Wildflower Wednesday: Alpengarten
A little while ago I wrote about garden visits which suit both NAH and me. Little did I know within a few days of that post I'd find a whole holiday. Don't get me wrong, all our holidays are enjoyable, but Switzerland was exceptional. NAH could happily play on the mountain railways and cable cars all day, whilst I could take in everything nature wanted to show me.
One day on a train journey up the mountain back to Wengen I caught NAH watching me with a smile on his face. 'What's up?', I asked him. 'I'm watching you taking it all in', he said. Little did he know that not only was I drinking in the gorgeous mountain views, I also had a running commentary playing in my head along the lines of:
"That view is fabulous; that's a wild flower I have in my garden... there's another, it's clover; and that's a Campanula; and there's a scabious like the one I have in my pots; here's a smaller version of the ox-eye daisy in my lawn; is that green roof man-made or blown in by the wind?; I didn't know Astrantia major could grow up here; I LOVE that waterfall... and there's another... and another; ooh squash growing in a compost heap, nice; what a tiny fern; those are fantastic Pulsatilla seedheads; how can that plant squeeze into that crevice?; hmmm, rosebay willowherb, now there's a surprise; that stream must be glacier melt seeing the water looks grey; will that incy wincy tiny conifer grow any taller seeing we're at the tree line?; ooh I didn't know there was a yellow monkshood; I have NO idea what that umbellifer is..."
It was a constant stream of delightful views, thoughts and questions. I loved the high mountain meadows, full of jewel-like wild flowers grazed by the cows with their tinkling bells. These contrasted with the lush lower ones where hay making was in full flow, full of quite different flowers. When we reached the high rocky slopes and mountain tops, I was amazed how even the most craggy of landscapes had something there tough enough to put down roots and grow.
There were so many familiar flowers too, how could that be? Perhaps Mr Thomas Cook and his pioneering tours to the Swiss Alps in the 1860s had a part to play? I can imagine how the plant obsessed Victorians would want to collect everything laid out before them and bring it home. I learned later the canny Swiss positively encouraged them to come over for the healthful mountain air and to pick the flowers for their pressed flower albums. That's why the iconic edelweiss is now a rarity in the wild, but can be seen everywhere grown in pots or in a host of decorative forms.
I was quite happy to keep going with my thoughts and not take them any further as it was so relaxing. Then one day I found there was a game changer in our itinerary. Our planned trip on the historic Schynige Platte railway held a surprise for me at the top in the shape of the Botanical Alpine Garden aka Alpengarten. Here around 700 alpine plant species would be laid out for me to study and at last identify exactly what I'd seen.
I got very excited.
Except nature had slightly different plans for the day...
Our only rainy day (and our last full day) of the holiday was a trip on the Schynige Platte railway. The Alpengarten is indeed marvellous, but I had to take my photos at a gallop and my camera seized up half way round.
Everything I saw was a delight though and I can't wait to go back. However, the day's weather means I've yet to fully identify a lot of the plants I've grown to love and then match them to the many different habitats available to them.
But that doesn't matter as I know I'll have even more to wonder at when we go back.
In the meantime I have the Alpengarten's helpful leaflet to go through. From this I see the famous Alpenrose which graces the name of many hotels isn't a rose, nor a rock rose (which had been my guess), but Rhododendron ferrugineum. Who knew? I've also found a great website to help me narrow down my plant IDs; a couple of conservation organisations to investigate for those tricky climate change, farming and tourism issues that gently reared their heads occasionally; and a field guidebook on order to pop in my rucksack for next time.
It's going to be fun.
Wildflower Wednesday is brought to you by my wonderful pal Gail at Clay and Limestone on each fourth Wednesday of the month.