Not so long ago, when the rain finally stopped raining and the sun started shining, Liz and I quickly made arrangements to go out for the day with a couple of good friends. Our destination was the Coloma Rose Garden in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw. We were not disappointed. With its impressive displays of more than 3,000 varieties of roses from 26 countries, Coloma is one of the most extensive rose gardens in Europe. You can probably find every type of rose on the planet there: antique roses, the most recent hybrids, climbing roses, rambling roses and bush roses.
The rose garden is located on the grounds of Coloma Castle (left), the most famous building in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw. Built as a fortress in the 15th century, Coloma Castle was transformed into a country residence (known in Flemish as a lusthuis). Through the ages, the castle changed owners several times, and was eventually purchased and restored by the municipality of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw.
Park Coloma, covering an area of 15 hectares, was originally conceived and laid out in the French style, with intercrossing narrow walkways, right-angled ponds, a canal, and overall geometrical symmetry. In the 18th and 19th centuries the English garden architectural style was adopted and still remains evident today, particularly in the south-east section of the park, with its curves, meandering paths and more luscious vegetation.
The Coloma rose garden is divided into five areas. The first incorporates a traditional geometric structure, with garden pergolas and glazed or wooden verandas. I particularly liked the varieties in red and white that have been planted in designs representing the heraldry of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw.
The second garden occupies a slightly higher position and hence gives good views over Coloma as a whole. Here the emphasis is on roses cultivated by Flemish horticulturists. The third rose garden traces the evolution of the rose across the ages, from 18th century varieties to the most recently cultured varieties. The fourth area is set out in landscape style, while the fifth is devoted to 400 long-stemmed rose bushes.
The whole area is incredibly well maintained. I hardly saw a dead-head, and the borders are neatly manicured. And try as I might, I didn’t spot a single greenfly or aphid, while my garden rose’s blackspot and rust don’t seem to have appeared in Coloma. At the same time I didn’t see a lot of bees and butterflies either, which suggests that the rose garden is heavily sprayed in order to keep everything in tip-top condition, which is understandable considering the rarity of some of the varieties.
I didn’t investigate it (as I wanted to make the most of the sunshine), but in the park next to the rose garden is the Museum of the Rose. Here you can find all you want to know about roses. The museum is particularly proud of its interactive digital rose encyclopaedia. There is also an excellent café on site. Entrance to the Coloma rose garden is free.
The Coloma rose garden is an excellent place to visit for an hour or two. If you’re still not convinced, here’s a short video: