Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Lost in Paradise

The first day of our two day trip to Northern France ended with a light, yet excellent dinner at the restaurant ‘Saveur d’hier’ et d’aujourd’hui’ in Sainghin-en-Melantois and a bottle of champagne at our B&B in the same village.

The next morning we left at 10.30 p.m. heading in the direction of Overijse, South of Brussels. During our late night drink at the B&B we had discovered that our friend J.L. was not only a keen photographer, but that he had yet another passion: orchids. We therefore had another surprise for him in store: an orchid nursery in the hamlet of Terlanen, near the town of Overijse.

For many decades the region around Hoeilaart and Overijse has been famous for the culture of excellent table grapes. They are grown in greenhouses. When you’re flying into Brussels and your plane is coming in from the South, just before landing at Brussels Airport, you’ll notice the rows and rows of greenhouses that look like vast glass villages. Part of the grape harvest is used to make a pleasant bubbly but most grapes are sold as such. The big and juicy dark blue or almost transparent green grapes are very sought after as they are extremely crunchy and sweet.

However, over the last 10 years or so, many grape growers have gone out of business, due to the increasing price of petrol, the fuel they use to heat their greenhouses. Others have decided to diversify and are now using the greenhouses for other cultures. The orchid nursery is one of them.

I first saw the nursery last April, when my friend took me there on a surprise visit during which he bought me an orchid as a birthday present. I picked out a lovely pale yellow specimen, which gave me a lot of pleasure for several months. It was my sixth orchid plant since I started collecting them in February last year. They are now lined up on the sill of the kitchen window where they get the required sunlight and humidity (thanks to the water vapour escaping from the dishwasher each time when I open it after the dishes are done!). It’s very exciting to see them grow and produce new flowers every now and then … although they require quite a lot of care and attention if you want to be successful.

But back to the nursery. You first walk into a little shop, where some ten or twenty orchid plants of different colours and sizes are on display. B. and J.L. looked slightly disappointed. We had described this place as Orchids’ Paradise, and they had this “Is-that-all-there-is”-look on their faces. Until they turned the corner and walked into the actual greenhouse where they saw this:

An impressive collection of orchids

... and this

... and this

... and this

They were delighted, if not to say ecstatic. We spent a pleasant half an hour walking around and shooting photos of the exquisite flowers. It’s needless to say that we both bought a new orchid plant. J.L. and B. chose one with large spotted purple flowers, while we picked an unusual specimen bearing a multitude of small lavender coloured flowers.



Carolyn said...

Just lovely. I'd go there once a week in winter, for the warmth and color if not to buy plants.

Nadege said...

Orchids are just unbelievable. I was lucky to go to an orchid show in "little Tokyo" (Los Angeles) few years ago. Every year, the show takes place in different cities. I can't wait for it to come back to LA. The only time I got flowers after flowers was when I put a pot in my husband's bathroom, next to a window with diffused light. I would also give it orchid food once in a while. Except for the feeding and watering, I let that orchid be. Maybe it is because I live in SoCal, but I think they are really easy to take care of. You just have to find the right spot, with the right conditions (humidity and warmth).

ladybird said...

Carolyn, It's a lovely place but the humidity is very intense, and it makes you feel uncomfotable after a certain time. But you can't leave without buying one of these beauties!

Nadege, Belgian climate is not made for orchids ... therefore, unfortunately, we have to rely on the steam of dishwasher to make them flower again:)) You are so lucky!!


chm said...

Those orchids are gorgeous, as well as the photographs.

In Washington, D.C., there was a botanical garden within walking distance from my office. They had a collection of orchids comprising I don't know how many different species and varieties, each one more magnificent than the next.

I used to go there at lunch time to enjoy this absolute beauty.

ladybird said...

chm, What an excellent way to relax during lunchtime. Lucky you; I have to make do with my six, most of the time not flowering plants ! ;)