Wildflower Wednesday: Alpengarten

The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau from Murren

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.

A view down to the Lauterbrunnen valley on the way up to Wengen

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..."

View near the Mannlichen cable car station

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.

Some of the crevice hugger flowers I found by the Rothorn Kulm station on the Brienz Rothorn railway at over 7,000 feet above sea level

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...

A rainy day at the Alpengarten, Schynige Platte

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.

Some of the Alpengarten's scenes and flowers

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.

Things to investigate later - though buying seeds to bring home raises the ugly head of biosecurity issues

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.


  1. Interesting to see it all without snow! Those slopes look even more daunting than in winter. Sounds like you had a fabulous trip and so much safer than on skis.

    1. It was my first time in the alps in summer and I wasn't sure how I'd cope without seeing snow. Thank goodness for the higher mountains - I don't think I could have coped with seeing just green and rock, it wouldn't have seemed normal. It was interesting talking to one of the locals who told us that climate change is affecting the amount of snow they get in winter. It's increased noticeably.

  2. What a wonderful holiday. Happy WW to you.xoxo

    1. Thanks Gail, so happy to have a contribution suitable for WW :)

  3. So beautiful and you found the Edelweiss in bloom. Many of those flowers do look familiar from here as well. That's always the best when you find a place you can't wait to return to.

    1. Welcome Shirley - I suspect quite a few of the familiar flowers may be a different species; one suited to mountain climes, but who knows until I can get a full ID!

  4. You're such a good writer and I've loved reading these accounts of Switzerland. Now I want to go.

    1. How lovely of you to say Sue :) One travel tip for when you go... buy a Swiss travel pass, it's much cheaper than paying for individual trips out there.

  5. Beautiful flowers! And what a view of the mountains! I would be afraid if I bent over to look at a wildflower, I might tumble down the side!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. There's was plenty of opportunity to view the flowers in safe conditions, Lea :)

  6. Did you see yellow violets - were they blooming?

    One of our wildflowers, a succulent Aizoon sarmentosum reminds me so much of Edelweiss, both the shape and the slightly woolly petals.

    1. No, I didn't Diana. I see they should have been in flower at the time I was there, so I probably missed those that were :(

  7. Switzerland is amazing! I am surprised you found so many wildflowers growing in the alpine area that you grow in your own garden. What a delightful surprise!

    1. It was a delightful surprise, Karin but in other ways not so, bearing in mind the British probably have the largest collections of blooms in their gardens which originate from elsewhere


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