04 January, 2017

A Prairie garden in Frankfurt

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Last July we went from London to Bristol, then to visit the Ungardener's sister in Frankfurt. We had lunch at the Skyline Plaza. (I'll never see the High Line in New York but this was almost as good). The Skyline Garden is the 'fifth facade' of a shopping mall. Opened in 2013 and designed by landscape architects from Wiesbaden and Baltimore. The plants improve the urban microclimate by increasing humidity, lowering the temperature and reducing air pollution. Irrigated by rain, which in turn reduces stormwater runoff. Restaurant with an outdoor terrace (our lunch - cheese and leek veggie burger!), children's playground, sport and activity spaces. I'll be with the flowers!

Frankfurt prairie
July 2016

Prairie plants set against city skyscrapers echo the NY High Line and on a perfect day when all the flowers are at their blooming best.

Frankfurt Skyline Plaza Garden
July 2016

Lime green Echinacea flowers make my heart happy.

Lime green Echinacea
July 2016

Even my camera agreed to capture this bee on a pink Echinacea.

Bee on Echinacea
July 2016

Our hotel room was high up with a narrow balcony across the corner and a view out to two sides. One evening as I was reading I heard music ... more music. I looked down to see the multi-lane road closed to traffic with a gazillion rollerbladers skimming along, followed by a few police vans holding back the cars. Every Tuesday. It was such an unexpected sight! Pied Piper of Hamelin racing away?

View of Frankfurt from our hotel room

Frankfurt am Main. The Main River. As along the Thames, there is that contrast of very old and very modern architecture.

Frankfurt am Main

At the Roemerberg is this reminder of a yet another time when 'we burnt books'. In Library, an unquiet history, by Matthew Battles, two of his seven chapters are book burning down the centuries.

Burning books

I had seen Indonesian Joko Avianto's Big Trees in internet pictures. I was surprised that it was tucked into a narrow side street. Those bamboo trees were HUGE.

The artist was inspired by the environment, redevelopment, urbanisation, displacement and marginalisation, the city mourning its lost trees. Bamboo is a reminder of traditional craft in Bali. Village bamboo forests in Java are disappearing for monoculture palm oil.

Joko Avianto's Big Trees

We walked in the Palmengarten. Lotus and sea holly.


New to me was the idea of a Subantarctic House (there is another in Tasmania). Plants come from the mountains of New Zealand's South Island (also Patagonia and the Falklands). These 'fragile flowers' need to be kept cool in Frankfurt's inland summer.

Myoporum laetum is an invasive alien in South Africa. We had it in our Camps Bay garden. A plant my father recognised from his New Zealand home. It grows with ferocious enthusiasm into a shrubby tree with great thick branches that I was constantly pruning. How strange to see that same plant nurtured as an exotic in a Frankfurt greenhouse. Even stranger to discover that its home is subantarctic. Why does it grow so happily in Cape Town's mediterranean climate?! It is poisonous to livestock, and has lots of berries which the birds spread around. Maoris rub the leaves on their skin to repel mosquitoes.

From New Zealand in the Subantarctic House
Myoporum laetum
Nothofagus menziesii
Silver beech

From Frankfurt we took the train to Switzerland.

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Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
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