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Katie visits Munich's famous alpine garden

Katie Price
3 November 2010
Blog team: 
Reach new heights with Katie Price as she joins Jenny Wainwright Klein, alpine specialist at Munich Botanic Garden, at the famous Alpengarten auf dem Schachen.

While on a visit to Munich this autumn I had an opportunity to join Jenny on a visit to the alpine garden run by Munich Botanic Garden, located high in the Bavarian Alps. This was a follow up to a trip I made to the Alpengarten in the summer of 2008 and gave me the chance to compare the flora at different times of year.

We drove south from Munich under low cloud but as we climbed the steep, winding track up the mountains, we rose above the gloom into the glorious weather on Mt Schachen.


The view from Mt Schachen


We caught some wonderful glimpses of the Koenigshaus, just above the alpine garden, which lies 2,000 metres above sea level, in the Bavarian Alps.


Koenigshaus in the Bavarian Alps


Jenny was here to collect seed from plants growing in the alpine garden so that she can offer them to other botanic gardens through Munich's annual index seminum (seed list). The altitude and aspect of the garden means that Jenny and her colleagues have great success with many plants that we at Kew find difficult in our relatively hot, dry corner of south-east England. However, several species I have grown from Schachen seed are now thriving in the Davies Alpine House, especially in the tufa mounds - a crumbly, open-textured rock that is ideal for growing a range of small alpine plants, such as those we saw on this mountain.


Jenny Wainwright Klein collecting seeds in the Alpengarten


This was probably Jenny's last visit to the garden before it is engulfed by the first heavy snow of winter, which was forecast to arrive in a couple of days. She collected, amongst others, seed from Himalayan Primula and Meconopsis species, and we both spent time trying to photograph Cremanthodium ellisii, which was flowering its socks off!


Cremanthodium ellisii


I worked at the Schachen garden in July 2008, just a few weeks after the snow had melted and when spring had truly sprung. It is fascinating now to see how the vegetation develops over the short, intense growing season high on the mountain, how the unbelievably rich spring flower meadows were now grazed and straw-coloured, and how the tall herbs had changed the shape and character of the garden as they shot skywards. Seeing the cultivation of these plants by our Munich colleagues gives us extremely useful pointers to their treatment at Kew. And, of course, stepping out of the garden onto the mountainside, I can see the Bavarian flora in its native habitat, and again, this informs the way I will try to grow all these fantastic plants in the Davies Alpine House at Kew.


- Katie -


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