There is more to the Botanical Gardens than just beauty!


Dear friends of the Alpinum, dear readers

Since 6.6.2020, the Botanical Gardens in Switzerland have reopened. So have we.

We are a private botanical garden. This is a big difference to university gardens or municipal gardens and parks. In addition to the botanical concerns, our goals are relaxation and deceleration of the visitors, respect and appreciation for life, knowledge, joy, promotion of curiosity, well-being, etc. We find all this and more in all gardens more or less, with different tasks for the gardeners. But in a private garden with different structures than those found in the university or city gardens. This is not meant to be judgmental! In every garden a kind of handwriting crystallizes. Those who can read it, or who make an effort to question it, can first recognize the subtleties and perhaps in some cases understand it, but often only feel or guess at it. Our philosophy always starts with the plant. From the single individual, which together with other plants forms functioning vegetation areas. For this we need knowledge, experience, courage and also a certain experimental spirit. In addition, of course, there is always the individual location of the gardens.

We are an Alpine garden and are subject to the laws of altitude, just as plants in the mountains are subject to the laws of nature.

Today, at the beginning of the season, I would like to tell you a little about our philosophy and our attitude towards gardens and plants, but also about the behaviour of the hominids, i.e. of us humans. A little with humour and yet critical and thoughtful.

Especially now, in the times of the Corona pandemic, it has become clear how important the botanical gardens are for the population.

The longing for ”green”, for healthy food, security and safety is greater than it has been for a long time. In many places people are beginning to garden again, even in the cities. The interest is growing.

Knowledge, coupled with the joy and the necessity to understand an essential part of the basics of life, namely plants and their needs, holds and brings us new and deeper securities.

Nowadays there is a lack of security on many levels. Very few have recognized this. Nevertheless, wishes are hidden deep within us (maybe I should write spilt?). It is necessary to expose, dig out or wake up these wishes individually!

Many of the natural gardening basics on Schatzalp are often not known by most of our fellow citizens, or only from an industrial or designed point of view! Often pre-chewed, packaged in the right proportions, flat-rate and provided with exaggerated headlines. Although our garden contains certain show elements, the main goal is that it “works”, always with the certainty that it is a temporary work of art (like everything we design hominids). Those who only design and understand nothing of the basics of life will fail and reach their limits faster than the person who can link the analogies of the natural basics. This is a topic that is a problem for our society and its importance is hard to beat! And this, without being aware of a large part of society, most people have not yet realized it. For example, a journalist recently criticised, among other things, the fact that at almost 2000 metres above sea level, not much is blooming yet and that there are plants lying on the ground. The explanation was simple, there had been 20 cm of wet snow the day before… It was hardly to be seen anymore, because it had become water again, but the budding peonies were still lying on the ground. In our height plants bloom until the sheep cold, which open their flowers in the valley already in March / April. Here the season starts in May and the big blossoming is just beginning! It is a short, but intense season in the mountains. Therefore many species are flowering at the same time, not so much staggered as in the valley, but explosively. Paeonia, Papaver and Hemerocallis meet Iris and many other beauties.

But, there is more to botanical gardens than just beauty!

It is also about more than just a theme park where you can take a walk or a chat and get some air.

The “gardens” offer people the opportunity to re-earth themselves again and again, in many different ways and very individually. There is a report about evolution up to the kitchen herb on the plate. It tells about pollination and the connections in the insect world. Or warned of “invasive neophytes” and praised the diversity of species. The topics are as complex as nature itself and as profound as human curiosity.

But also the gardeners of botanical gardens gallop from time to time. There are also among them different views and opinions. So the neophytes are often presented to me far too negatively! Our relationship to plants is always very individual, our view is mostly selfishly shaped or trained. We live with plants in ”having”, to say it with Erich Fromm. We want to possess. And what disturbs must go. Please consider that plants can’t help what they are there for! They have acquired their wonderful tasks in the balance of nature by adapting to locations. We humans are the ones who misuse, displace or otherwise use them. This is how we have our acquired behaviour patterns. Earth is defined as dirt, or leaves are raked out of the flower beds, although they actually belong there.

And by the way..: “A road is a road, and there is nothing to grow by the sidewalk. The cyclist who broke off a branch that stuck out into the path without further notice probably felt the same way or something similar, because the rain dripped from the branch onto his head. Or there we have the mistress, who deposited the legacy of her dog neatly in a plastic bag at the side of the road. And then asks in astonishment: “Oh, won’t they pick it up? We gardeners can list such and many other examples and I am always surprised about the ignorance of many fellow citizens.

Without plants we would never have developed, we only do well with plants! But why do we not act accordingly? Why do we buy ”raped mass goods”, produced fast and industrially, instead of cultivated with love and patience? Placed in entrance halls of supermarkets and DIY stores and often sentenced to death before they have even been planted? And mostly in impotent, artificial industrial substrates? One could go on here, I’m just scratching the surface… The consequence is that the small, still “knowing” nurseries are going to perish. Or, if they want to survive, they will be indirectly forced to do the same as the big ones, i.e. to buy and resell “industrial goods” instead of cultivating species-appropriate plants. With the result that many of the assortments in the nurseries look the same. Plants are traded like buttons or pasta from the supermarket shelf. Why? Because we no longer know, or never knew? Because we were born into a time when society prefers other values?

Most people are actually not aware of it! They are amazed or outraged to read or hear such things. Or they dismiss it as a ”green craze”, as ideology.

At Schatzalp we offer alternative attitudes and basics for this! This is what we are all about! To find the basics and an introduction to species-appropriate gardening. Most people know the word ”species-appropriate” from animal husbandry. Now also with plants? Yes, because after all, every single species has different requirements! Of course there are plants with a large site amplitude. We can also group them together in a makeshift way and arrange them in somewhat clearer groups. Like shade and sun, dry or wet, on lime or in an acidic environment. Nevertheless, each species has adapted to a wide variety of locations and makes corresponding demands in order to grow optimally. This complexity causes many people problems. However, working in a species-appropriate way is the healthiest way to start gardening. And probably the most self-explanatory, if you have understood the necessary basics. Of course these must also be put into practice. And that is what matters. Karl Foerster already spoke of the garden of intelligent rotting in his perennial garden.

Learning, careful, loving, attentive in dealing with plants, nature and people alike. And the plants are right at the forefront. It is important to know that the garden is and remains a cultural site. Even if we plant it naturally. So the garden is not nature, but we are also subject to natural laws in it. There is a difference! If one refers the whole thing to us humans, the following thoughts come to my mind.

It is a difference to behave with respect, esteem and knowledge carefully and reservedly in nature and garden and to enjoy it, instead of bawling to ourselves, maybe on a bike, to enjoy nature, to build stone towers or to shout at a wall to hear the echo and to chase away the ibexes.

We humans usually define and understand everything from our point of view alone. We want to distinguish ourselves, show what we can do. The maximization of profit comes first, that’s how we are raised! Yes, even punished by our invented artificial systems if we think or even act differently. Swarm stupidity is the opposite of swarm intelligence.

Here in the Botanical Garden, species-appropriate gardening is our basis. Only in this way is it possible for us, with our small staff, to keep alive, renovate and further expand a five-hectare facility with over 5000 species and varieties of the most diverse plants from all over the world. This requires patience and it also includes doing the right thing at the right time. Gardening in space and time! Variety is important, and so is our own! Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Gardening can certainly be a philosophy of life that is more explanatory and supporting than all political tendencies and religions of this earth together!

The basis for the diversity of the gardener is the knowledge of plants. After the passion that grows with success, this is the starting point. Simply starting is a good start!

During the inspections of our gardens, we also address such topics, show our biodiversity, answer questions and enjoy the garden culture. We are enthusiastic hunters and gatherers, curious and happy. Maybe this is one reason why the Corona pandemic does not touch us gardeners so personally. We retreat into our gardens or have rarely left them. We know the natural processes in nature (which also includes viruses) perhaps a little better. We have our garden and we know that it can be better to keep a certain distance and not to be too close to the other person. And to respect this! Besides poisonous plants there are also phototoxic plants that you should not necessarily cuddle.

In this sense we therefore ask you not to touch our plants. Plants do not need our touch. But we need the plants!

Now we are very much looking forward to our guests, to the questions, answers and to pass on our experiences. To the blossoms and fragrance explosions, to creativity, curiosity, individuality, life. What a privilege!

And of course we are especially looking forward to our botanical weekend.

Authored by Klaus Oetjen / Garden Director of Schatzalp since 2004