The Van Buuren Museum and Gardens in Brussels, Belgium was once the private home of David & Alice Van Buuren, two creative spirits sharing a life of art, music, culture, and gardens. They married in 1922; he of Dutch Jewish heritage, and she a native Belgian. Together they built their Dutch-style brick home just as the Art Deco influence blossomed.
The house was on 26 acres (10 hectares) of steeply sloping ground outside Brussels proper. Inside they curated an Art Deco style of furnishings, paintings, and sculpture. Outside were the magnificent gardens.
Bursting with creativity, design ideas, and a financially secure situation, Alice continued to develop the gardens. An orchard, a rose garden, and a labyrinth were all added over time.
Influenced by the picturesque style of gardening where the house and the garden merge, the garden is a “picture” from every window in the house. As the ground slopes down from the home, it is accented with water, rocks, and trees. The walking paths return you to the house for the optimal view of the architecture. The garden grew with happiness and joy.
Then World War II began to menace the world, and the couple was forced to leave their home and flee to New York City, where friends provided sanctuary as the Germans ravaged Europe.
After the war, they returned to their home, which miraculously survived. The couple, always politically active, hosted soirees with leaders involved in rebuilding efforts after the war. In their home, great minds came together to exchange ideas and raise funds to remake the country.
Sadly, David died from lung cancer in 1955. After this deep sadness, Alice created the Garden of Hearts as a tribute to their great love. This was my favorite part of the gardens. As I wandered down the slope through the geometric rose garden, descending the steps leading by the flowering wall, I headed to a stand of green hedges.
Rounding the corner, I found the opening to the Garden of Hearts. Soon I was standing in a garden of heart-shaped boxwoods filled with red begonias accented with white-bricked paving.
It is a work of art and heart, where Alice could go and remember the great love of her life. Alice lived on until 1970, and during those years, she set about creating a foundation to preserve the house and gardens as a gift to the city of Brussels.
This was an exceptional garden visit experience. Though today the garden is only 3 acres (1.5 hectares), each turn around the path reveals a scene designed to delight and surprise. The gardens were restored over a three-year period of 2009-2012 and today are in excellent form.
The walk through the labyrinth garden twirls you through green hedges bringing you to seven circular openings, each with a themed bronze sculpture. The geometric patterned rose garden created colorful blocks of blooms.
But the very best moment was to walk into a garden of hearts. A garden is always a work of heart, art, and flowers; nowhere is this more beautifully represented than the Van Buuren garden.
Note: Landscape architect Jules Buyssens 1924 transformed the steeply sloping, somewhat cramped space into a ‘picturesque garden’ comprising a pavilion, a herbaceous border, ponds, a floral wall, rock gardens, and clumps of heather and conifers around a central lawn. Buyssens is Belgium’s Fredrick Olmstead.
“Garden of the Hearts” was designed by Belgian landscape designer René Pechère in 1970
More photos below, interior images and more garden views