Schachen Log 5
Looking back on the last two weeks, we’ve weeded through the complete garden and have made a good start on the plants in need of division. Just over a week ago I took advantage of the cool overcast weather and replanted the Gentiana froelichii. Aggressive weeds with large fleshy roots had seeded amongst the plants and were impossible to remove without major disturbance of the Gentians roots. After replanting, in a mixture of fine limestone scree, from the Schachen scree beds, with a minimum of soil, small leafy branches of the common Salix were cut and used to shade the plants. This Gentian has the most beautiful sky blue flowers with a hint of aquamarine when in bud. It is difficult to grow in Munich and almost impossible to flower at lower altitudes as it is very sensitive to hot weather. Cool nights, below 16° C, are required to keep it happy.
The southern hemisphere beds, fairly recent additions to the garden, are now showing colour with large masses of Mimulus cupreus in flower. When it rains we cover the plants with our dishwashing bowls to protect the flowers which otherwise collapse and don’t recover after the rain. This winter I plan to make more efficient structures to use as protection from rain.
Calceolaria biflora is also in full flower and will usually flower through into August. About five years ago I planted Calceolaria uniflora in crevices where they flowered beautifully the first couple of years but have now become weak. Apparently they like to have a dry period after flowering. The majority of the two southern hemisphere beds houses the collections made in Lesotho by myself and colleagues, both from Munich Botanic Garden and from the Katse Botanic Garden in Lesotho. I’d always been told that alpines from the southern hemisphere wouldn’t grow on the Schachen because of the long snow cover and the cool summers. Then in the late ‘90’s I had excess plants of Senecio macrospermus, a large forb of the Drakensberg and Maloti’s, and planted them on the Schachen. To my surprise they flourished! It took me a while to work out what was quite obvious: if I choose plants from a similar climate to the Schachen there’s a good chance they’ll grow. The high mountains and mountain passes of the eastern Maloti and Drakensberg are filled with sponges and bogs as the headwaters for the major rivers of South Africa are found here. So all three collecting trips have been to the high passes and mountains of the eastern areas and it’s exciting to see which plants do well when introduced to the Schachen. Felicia rosulata is the first Lesotho plant to flower in the season with Hirpicium armerioides, Helichrysum albo-brunneanum, Ursinia alpina and Senecio macrocarpus all in bud.
For the first time I’m pollinating various plants which are isolated under nets. The true seed gained from isolated pollination is mainly to build up a reserve stock of seed in the fridge in case we loose something irreplaceable and excess seed will be offered to other Botanic Gardens through our seed catalogue. I’ve started with an accession of Primula sikkimensis grown from seed collected in Sikkim and quite by chance both pin and thrum were among the isolated plants. The isolating structures are fairly simple wire frames with a pair of tights pulled over the top to keep the insects out. A plant of Dianthus callizonus is currently also isolated. For cushion plants I’ve taken the wire frame of a hanging basket, once more with a pair of tights pulled over the structure. Every few days I pollinate the flowers using a pine needle to transfer the pollen.
Views of the Schachen from the last two weeks:
Meconopsis quintuplinervia has been in flower almost since the day we opened on the 15th of June. The plants originally came from Jack Drakes nursery in 1972.
A white flowering Meconopsis napaulensis hybrid.
Silene davidii grows to flowering size rapidly from seed but obviously needs sun to flower well on the Schachen. Last summer, which was a wet one, there were only a few flowers.
I'm not a great fan of grasses, sedges, etc but this Juncus jacquinii is a beauty when looked at closely.
Dianthus alpinus in profile.
Last weekend we had graupel, frozen rain. It's very light and soft compared to hail. Here's a picture of the graupel amongst Primula sikkimensis hybrids after the storm.
Rhododendron hirsutum flowering in the meadows around the garden together with Thymus praecox.
Pyrola minor, with graupel, which has self-sowed into shady areas of the garden.
A view over the Himalaya area in the lower part of the garden.