July 5, 2010

The perils of travel, Plant Loss and Recovery

I lost many plants to bad plant care, while in Switzerland for two weeks. But the container garden has been reset, and any losses are now hidden by new containers. Here, some strawberry jars are planted with drought resistant succulents, which will always survive.

When gardeners travel, finding someone  capable to care for plants, as well as pets, if often a primary concern. I 'hired' my older sister ( with the promise of a new laptop, which equaled the price of boarding the dogs) to care for both all the plants, the greenhouse and the dogs, as well as feeding the ducks, pigeons and pheasants. Apparently, the tasks were to much for her, since the dogs got loose in the neighborhood for two days, ( but home safely now), the ducks 'escaped' and some are missing, and many, many, far too many container plants are dead as a bone. 
 Even dry californian plants are dead, as is this silver foliage west coast shrub, crispy and dry.

I can only blame myself, and not her as much, since the knowledge many of us plant people hold in our heads, is often innate, or it is built from  years of experience, experience like: Take note plant caretakers - Just because it is 90 degrees outside, the 'promise of thundershowers in the evening does not mean that the plant get watered.  In the summer, even a rainy day does not mean that the potted plants are watered enough. Yes, I know, if you live in California, you know all this, and often plant things that can withstand a drought, but here in New England, we certainly are not experiencing a water shortage. We all learn from such experiences, and surely, sis has had a big lesson over the past week. But then again, so have I.

June 27, 2010

Primula in these Alps of the Bernese Oberland

A yellow Primula auricula, growing on the upper slopes of the Eiger, in a damp snow run-off with Ranunculus glacialis. This trip brought us many meadows of this early blooming primrose, and we were very lucky, both because of it being late this season, and because we simply found the populations.

 A light pink form of Primula hirsuta, or it may be a natural cross of P. hirsuta and P. daoensis . Photographed this in the high crocus meadows of First, Bearnese Oberland..

Primula elatior after a freak high elevation snow storm on June 21 - the summer solstice.

Some of the snowy Primula from last weekend's snow on the Eiger. In the back, you can see the famous North Face.

Without the snow a week later, they look much better.

A primula farinosa caught in an early summer snow in the alps.

P. hirsuta

Later in the day, Joe hiked back to our camp, while I decided to go higher - above the cloud line near 12,000 feet. I was rewarded with sunshine, and this amazing scree and alpine meadow full of many primula, gentiana and other plants.

Variations in a population of Primula farinosa on the slopes of the Eiger, near 9,000 ft , growing with many P. auricula and Ranunculus glacialis. Sorry for the irregular type, but I am posting this post live from my iPad.

An impressive yellow P. auricula, the parent of the many fancy auricula primroses we sometimes see in England. In the back, Dryas octopetala and a melting glacier. Nearing the top of the Eiger.

A rare find on a steep ravine - a white Primula auricula

Even more amazing ( it just keeps getting better!) an amazing grouping with at least three different forms of Primula auricula, and some Primula hirsuta natural crosses on the summit of the Piz Gloria. And check out those Saxifraga! If only our alpine troughs could look like this!

Appreciating Switzerland

Our funicular ride helps up reach the start of the trail head for today's hike across the Piz Glora. We take this funicular, then a single car train across the rim of the canyon to the town of Murren, and the another funicular up over the glaciers to 15,000 feet, where it is difficult to breath - all with the hopes of finding more high elevation Androsace in the highest scree's. We have our snow gear. crampons and yet we are the only hikers on the funicular rid - every one else is under 20 years old, and are all base jumpers from Chile.

Ahhh, fraises, so fresh. If only our strawberries tasted like these. My attempt at a calendar cliche.

The main street the village we are staying in for another week -  Mürren, a small car-free remote alpine village which one must reach only by a funicular, and then a rid along the edge of the gorge on a single car rail, which ends right here where this image was taken.

Today we made a big decision - one which is decidedly quite un-American, ( in reference to those who travel from the states and plan on visiting 8 cities and 12 destinations in Europe in 7 days). We just cant' bear to leave this solitude in Murren, so I am calling ahead to Zermatt and cancelling our second week there. We have decide to stay, and act as if we live here. We will do our laundry in the little launderett, eat more cheese, and be sure to do our grocery shopping at the single store before it closes for the day at 4:00 PM. For the rest of the time here? We shall enjoy the quiet, the fact that there are no cars, few people and basically, just the sound of a few goat bells to wake us in the morning.

Then, naturally, there is the scenery.

We love Mürren, perched high on a cliff above the post card lovely valley of Lauterbrunnen, which is pretty nice itself, but this? This is the most beautiful place I have ever been on our planet ( so far!). Last night, as we watched the full moon rise over these magnificent mountains ( not a single light in a home or on a street in sight), we were commenting on how many people we met, especially how few Americans, who are either on one or two week tours traveling through Europe with their families. One such family we met two days ago, but they rarely left their lodge - where they sat with focused on answering email and playing games on their  iPads.  They had just arrive, and I was surprised at how bored the children were, as well as the parents. All the talked about as they tapped a swiped away on their devices, was about what cities they had been to over the past week. Dad sais "a half day at Cologne, a half day in Amsterdam, a half day in Paris - then we can go home".  Sad. 

We are experienced enough, to have planned only two towns for our week and a half venture, but now, instead of moving on to the more commercial and touristy town of Zermatt, we decided to cancel our reservations ( at a price, I must admit!), and to remain here in Mürren until next week. Why not. We have everything we need. Wine, cheese and wildflowers.

 View from our balcony - really.

 A bough of spruce cones decorates a home.

The hotels are quite old in Murren, most are build before 1890 such as this one. I find it interesting that even at this out-of-the-way location, that the village was a destination, even a century ago. How did they ever get those trunks up here? I later learned that on these slopes in Murren, Skiing was popular even in the 1880's.

 The view across from Mürren is spectacular when viewed from a few thousand feet higher, as we hike down from the summit of the Piz Gloria.

 I was noticing a number of residences near the nicer edge of the gorge, near the end of the canyon. This remote village has such incredible views, yet it is still completely rural and unruined. Sure, we met some local kids smoking pot, they told us that their parents worked at the to summit house high on the Schiltorn, and that one boys father worked the funicular, but aside from the shock that he was dressed all hip hop style, I asked him if he felt fortunate to live here. He responded " Oh yes, we know there is not place like this on earth". But he later shared that he dreamed to move away and to work as a street repairman in Interlaken - where there is a nightlife.

Most of the homes on the outskirts of the Murren meadows that we passed through were four season homes. Fire wood was neatly stacked into beautiful arrays of patterned stacks, and the fields were cleared for grazing, most where scythed by hand, and the hay stacked on posts to dry. This is farmland for the local people, and most worked outdoors in their fields. Most notably, it is silent here. One could hear a nightingale across the valley, and just he sound of a distant waterfall a mile away. There are no sounds of cars, or jets, no campers, no distant highways or grumbling motorcycles such as one often hears in the Italian Dolomites. If this was America, forget about it. And if this was a National Park, we would be surrounded by campers and people.  Here, in this massive canyon in Switzerland, we were the only hikers on these paths, and all we could hear were cow bells. Sure, in the winter, it may be a crowded ski village, but for most of the summer, it is heaven on Earth.

 Wood, neatly cut and stored under the eaves of home. Each home has a different collection of wood.

 Even this elderly couple made a tasteful, homey display ( the papa was just off to the left, sitting enjoying his beer on this sunny Sunday).

As we wandered further back towards the village of Murren, we passed through many meadows with cow gates like this. One is expected to simply close the gate as one passed through.

Packed with skiers in the winter, the town of Mürren is quite in early summer. This was the busiest day. 

After the last funicular leaves for Lauterbrunen,  town of Mürren becomes silent.As there are no cars besides a local resident's old mini truck, and one stationwagon, all one hears are horses, goats and cows. In early summer, there are few tourists who spend the night. These cliffs below the town of Murren are very popular with base jumpers, ( I heard it was one of the top base jumping sites in the world) which also makes the tiny village of Mürren more 'young', in spirit. Mürren sits in a very scenic location -  facing the Monch and the Eiger's snowy glaciers and waterfalls. Botanically, the mountains around Murren are site zero for many high alpine plants, especially primula species, androsace and other alpine plants.