The Account of a Flying Gardener, Part VI - EUROPEAN OBSERVATIONS
J. G. Bacher
Of sights to interest the horticultural student in Europe I must mention the city of Bern known as the capital of Switzerland. It is not a large city, having not quite one half million population, and enjoying an area much smaller than Portland. Bern celebrated its 600 anniversary in 1953 this date is very close to the foundation of Switzerland itself. For this celebration they had the idea sold on all their property owning citizens to decorate every business building with window boxes planted to red geraniums, and I may well state that this was a masterful stroke for adding needed color to every street. The city fathers of Bern saw fit to put up official prizes for best effects obtained and the awarding of them was entrusted to a committee of men such as the official landscape designer F. Leichty, a Mr. Gerber from the Park Bureau and Mr. Jakob Jenny who is the duly selected Federal gardener. Mr. Jenny invited me to come along that particular day for he used his official car with room for four. This invitation to see how Bern rewarded its citizens in their citywide decorations was something new to me.
We traveled all afternoon that day throughout various streets and the three judges rated the plantings by a point system, so that the scores of all the various entrants could be ascertained and the best displays found. Unfortunately it was only the first inspection, and, as the awarding came at a later date we did not have the list of final awards or prizes. However it interested me greatly to see the very careful way the judges worked at their task and I am sure the gardening world has much to learn from such a scheme for never before have I seen such a wealth of color. No wonder one saw boxes of flowers everywhere all in their very gayest colors but with red geraniums always predominating. G. Pierre Crozy seemed to be used more often than any other variety. This struck me as rather queer for with me it does not do very well at all.
I noticed the past summer that it prefers shade for its best flowering, and the cool seasons seem to suit it best. That I consider is why the Swiss gardeners use it so freely in their plantings.
I must admit that G. Pierre Crozy is a hybrid of rather odd type but for color is unexcelled in its type of red tint and once its liking for shade is known over here it may be a popular sort also.
However the city of Bern is a far greater floral city than anyone over here ever dreams of. The Swiss have their Botanical garden with its tropical plant collections where I first saw and took pictures in color of Haemanthus catharinae known better as one of the African blood lilies. I am now growing it and had some excellent plants flowering the past summer. So charming a sight in fact, that two twelve-inch pots vanished from my porch during the night, the thief taking good care to steal only the plants bearing seed and leaving the third plant in full bloom behind.
One of the aims in this Botanical garden is to provide a medium of study. The University of Bern, evidently one of those keen educational institutions one discovers in European cities uses the facilities of this garden. This University also has its natural garden on the Alps of the Schynige Platte described in the previous issue.*
On my next trip to Bern I went to see the Municipal Nursery and here is where I really found a fountain of plants and flowers and also saw my first specimen of Kirengoshoma palmuta in full bloom full size. This plant really impressed me no end, for long years ago I saw it listed in the Yokohama Nursery catalog and several purchases of seed never produced a plant. This very stately hardy perennial proved to be a member of the Ranunculacea family and seed must be planted without delay or germination will fail. Here again I learned something the hard way. This Municipal Nursery had many acres of marvelous perennials also great quantities of dahlias for cutting, besides a great collection of annuals as the various Official Bureaus are supplied with cut flowers.
Fig. 23. Kirengo Shoma Palmuta in the
Municipal Garden, Bern.
Fig. 24. Junior size power driven roller in the
Municipal Nursery, Bern.
Bedding plants for replacements of the summer annuals are being produced here in 1000 lots among which the Pansies and the many daisies played a big role. Rock garden plants also are available in large quantities, but what intrigued me most of all was a small driveway and lawn roller such as I had never seen before. It is evidently a patented roller that would serve over here marvelously for every landscape job. It is perhaps a bit heavy but a small gas motor propels the thing on without effort. This would prove a gadget invaluable to contractors and landscape gardeners.
For city dwellers desiring a bit of information on how to landscape effectively, this Municipal Nursery has devoted a share of its grounds to the creation of an ideal landscape plan to fit the average home. In this manner a visit to the Municipal Nursery may be a source of inspiration for the homeowners. Those who work here are real gardeners that can and will give advice to anyone in need of it.
Yes I will admit that when it comes to the subject of gardening the citizens of Bern take it seriously with good reasons. I did not get information as to their qualifications, but assume that they must be tops since the examinations that every applicant for a position must pass to get in is inclusive. The position of Federal gardener is much of the same nature, for only the countries top experts are able to attain such a position.
* See A.R.S. Bulletin Vol. 9, No. 1, page 46.