De Bijloke as a historical seed bank
De Bijloke offers a green oasis of calm within the city of Ghent. The design of the gardens emphasises the heritage and binds the various buildings together. Today, the site still houses many traces of living heritage such as its unique collection of apple and pear trees, which form the relics of an orchard that is more than three centuries old.
Research carried out by the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research in 2018 showed that unique apple and pear varieties can be found in the park. The species appeared to date back to the 16th or 17th century and are very rare in Flanders today and extremely valuable and worth protecting. De Bijloke was found to have been a growing and experimental site for various fruit trees. Historical sources indicate that cuttings from the orchard were sold and exported, to England among other places.
After the discovery, grafting material was harvested from the special fruit trees. A specialist arborist attached the grafts of the old varieties to existing trees. In the coming years, the trees will develop a new crown of those old pear or apple varieties. The intention is to be able to harvest even more grafting material from these trees at a later date so that the old varieties can be maintained.