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.
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)
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.
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.
To Zürich Botanical Garden. We passed a crocodile of small children, visiting the garden, all talking English.
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)
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 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)
Nothing as blue as a gentian. Alpine plants need fierce colours to attract the rare pollinators that can endure the cold mountains.
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!
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.
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