Sunday, May 12, 2013

A typical spring day in paradise...(Darmstadt Redux)

Rock Garden at Darmstadt Botanic Garden
An overview of part of the rock garden at Darmstadt Botanic Garden. Although not as massive as many of the rock gardens I have visited at 7 public gardens in Germany (every botanic garden in Germany seems to have extensive rock gardens--often several), this one is well tended and every plant seems to be happy, thanks to Meistergartner Dirk Heyer (see below), a very friendly and congenial gentleman who is very knowledgeable and hugely enthusiastic about what he does. He also speaks fluent English--so needless to say we had great fun. The fenced area in the middle of the garden encloses a rather dramatic series of tufa boulders Dirk has tilted so as to grow choice chasmophytes (like Dionysia, I suspect)...and now for a few closeups...

Dryas x suendermanii
This mass of Mountain Avens was truly dazzling: I can't seem t find a closeup. Although not as flashy as pure D. octopetala, the hybrid has a melting, creamy yellow flower that is half nodding and just lovely.  I have never seen a mass of this anywhere nearly this big anywhere. I believe the Purpus family knew Sündermann (there is a picture of them at his nursery): I could almost believe Joseph purchased this originally from that nursery--which would be very cool indeed!

Arum maculatum
Dirk would probably be mortified that I am posting a picture of such a common plant that he probably didn't even plant (I suspect it just planted itself), but this miniature Lord and Lady was so perfectly sited I couldn't resist. What can you say about a climate where these are considered weeds--as is the Gymnocarpium dryopteris growing with it?

Adoxa moschetellina
I have only seen this a few times in Colorado, where it is widespread but very local, always clinging to moist hollows. In Europe it is apparently abundant in nature, and at Darmstadt, it formed wide masses. Annoyingly wide and attractive masses: I would love to have this in Denver! Perhaps I will (he says cunningly...)

Adoxa moschetellina
Isn't it cute? This is one of those bellwhether plants that determine if indeed you are a plant nerd. Anyone who yearns for this is probably terminally nerdy in the plant realm. I did not see this plant represented at the other great German gardens I visited (and I am beginning to think that there are only great German gardens, by the way). But I suspect it could be overlooked: but not at Darmstadt where it is beautifully showcased.

Purshia tridentata

I meant to post this on my last blog, since this is actually growing in the hardy succulent garden which is under Klaus Werner's purview: but better late than never. I don't think we have grown this essential Western American shrub at Denver Botanic Gardens (until perhaps very recently), but I saw this in several German botanic gardens: go figure! It would be curious to know if it is in cultivation in any American botanic gardens at all (outside California, of course, where they have real botanic gardens). Not to reveal my prejudices, however. If you are a botanic gardener at an American botanic garden outside of California (where they have real botanic gardens--did I already say that?), perhaps you should obtain this for your garden.

Dirk Heyer
Gartenmeister Freiland, Alpinum
Dirk could not figure out why I wanted to take a picture of him, or of his office, tucked away in the Darmstad botanic garden woods, near his rock garden. I assured him that people would be interested: is that a charming place to work or what?

Rhodotypos scandens
Darmstadt has a patch of Jetbead forty or more feet across, with the largest flowers I've ever seen on this wonderful, neglected Chinese classic. I was so jealous!

Listera ovata
This is one of the lawn weeds (as in many German Botanic Gardens, there are large areas left as "meadows" that are mowed once or twice a year, full of wildflowers including dandelions. I'm amused that Americans (who think that Germans are uptight) are driven to distraction with the ubiquitous dandelion that Germans seem to cherish, and which is not uncommon in their really extremely tidy gardens. There is a lesson lurking here somewhere...Perhaps there are payoffs for not spraying your lawns for wild orchids for instance?

Female Gingko bloom: the arrow shows droplet of exudescence
When I first met Dr. Stefan Schneckenberger, the director of Darmstadt Botanic Gardens, he excitedly brought me over to the Gingko to admire the flowers and pointed out their pollination strategies: I don't think that would be a frequent occurrence in many parts of the world: science and passion for nature are alive and well in high places in Germany! They are extremely fortunate in having him as a director, I suspect.

Dr. Schneckenberger admiring his flowering Gingko in the meadow in front of the entrance to the Garden

Rhodies in glory at Darmstadt
My parting glimpse of Darmstadt botanic garden is at one of their shrub borders in raucous bloom...Although small by German Standards, this garden will loom large for me forever: here is where I first got a taste of botanic gardening in a country where the art is alive and well, and practiced with enormous skill (and purity). Germany is Mecca for botanic gardeners whether they know it or not. (The Germans really don't care: they're too busy having botanic fun on a high order!).

Next Blog: the unbelievable Palmengarten of Frankfurt: which I think may be the best botanic garden in the world. How's that for a cliff hanger?


  1. Read through all your Europe posts, WOW - great stuff. We are growing Purshia tridentata for sale and will of course plant some out. I don't think I have ever seen one in a Seattle garden, public or otherwise. I have the impression it is looked upon with disdain as one of those brushy eastern Washington things that is "inappropriate" for "rainy west side" gardens - a bit ironic seeing how it does fine in Germany - oh and a couple of my accessions of it are from places that get at least as much rain as Seattle, go figure.

    You mentioned Mertensia macdougalii... I have some going and I'll stick your name on one if you like, and if I manage not to kill them all - wish me luck.

  2. Your travels are fun, just like mine. I can find things of garden/design interest even on the Llano Estacado, zooming from Abq to Austin! A whole world waiting to be shown off. I could even handle the green of Germany and see why he could work there, just like my preference for working in dry, rarified desert heat.

  3. Thank you Ian: I shall get in touch with you as soon as I get back in the saddle (in two days)...lots more posts coming!

  4. Pursh was German, which may account for Purshias in Germany.
    Seems like transatlantic gardeners and botanists have always valued western North American native plants more than western North Americans do.

    1. his original name was Pursch and he came from Saxonia. Later he changed it into Pursh - a better spelling in English
      Stefan Schneckenburger, Darmstadt


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