sum, for the four temporary competitions combined, six hundred and seventy-eight prizes were distributed to the great majority of the three hundred and fifty-five exhibitors who had responded to the call of the Organising Committee. Independently of this, those of them who, by the importance of their contributions, had contributed the most to the success of these meetings, were awarded, by the General Commissioner, general prizes numbering one hundred and nine, including nineteen grand prize diplomas and twelve honorary diplomas.

These results are a credit to Belgian horticulture and to Liège horticulture in particular, which, in a superb effort, has shown the full extent of its power. Let us also pay tribute to foreign specialists: Holland, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Germany, Sweden and even distant Japan saw their products at the various meetings set up by the Liège Commissions. But here again, as in many other fields, France has particularly distinguished itself by the brilliant part it has played, especially in the early fruit and vegetable competitions. One will long remember the marvellous vegetables sent to Cointe in May 1905 by the syndicate of French early fruit growers, along with the colossal strawberries, a real tour de force performed by M. F. Chevalier de Rosny, the admirable collections of seasonal fruit from the houses of Nomblet-Bruneau, of Bourg-la-Reine, and Baltet, of Troyes, from the Regional Society of Montreuil and from many others still. It would be impossible to mention them all without emphasising the merits of our neighbours to the south.

Despite the setbacks that the best foresight cannot avoid, despite the unfortunate coincidence of other horticultural exhibitions, those of Liege were a success to the credit of their
success to the credit of their hard-working and competent promoters.

This success is also a reflection of the strength of our Belgian flower industry. The best criterion of this strength is obviously the turnover of the flower trade, a figure that can be translated into millions. If we look at the foreign trade, we see that Belgium exports just over eight million francs worth of live plants and natural flowers per year. In this order of ideas, France, England and Germany are in the lead with about two million; then come the Netherlands, the United States, Switzerland, Portugal, etc., which are more or less far from making purchases of one million francs from us.

But these numbers often vary greatly; for the horticultural trade is subject to great annual fluctuations. The export to England seems especially capricious: in 1889, it amounted to 3,675,000 francs; the following year, it dropped to 942,000 francs, to fall, in 1892, to 613,710 francs, official figures.
Since then it has risen significantly and is currently hovering around two million.

For many years, this trade has been concentrated mainly in Ghent and the surrounding area. This ancient city, so famous in the annals of history, has acquired a new fame: it is the first horticultural market in Europe, which has endowed it with the nickname of City of Flowers. This title of glory is rightfully itss. In addition to the many renowned horticulturists scattered throughout East Flanders and particularly in Wetteren, the capital of the province, including its suburbs, has
almost six hundred horticultural establishments, exactly five hundred and sixty-six, dealing almost exclusively in the breeding and trade of luxury plants.

Many of them have a universal reputation. The Van Houttes, the Pynaerts, the Van Geerts, the Spae, the Vervaene, the Bedinghaus, the De Smedts, the Burvenichs, the Vanden Bosschere and others have long been known as horticultural dynasties. Most of these distinguished practitioners are members of the Royal Society of Agriculture and Botany, which was founded in 1808 and which has just been cruelly tested in the last years of its first century.
century of existence. We have already paid tribute to the memory of the illustrious president it lost in the person of Count Oswald de Kerchove de Denterghem, who directed its destiny from 1866 onwards.
who led its destiny since 1866 and followed closely in the grave the secretary general Fierens and, a little further away, the secretary de Meulenaere.

These painful circumstances will undoubtedly not prevent this powerful society from celebrating the centenary of its creation with splendour, by organising flower shows that surpass their predecessors in splendour, and in particular the last few to which the names of the three deceased will remain indelibly attached. Indeed, who is a friend of Flore who has not heard of these sumptuous flower festivals which attract every five years to Qand a crowd of amateurs and horticulturists from all over Europe and even America? Such is the success of this event that, at this time, not even private houses are able to accommodate the many foreigners that the hotels have been unable to accommodate for lack of space. The pen refuses to translate the impression felt at the sight of this prestigious display of exotic vegetation distributed with consummate art in the vast hemicyclic installations of the Casino.

These famous competitions of the European horticulturists, which bring together all that their experience has produced of the most exquisite and where azaleas and orchids dominate, have, except at the beginning, been regularly repeated from five to five years since 1813, and have contributed, for a large part, to the present enormous expansion of national horticulture. This was, moreover, the aim towards which the practical sense of our fathers tended in instituting these five-yearly flower shows. Later on, however, it was felt necessary to redouble efforts to achieve the same goal. This is why the Belgian Horticulturists' Union Chamber was created in 1881, with its headquarters in Ghent. It was chaired for thirteen years by Aug. Van Geert, who has since been replaced by Mr. O. Bruneel, and it includes representatives of the various horticultural centres. The purpose of this important organisation is to regulate the relations of our nationals with foreign countries and to extend its action in the defence of the material interests of the industry that concerns us.

This industry is not only located in Ghent. Bruges and its surroundings are also an important region in this respect. The establishments of Vincke-Dujardin, Sander, Coppieters, Somerlinck, etc., are the best known. The same is true of those of Messrs. De Meyere and C'^ and of Mr. Kerkvoorde, in Wetteren, of the houses of Wyns of Berchem, Berckelaers of Antwerp, De Laet of Contich, Mees, Peeters, Draps, etc., of Brussels or of the surrounding area, to which should be added, among others, the old and important Liège firms of Jacob-Makoy and Joiris frères. Many of these crops are confined to specialities; for example, laurels are grown in the vicinity of Bruges; azaleas and rhododendrons grown in Ghent have no equivalent in any other country; in the latter city as well as in Bruges,
In Bruges and Ghent, some growers limit themselves to raising palms and araucarias; cacti are the sole preserve of the house of Laet de Contich; in Brussels, several specialists deal only with orchids, and rose gardens constitute the field of action of a few others.

The popularity of the flower cult in Belgium is further demonstrated by the relatively high number of horticultural societies in the country. The official survey, carried out in 1903, revealed the existence of one hundred and sixty-five of these groups, with nearly twenty-eight thousand members. Feeling that their isolation was a cause of weakness, they wished to unite and get along with each other in order to advance horticultural science and practice. In 1902, a Congress held in Huy on 8 and 9 June decided to create the Federation of Belgian Horticultural Societies. Organised on a serious basis, it quickly brought together the vast majority of societies, of which one hundred and fifty are currently members. As it also aims at organising a commercial service for the production, the sale of products and the common purchase of the things necessary for this branch of the national activity which interests it, there is reason to foresee that the latter will draw from it an additional stimulus for its development.

Moreover, the Belgian Government has always encouraged horticulture by means of direct and immediate action. Such is the assessment that we draw from a foreign review which then lists a whole series of measures that our governments have put into practice and among which it points out, among other things, the creation of official or sponsored horticultural schools to which numerous subsidies are allocated. The main schools are those of Vilvoorde and Ghent, founded in 1849, Tournai in 1860, Mons in 1863, Liège in 1891 and Carlsbourg. The teaching at these schools, which consist of two or three years of study, always includes a practical and a theoretical part.
and a theoretical part. The latter is not limited to the exposition of the principles of cultivation, but is generally based on the knowledge of natural sciences applied to cultivation practices. The young people who leave these schools are in a position to become, after a few months of apprenticeship, perfect horticulturists, knowing how to put the data of the theory to good use, or else, after having extended their scientific knowledge, either by travel or by subsequent studies, the most capable or the most favoured will be able to increase the number of these excellent teachers with whom Belgian horticulture is endowed. It is, moreover, already partly the realisation of these effects that is the cause of the magnificent development that we see there, both from the point of view of manual production and of intellectual work.

At the same time, these schools produce men who are aware of all the improvements in market gardening and fruit growing, and who are capable of advancing these branches in the direction of progress. It is because they are of capital importance for our country: have we not heard the abandonment of large-scale agricultural crops to replace them by the large-scale cultivation of vegetable plants or by vast meadow orchards? This would make our country the vegetable garden of Europe! With an export figure of almost 30,000,000 francs for vegetables alone, it could almost be called the vegetable garden of Europe even now. Vegetable growing is therefore an important part of agriculture. Without mentioning that which surrounds the large cities and which concerns the most diverse products, we shall point out that which is specialised and which has a tendency to occupy a region. Thus strawberries are grown in Namur, Beirvelde and many other places. Onions, cauliflowers and other vegetables are found in Aalst, Leuven and Mechelen. There are also large fields of asparagus around the latter city. Early potatoes are mainly produced in the cantons of Contich, Heyst-op-den-Berg, Lier, Duffel, Mechelen and Assche. This speciality, which originated in Wavre-Sainte-Catherine and Hoboken, is currently the subject of a large volume of traffic to Germany:
From the end of June to the end of August, the station of Hever alone ships an average of fifteen to twenty ten-ton wagons of chicory daily. The cultivation of Witloof chicory or Brussels chicory originated in the commune of Schaerbeek. From there, it gradually spread to the whole region between Brussels and Vilvoorde and even beyond. It would be beyond the scope of this note to describe the unusual processes used to obtain this vegetable; let us just say that large quantities are exported to France, England and other countries. Some producers' unions send at least twenty thousand kilograms a day to other countries in the middle of the season!

The excellent products provided by Belgian market gardening have led to the establishment of a flourishing canned food industry in Belgium, which is now surpassing similar products coming exclusively from abroad. The various factories of the country delivered sixty thousand five hundred cases of one hundred half-litre cans each in 1903, and, with a few rare exceptions, all these vegetables manufactured are of indigenous origin.

If we extend our survey to fruit growing, which often goes hand in hand with vegetable growing, we will notice that Liège produces peaches, Huy, Hoeylaert and Overyssche grapes. Who does not know, at least by reputation, the immense meadows and orchards that stretch across Brabant, the north of Hainaut and the south of Limburg?

Entire villages in these regions are hidden between the fertile domes of fruit trees where, for considerable sums of money, German traders come to feed themselves every year.
German, English, Russian and French traders come to buy every year. These outlets, however, do not seem to be sufficient for the use of fruit harvested on our soil; for some years now, several confectioneries have been supplying the trade with first-class products; it is true that they use, in addition, a large part of the fruit obtained from abroad.

The preceding few pages will convince us that, in the related branches of agriculture: horticulture, market gardening and fruit growing, our country shows at least as much activity as its neighbours and that there was reason for it to uphold its reputation in this respect, as it did by giving these branches a large place in the Universal Exhibition of Liege.

However, we cannot end this chapter without paying a well-deserved tribute to the enormous part played by the neighbours in enhancing the splendour of our Fête des Nations by the permanent decoration of its gardens. Everyone remembers the magnificent rose parks that brightened up the banks of the Meuse and Ourthe rivers, where the most renowned rose growers of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg had planted them, the Japanese garden with its dwarfed trees that were picturesquely arranged on the banks of the pond of the Jardin d'Acclimatation, and above all, the contributions of the City of Paris, consisting of superb clumps of the rarest conifers scattered around the monumental entrance of the halls, in these beautiful flowerbeds of all kinds, tulips, irises, cannas, geraniums, pansies, resedas, suitable for transferring to the charms of nature the admiration of the visitors who had just concentrated on all the marvels of human industry, and finally in the irreproachable rows of espaliers where rows of the most fanciful cords ran and where the imagination of the arboriculturists had given free rein. Here again the French had surpassed themselves and, with one of them, we could say that the Liège Exhibition confirmed, better than ever, the fact that they never exhibit as well at home as they do abroad.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905