Monday, May 13, 2013

I lied. A tale of three rock gardens instead...

Ostrich fern (Matteucia struthiopteris)
 I promised you the Palmengarten in Frankfurt. Turns out those pictures are not yet downloaded (a long story)--you will have to wait. So you shall have to just suffer through another of the colossal German Botanic gardens instead: Hamburg Botanischen Garten. This first picture gives you a sense of their scale: this is a tiny part of the American Woodland Garden. They convey the vastness of America by growing thousands of a plant, like this Ostrich fern. Pretty cool, don't you think. That's the way they do things in Hamburg!

The Rose Garden (really)
 They have a vast rose garden--although many of the roses are cut down hard this time of year, so instead it just looks like a fabulous perennial border. Of which they have plenty as well. And hundreds of rhododendrons in full bloom (I shall not bore you with those). In fact, you will only see a few tiny snippets of this massive and wonderful garden: you must simply plan a trip there yourself--I recommend early spring, then mid spring, and late spring of course. Undoubtedly summer is dazzling etc.. etc. This botanic garden world is really too wonderful and vast. Do people really watch television and sports?

Gunnera manicata
 I believe there is a law requiring every European Botanic Garden to have a few big clumps of Gunnera. Hamburg being Hamburg--they have dozens of clumps of course. Their South American walk is mind boggling--vast swaths of Blechnum fern and groundcovering gunnera as well...I was astonished at how much South American stuff they were growing actually.

Gunnera tinctoria
 Another shot of just part of the Gunnera alley...

Nothofagus obliqua
 They also had groves of Nothofagus antactica, Nothofagus alpina, and more...I know it just looks like a tree in this shot--but seeing these southern Hemisphere gems in the northern hemisphere is a shock. I did see some giant ones in Ireland's magnificent Mt. Usher Arboretum, but Germany is more continental, and filled me with hope that we might find a hardy one even for Denver...they are marvelous trees!

Another Nothofagus
Indulge me as I coo over another Southern Beach...
Araucaria araucana
 And then there were the Monkey Puzzles: dozens! Here are the tops of some producing those immense cones. Is that cool or what?

The first of three "rock" gardens
 There are three rock gardens at Hamburg: this one is just rocks--a garden designed to educate visitors about the different "species" of rocks in Germany (Schist, Gneiss [two rocks which one must be careful not to hybridize in Germany] Granite, Limestone etc.)

rock garden two
 This was the coolest garden: brand new--I'd like to see it in a year or two. Of course, every German Botanic Garden has vast order beds to educate visitors about plant families--and they are wonderful indeed (they used to have them at Kew--I think they still do--but not so common in America). Here they did the order beds as a wide variety of gardens--little prairies, rock gardens--you have to see it to get it. And it is all according to the brand new taxonomy (bred by DNA and Cladistics) so it is VERY up to date and snazzy--although only plant nerds and botanists would notice. How cool to have a garden that caters to all including the elite!

A sample of one order bed--a bit drab right now-perhaps--but just wait! Most Piperales are tropical after all and it's still early spring in Hamburg

Japanese cherry and shocking colors in a bedding scheme
 If you were disappointed in the last picture, here's an example of the many bedding schemes scattered throughout to pander to color mongers (come to think of it, we all qualify) Pretty sophisticated stuff for bedding,m I would imagine--pink and orange~!

Camellia japonica
 Maybe there's not much hope for Southern Beech in Denver when they grow camellias like this. Notice the underplanting of Hylomecon japonicum (they do grow things in masses)...rhyming the specific names, you notice?

The obligatory beneficial insect house
 There is a law in Germany requiring all botanic gardens to construct elegant and massive domiciles for beneficial insects. (I lied again--they just do it cause they want to: each of the 7 gardens we visited had one)...

Polemonium brandegei
 There is a small rockery dedicated to Western American plants next to an extensive Midwestern prairie I never got a good picture of....this Colorado near endemic was grown superbly in many clumps. They do need some more Westerners, however. Judging by how they grow what they have, that should not be a problem!

The REAL rock garden
Don't be fooled: this is just one little corner of a garden that goes on and on and on. It has many fine plants, and a grand design. It is not quite on the order of Munich's gem, let alone the masterpiece at Wurzburg--but respectable nonetheless. I shall just share a few glimpses inside it--

Salix helvetica
 Not too shabby eh? One of the loveliest of willows, loaded with catkins. Aaaaaaaaaaah!

Gentiana acaulis
 Does this really need commentary?

and MORE gentians

Acantholimon glumaceum
 Not quite on the order of Wurzburg--but daunting nonetheless. I was so jealous to see this: although I grew these superbly at my old home, they are a challenge on my current sand, so their acantholimon made me jealous indeed.

Disporum smithii
 I have never seen this Western native Solomon-seal cousin growing in an American botanic garden--although I suspect some of those California ones have it. They had many clumps in Hamburg...

Paving in the American woodland...
 One could visit German botanic gardens only to study their varied and wonderful pavings--rustic, elegant, variable and always beautiful.

Helonius bullata--another rare American
 A few Eastern American botanic gardens grow this (while ignoring the American West claiming they can't grow our stuff...) What a treat to see it--they had dozens among their Sarracenia collection here...

Saxifraga cortusifolia
 I had to share this one--what gorgeous foliage! Looks like something Terra Nova would breed!

More elegant bedding...
I have not shown you the vast woodland beds full of Asian, American and European treasures. Nor the extensive steppe gardens, nor the vast and interesting Sensory garden, nor much else here (greenhouses for instance). You must simply plan a few weeks one beautiful spring to visit some of these great German Botanic Gardens. I don't think it matters which ones--although Hamburg is high on the list. They are all wonderful. And that is not a lie!


  1. Very nice once again of course... That looks like the real Gunnera manicata, which seems nearly impossible for most people to keep going in the Pacific Northwest (if you can find it in the first place - 99% of the time plants sold as G. manicata are mislabeled G. tinctoria/chilensis). Nice Nothofagus too... I read the evergreen species have been planted successfully as far north as the Faeroe Islands, but of course they experience a whole lot more maritime influence.

  2. Those gentians are to die for!

  3. My understanding is that Hamburg's climate isn't too much colder than Mt. Usher's. Nothofagus, camellias, und so weiter.
    Gorgeous stuff. Yes, we could stand seeing rhodies.


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