The end of winter
News from the Alpine Garden on the Schachen
by Jenny Wainwright-Klein
Snow melt was early this year with only a small bank of snow in the lower area of the garden. I haven't been up to the garden since last autumn but a friend sent me this photo after her hike to the Schachen last weekend. For those who are not familiar with the Schachen, the garden lies at an altitude of 1850 m and was opened in 1901. It is a 3 hour hike through forest and alpine meadows up to the garden where a collection of indigenous and exotic alpines are planted in an area of a little less than half a hectare. The remaining area has been left to nature and is a good example of how the surrounding meadows would look if there was no grazing, i.e. tall forbs carpeting the ground between Pinus cembra and P. mugo.
Once the present cold front, which has brought rain to Munich and snow to the Schachen, has passed over I'll hike up to the garden and rig up the pipe to the rain water tank. Thomas, my fellow Schachen gardener, will hopefully be able to accompany me so that we can install the pump at the spring outside of the garden and let it run for the day. Over the years I've come to appreciate the small luxury of having drinking water available from the first day that we open. Fifteen years ago we were still fetching buckets of water from the spring, down a steep and slippery slope and then back up balancing a bucket in either hand, for the first days cooking and washing. While up there on Thursday, we'll check through for any damage to the trees, fence or hut and garden that might have occured during winter. The mice usually have a good run through the garden as long as there's a thick blanket of snow but are normally not that active when the snow covering is thin, as it was this last winter. Surprisingly, their activities aren't always destructive. The winter before last they tunnelled through the Codonopsis ovata and I thought it was lost but it grew sturdier than before and flowered magnificently. I think the extra fertilizer from the droppings was the secret. Another winter the mice gave a clump of Lilium jankae their full attention, spreading the lily scales, which are very loosely attached to the stem and base, throughout one corner of the bed. The result now, 4 years on, is that the lilies are more numerous and nicely spaced.
Lilium jankae: the bulb above and below a photo from last year early July.
Only four weeks until we open the garden and by then this view will be full of life and colour.