Zurich holiday - Lauterbrunnen, Biel and the Botanical Garden

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Zürich's colours are blue and white (on VBZ trams and buses) with their flags flying alongside the red and white Swiss cross. Our hotel was off Bahnhofstrasse, for our train from Frankfurt and our Swiss wish list shopping. First room was traffic noisy and a hot as hell attic. Moved down a floor to a balcony! Bowl of cherries for supper. Delighted to be in the home of London's Tibits parent Hiltl. We ate and ate.

Zürich lake, hotel Jelmoli, station
Zürich lake, hotel
Jelmoli, station

We travelled on trains, boats and buses with our Swiss Travel Pass. The Gugelmann Museum we visited last time in Schönenwerd, the village where the Ungardener grew up. First of August is the Swiss National Day with flags everywhere! I admired the costumes as people headed to the Zürich parade. We celebrated last year with a fondue at dear friends (remembered in our glass Advent wreath)

Train, cheese fondue and Schönenwerd church
Train, cheese fondue and Schönenwerd church

The waterfall reminds him of visiting his aunt at her Hotel Jungfrau for skiing holidays as a boy. Over Brünig Pass to Lauterbrunnen, on a gloomy day.

Wengneralpbahn, Staubbach Lauterbrunnen Hotel Jungfrau now serving Chinese Food
Wengneralpbahn, Staubbach Lauterbrunnen
Hotel Jungfrau now serving Chinese Food

Crossing from Swiss-German to French. In the lovely old town Solothurn - I found an English book in a free street library. Our boat passed the storks at Altreu, then crossed from Aare River to Lake Biel thru the lock.

Solothurn, storks in Altreu Büren an der Aare, passing thru the lock
Solothurn, storks in Altreu
Büren an der Aare, passing thru the lock

To Zürich Botanical Garden. We passed a crocodile of small children, visiting the garden, all talking English.

Zürich Botanischer Garten
Zürich Botanischer Garten

The steps leading up into the garden, skilfully and invitingly planted. Real estate in Zürich is top dollar so the insect homes are upmarket with a spectrum of choices for Sir and Madam. It is only when distance lends enchantment to the view, that I learn to look at South African plants as gems. Port St Johns creeper (related to Jacaranda trees and lianas) is usually a jungly unkempt sprawling shrub - this standard is cherished and tucked away in winter.

Mediterranean plants, rest in winter cold and summer heat and drought, growing in spring and autumn gaps. Plant diversity is marginalised by agriculture (wheat, vineyards and timber plantations in South Africa)

Podranea ricasoliana Insect homes in Zurich
Podranea ricasoliana
Insect homes in Zurich

Sensitive plant, Mimosa (pea family), I can't resist gently stroking the leaves, and watching them steadily fold shut! This protects the plant from being eaten by insects or dried out by wind. Aloe mcloughlinii is from Ethiopia at the other end of Africa. A teasel. Two mysteries (Brugmansia?) Beautiful but poisonous (Euphorbia family) castor oil plant.

Plants in the Zurich Botanical Garden
Plants in the Zurich Botanical Garden

Plants that grow on a cliff face, challenged by a lack of soil, water, and support for their roots - lichen, moss and ferns ... or Ernst van Jaarsveld mountaineering for our succulents and bulbs. Inside the hothouse domes is a tropical jungle. Amazon water lilies. Rainbow leaves on Croton (which my mother battled to grow in our Southeaster)

Cliff and tropical plants. Amazon lily and Croton
Cliff and tropical plants.
Amazon lily and Croton

Nothing as blue as a gentian. Alpine plants need fierce colours to attract the rare pollinators that can endure the cold mountains.

Unusual gentian
Unusual gentian

It was only as we walked out, and I got close to the posters ... that I realised that each of those flowers and leaves were constructed as an intricate collage!

Detail of the poster for the Gesneriaceae exhibition (cannot find the artist to credit)
Detail of the poster for
the Gesneriaceae exhibition
(cannot find the artist to credit)

Gesneriaceae with 3000 species distributed across the Tropics, a few in Europe, and many across the Southern Hemisphere. The family includes our Streptocarpus. Your plantain, foxgloves, Penstemon, Hebe and Veronica. Mint. Now I know why African violets, become Usambara Veilchen in German, the Usambara Mountains are in Northeast Tanzania where these familiar windowsill plants are threatened endemics.
To Conn and Lugano for the second half.

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Pictures by Jürg and Diana Studer
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  1. What a nice memory this makes, images and captions, always available after years.

    1. While I sort photos, and write the text, it all comes back to life for me.

  2. Lovely memories of an intriguing place. The botanical gardens look a delight; so many wonderful plants :) B

  3. Thanks for sharing your trip, Diana! I particularly enjoyed seeing the storks on the roof (ready to deliver a baby down the chimney perhaps?*) and the scenes from the botanic garden. I guess it isn't just Southern Californians who "borrow" South African plants!

    *I wasn't sure whether the stories about storks delivering babies are American in origin, or told the world over.

    1. I think of Altreu nurturing the stork babies, when I see storks migrated south to us.

      The difficult place to sell South African plants to gardeners ... is South Africa, where people like familiar commonorgarden ...

  4. It sounds like a great trip! Cute photo of you under the museum sign. :) I would love to get to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany some day!

  5. I am fascinated by the patterns in leaves and flowers, and the detailed poster of the Gesneriacae is beautiful. Switzerland looks very clear and sunny and well organised (especially the trains)..I love the storks in Alteu!

  6. Thanks for taking us on a lovely trip, Diana! One could hardly use the word 'exotic', but it is certainly such a world apart from the one I live in day to day! And beautiful!
    The poster is wonderful. It looks to be made with the curled paper technique I know as 'quilling', but I have never seen it used that way, or with such a happy assurance of colour!
    Like others, I like to use the South African plants when I can ;-) so I must add that my Freesia alba bulbs are now blooming. One of your posts many months ago convinced me I must try them. I hope you don't mind: I have linked to your blog from my post about them. They are lovely - thanks for the inspiration! Do you mind if I add my link? https://www.smallsunnygarden.com/2017/03/11/small-but-sumptuous-freesia-alba/

    1. First I thought it was plant material in the collage, then I realised that would never cooperate. The paper is coiled and folded, just so. Love paper art! Sad this artist is unrecognised.

      Thank you - your freesias are a delight!

  7. 'A crocodile of small children'... I never heard that expression before. Amusing.

    1. two by two, with lots of mummies and teachers keeping them together.

  8. Never been to Zurich, in your pics looks like I imagined it, very clean and organized. Those insect houses are wonderful, all different shapes for different insects at different stages. Except I wonder how it works that they are so close together? The predators wouldn't have to go far for lunch.

  9. Every year we plan to construct an insect condo -- must follow through. It's been many years since I visited Switzerland. Thanks for the memories. P. x

  10. We love Switzerland, the landscape is amazing and the trains are so good! The garden is lovely the gentain remind me of finding these flowers in the Alps on holidays when I was a child. Sarah x

    1. That gentian was growing at the stream. A different species to the tiny plant I know.