Katie visits Munich's famous alpine garden
By: Katie Price - 03/11/2010
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!
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 -
Several people contribute to the Alpine and Rock Garden Team blog. Richard Wilford is the Collections Manager in the Hardy Display Section at Kew. His responsibilities include all the areas where alpines are grown at Kew Gardens. The three team leaders, Joanne Everson, Graham Walters and Katie Price, each have their own particular parts of the Gardens to look after. Between them, these four experts have over 55 years experience of growing alpines.
Alpines at Kew Gardens are not only grown to create colourful and informative displays, they also play an important role in the research Kew carries out around plant naming, classification, biodiversity and conservation.
Mountains are found on every continent and each range has its own unique alpine flora, but these plants are under threat from climate change. As temperatures rise, alpines are forced higher and will eventually have nowhere to go. The alpine collections at Kew are studied to help us all understand the mountain flora better and make informed decisions about protecting its future.
"Probably the most beautiful glasshouse in the world is the Davies Alpine House at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew", John Hoyland, Gardens Illustrated, April 2011
Richard Wilford has written a book on alpines, 'Alpines from Mountain to Garden', published by Kew Publishing. You can buy it in the Kew shops or from Kewbooks.com.
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