14th to 20th June 2020:

Rose Gardens & Nurseries of Belgium & the Netherlands

Hosted by Paul Zimmerman and led by Dr Sophie Piebenga

The Lowlands or Low Countries are the coastal region of north-western Europe, consisting predominantly of Belgium and the Netherlands, bordered by Germany to the east and France to the south. This is a region with a strong tradition of plantsmanship and horticultural excellence and we find a serious level of sophisticated rose growers and nurserymen as well as seeing roses grown in abundance in private gardens and collections. We discover many new roses that have passed the rigorous tests of the International trial grounds and we learn about the ways in which these Benelux growers get their new roses onto the market. The tour starts in Flanders, the northern eastern half of Belgium, where Flemish, a dialect of Dutch, is spoken. Sophieke Piebenga, is Dutch but has lived in the UK most of her life and has worked with Boxwood Tours for many years where she is appreciated for her charm and professionalism and will be your local guide to this fascinating region. If you love the perfume of roses on an early summer’s day and have always promised yourself time to discover more of this vast and varied genus, then this is the tour for you. Stroll from rose to rose discussing the merits of under-planting, mulching, pruning, budding, training, stem culture and indeed even the name of the rose in the company of a great rose enthusiast & expert Paul Zimmerman. The tour starts and finishes in Brussels.  We have carefully selected three bases for the tour: The Grand Hotel Casselbergh in the heart of the beautiful and historic town of Bruges; Domain la Butte aux Bois, a fine country house hotel surrounded by parklands and woods and the eccentric and very charming Villa Augustus over-looking the waterways (Wantij) of Dordrecht.


Day 1: Sunday 14th June

Mid-day rendezvous at Novotel Brussels, off Grand Place in Central Brussels.   A welcome lunch together at Restaurant de Koetsier in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw before visiting the adjacent Coloma De Rosentuin. This is an exceptional quality rose garden in a beautiful parkland surrounding the 15th century Coloma Castle. The rose garden is divided into 5 areas: the formal garden that includes a bed planted in red and white roses representing the heraldry of the town; an area dedicated to roses raised by Flemish horticulturalists; a garden tracing the evolution of the rose in cultivation; roses laid out according to their country of origin and lastly, rose beds devoted to long-stemmed roses to be used for cut flower production.    Then drive together to Bruges to check-in at the Grand Hotel Casselbergh where you stay for the next two nights. Time to settle in before going together to a local restaurant to dine.

Day 2: Monday 15th June

Before the tourists arrive, Sophie will take you on a walk along the canals and historic streets of Bruges. Then travel by coach to Lens Roses– a family affair since the 1870’s, a nursery and garden with a warm welcoming ambience, discover the new roses raised by Rudy & Ann Velle and learn about their criteria to choose these beautiful new varieties. Following a tour and a light lunch visit the small garden De Hovenierstuin Annoeba, just a stone throws away. Here Noel Backers and Anni Christiaen will show us their romantic new garden that contains a few wonderful roses. Return to Bruges for a free evening.

Day 3: Tuesday 16th June

Just north of Bruges is a region renowned for poulders and pollarding where the fourteenth century moated Kasteel van Oostkerke is enwrapped by a series of rose filled gardens. At the end of the second world war the garden was practically lost in a great flood, in 1946 Baron van der Elst commissioned Dutch landscape architect Mien Ruys to lay out a new garden. Driving in an easterly direction call in for lunch at Auberge du Pêcheur on the banks of the River Leie before visiting a small private garden dedicated to roses. We then book into Domaine la Butte aux Bois where we stay for the next two nights. Time to settle in before dining together.

Day 4: Wednesday 17th June

A day in the region of Limburg visiting three gardens: Kasteel Hex is privately owned by Count Ghislain d’ Ursel, here we discover a rose garden containing an exceptional assortment of circa 250 varieties, of which the oldest were present in the original garden. Since 1970 Countess Michel d’Ursel has restored and enhanced the gardens and in 2003 the Garden of Roses was granted the Award of Garden Excellence by The World Federation of Rose Societies. You are then invited to lunch by the owners of at Heys en Hof, a small highly decorative garden with only a few roses but much to admire including the Limburg pie, a local speciality.   Rosarium Luc Van Esser is a private collection with over 7000 roses all of which have the German ADR (Allgemeine Deutsche Rosenneuheitenprüfung) quality label for roses. We will meet Luc Van Esser for an enthusiastic introduction to his collection. Return to Domaine la Butte aux Bois and dine together at the hotel again this evening.

Day 5: Thursday 18th June

Extensive rose fields surround the pretty village of Lottum where the roses thrive in the alluvial rich soils on the banks of the fast-flowing River Meuse. In the village we find De Rosenhof Lottum, a small rose garden showcasing the latest award-winning roses from Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. Take the ferry across the River Meuse to Kasteeltuinen Arcen, a pristine flower park containing more than fifteen unique themed gardens. We concentrate on the baroque Rosarium with its own ten themed rose rooms. Lunch will be included on arrival. Then travel across The Netherlands to Dordrecht and Hotel Villa Augustus where you stay for the next two nights. On arrival, time to settle in and to explore the wonderful kitchen gardens and formal Italian garden before dining together at the hotel.

Day 6: Friday 19th June

Travel to Boskoop, the beating heart of Dutch horticulture, first we visit the small Rose park in the centre of the village and then we are guests of Eric Spek of Jan Spek Rozen. This company has remained in the same family since 1890.  In 1990 the company received the prestigious Royal Supplier Award from Queen Beatrix.  During the company’s history it has changed from producing garden roses to breeding roses for the cut-flower market. Eric will tell the fascinating story and will show us behind the scenes.  Voorlinden Museum is near Den Haag (The Hague) and it is where we have lunch before time to view this new, privately owned modern art gallery. The beautiful light-filled rooms look out on gardens designed by Piet Oudolf that softly lead your eye away to the surrounding lake, parkland and infinite skies.  Westbroekpark was laid out in the 1920’s to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Queen Wilhelmina. In the park we discover the Rosarium where rose growers from around the world send their selected roses to be planted in the experimental garden and every year in July, The International Rose Competition takes place to choose the best rose of the season, the winner receives The Golden Rose. Remaining in Den Haag you are invited to partake of a rijsttafel meal.  Return to Hotel Villa Augustus.

Day 7: Saturday 20th June

Travelling back to Brussels we call in at Plantentuin Meise, the Belgian National Botanic Gardens, to view the new rose garden and rose herbarium. Free time to purchase your own lunch before returning to Brussels airport 15:00 or central Brussels. 15:30

How much & what’s included:

Price per person: £3250

(Single supplement of £450 levied by the hotels)

The price includes:

  • Two nights bed & breakfast at the Grand Hotel Casselbergh
  • Two nights dinner, bed & breakfast (drinks not included) at Domaine la Butte aux Bois
  • Two nights bed & breakfast plus one evening meal at Hotel Villa Augustus
  • All evening meals (apart day 2) and breakfasts are included plus six lunches as stated in the itinerary
  • The services of Sophieke Piebenga as tour leader, joining in Brussels.
  • Entry to all the gardens as set out in the itinerary including guided tours and special meetings with the owners wherever possible
  • Coaching from central Brussels and Brussels Airport on Day 1 to the return to central Brussels and Brussels Airport on Day 7


Arena Tours Ltd is a company committed to customer satisfaction and consumer financial protection. We are therefore pleased to announce that, at no extra cost to you, and in accordance with ”The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018” all passengers booking with Boxwood Tours are fully protected in the unlikely event of our insolvency, please contact us for further details.

 ABTA Travel with confidence