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Journal American Rhododendron Society

Current Editor:
Dr. Glen Jamieson ars.editor@gmail.com


Volume 9, Number 1
January 1955

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The Account of a Flying Gardener - Part V
John Bacher

        The head gardener of the institution informed me as to the reason for the prolific flowering habit of this Geranium from the Kew Gardens. It is known as geranium kewense since it was one of the hybrids from Kew.
        Never before have I seen geraniums so prolific in their flowering. The gardener however told me that the plants in these boxes were several years old and evidently increase their blooming as the years advance, this made a great deal of sense to me for it coincided with my observations at home in Portland, where older geraniums often flower 3 times as profusely as young plants. The foliage of geranium kewense resembles very much our own Rose Geraniums being rather finely cut and dark green. At Bern the capital of Switzerland I went to visit Jakob Jenny who has the position of Federal Gardener and whose duty is to supply all the floral decorations for the Parliament Buildings. Here I saw gardens located on a steep hillside right below the governmental buildings with several greenhouses for the production of plants and cut flowers as well as potted plants for decorations. In looking over the greenhouses and contents I noted with much surprise all sorts of Gesnerriads in superb condition, also the new Crossandra undulifolia was flowering in top quality, thereby proving that the gardeners here really know the business of growing quality products no matter how new or rare.
        That made me reflect on the gardening situation at home for we in Portland do not even own a municipal set of greenhouses where plants of this nature could be grown, and much less have growers even been able to produce the world's best plants.

Alpine Garden at Schynige Platte
Fig. 10  The Alpine Garden at Schynige Platte
Bacher photo

        The city of Bern has only about 400,000 inhabitants and wealthy families are few and far between, yet looking over their Botanical Garden, the Municipal Nursery and other growing facilities I was left with the impression that gardening here rates way ahead of the gardening in Portland. Money being collected for Park purposes here is far larger than what the thrifty Swiss tax payers have to pay for their gardening ventures. I am sometimes curious as to why we accept so little from our Park Bureau in return for the amount of taxes collected. I have concluded that our indifference to that phase of gardening must be the blame of it all. While visiting the Swiss capital I also learned of the Alpine Garden of the University of Bern, which is located 6000 feet high in the Alp known as Schynige Platte (translated it means Shiny Plate). (FIG. 10) Naturally since I am also interested in this type of gardening it was a must for me to visit that garden, and a few words about it may be of interest even to rhododendron fanciers. We went up to this mountain garden from Grindelwald on August 7th by Cog rails and noted quite a few rhododendrons from the train windows, all growing, though, above 5000 feet. It was the Alpine rose or R. ferrugineum in full bloom at this date which was more than I had expected, for usually it is at its best in early July. As our train stopped near the Schynige Platte Hotels the skies looked rather dubious for picture taking but after breakfast I noticed with glee that the weather brightened up a lot. I paid my fee to enter this world famous alpine garden and began observing the late flowering plants. I am accustomed to the fact that alpine flowers do go over quickly and of the great masses of early alpines no trace of flowers were seen, but in their place the taller growing kinds were very numerous. All were in fine flower, looking gloriously contented. When purchasing my entry ticket I also purchased a booklet on the garden in order to learn more about it. From this text I learned that this project was first considered by a few politicians in 1905 and reached the construction stage in 1928 and that a Mr. Woldemoar Meier was accepted as supervising gardener. Nearly 9000 square yards of surface comprise the garden proper. There is approximately a 4 months growing period with early July showing the best alpine flora color displays.
        While wandering along many meandering paths I came to see clumps of R. hirsutum in full bloom growing in calcareous rock (limestone) while not very far away the true alpine R. ferrugineum grew in a peaty mass of soil covered with its bright red flower. R. hirsutum is of pinkish color and its foliage has less of the rusty color in its leaves.
        Anyone could immediately detect the healthy appearance of every plant in the garden, yet nowhere did I see any signs of cultivation. All groups of plants were furnished with permanent labels giving their name and the family they belonged to. Truly outside of the walks and the many seats for tired visitors it was difficult to realize that these plants were made artificially for one failed to see unnatural effects anywhere. At this time the tall growing species were in glorious bloom. At the entrance of the garden the caretakers home is located and it contains a students' class room and laboratory, also a ticket counter. The admission of franc for visitors, 30 centimes for club members and 10 centimes for scholars is used for the upkeep of the garden. Since this garden is located in the very heart of the Alps it is a marvel to behold for the close up study of the alpine flora and the so called timberline plants are all here. The well known Red Spruce Picea exelsa may be seen growing, but only 7 to 8 feet tall. This by the way is the predominating Swiss timber tree in the lowlands. Many Eastern Nurseries in the U.S.A. grow this species as their favorite Christmas tree. Your writer planted 50,000 in the spring of 1902 in a nursery at Beaver, Pa.
        I have praised myself as being unusually lucky for the weatherman provided me with clear sunny days during these visits. My two Leica cameras worked overtime recording these interesting sights.


Volume 9, Number 1
January 1955

DLA Ejournal Home | QBARS Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search JARS and other ejournals