In Hawaii, we use flowers to make lei as a way of sharing in the aloha spirit. We see them on hula dancers, tourists and even locals celebrating a special occasion. Belgium, however, has taken the use of these blossoming beauties to the next level in perhaps the most grandiose way – by creating a 20 square foot “carpet” of 700,000 fresh flowers.

It’s a tradition that has happened every two years since 1971 and adds color to the Grand Place of Brussels, with a special theme for every display; the current carpet for 2012 exemplifies the history and beauty of Africa, which has the power to make us dream to the rhythm of its dance, its drums and its culture. It’s not the first time an entire continent has been intertwined into a floral tapestry. The Belgium carpet has also displayed Asia and Europe in past years.

For five full days, the flower carpet attracts tourists and locals to its courtyard. Despite being named a “carpet,” they aren’t allowed to walk on or through the floral creation but rather along the perimeter. The best view, however, is no doubt a panoramic one from Brussels’ city hall balcony. It takes several months of planning and preparation as well as the help of hundreds of volunteers before the final debut of begonia and dahlia flowers light up the city.

How did this tradition start? It began with a man’s love for begonias, believe it or not. Landscape architect E. Stautemas had taken his experiments with small flower carpets and blew them up to a life-size proportion in 1971. He eventually got special requests for carpets from other countries before his mysterious disappearance. The carpets of Brussels, however, has since lived on and continue to enchant visitors every year.

BELGIAN FLOWER CARPET 2012 • Aug. 15-19, 2012 9am-11pm • Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium • www.flowercarpet.be

Photo Courtesy: Gaston Batistini

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