A walk on the wild side
Switzerland is a great country for garden visiting; between the excellently maintained botanical gardens and some privately-funded gardens open to the public, they are run by passionate professionals, keen to share their knowledge and the plant heritage on show.
One of my favourites is the Park Seleger Moor, in Rifferswil, half an hour from Zurich and Lucerne by car. It started life as a private collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, occupying 12 hectares of original moorland, criss-crossed with streams and small lakes. Robert Seleger, the founder, decided in later life to ensure that his collection would be open to the public and created a foundation with the support of Migros for the financial management. This keeps the ticket price down to a reasonable CHF12 per adult, well worth it as there is more than enough to see for an afternoon of visiting.
The garden is open from April to the end of October, and highlights come thick-and-fast throughout this period. The original azaleas and rhododendrons keep the visitor charmed until June and then the other areas take over, with water lilies and ferns, followed by the hydrangeas and day lilies later on. The small shop sells home-grown plants, and is staffed by knowledgeable people who will help you make the right choice for your own garden or balcony.
If you live close to, or are visiting, the beautiful city of Basel, then the Pro Specie Rara garden hidden away inside the vast Merian Park in the Sankt Jakob district is magnificent. The Merian is worth a visit all by itself; including a Botanical Garden, an English Landscape Garden, a river, a farm, a museum and restaurants! The enormous gardens are packed with marvellous botanical specimens, rolling lawns with beautiful vistas and some sumptuous planting. Pro Specie Rara is a Swiss charitable organisation, with the goal of maintaining the richly diverse Swiss heritage in plants and animals. Their Basel garden contains hundreds of examples of unique and quirky vegetables, herbs and fruit, each with their own extraordinary story. Well designed, easy to navigate around and with plenty of pleasing twists and unexpected turns, the garden is also ideal for ambling about - stopping when something grabs your attention and then wandering on. Purple carrots, edible pansies, weird striped beans... they are all here, and if you want to try growing them yourself, many are available via the Pro Specie Rara website. Both the Botanical and Pro Specie Rara gardens are free to visit.
If you don’t have time to indulge your garden lust at the Merian Park, head to the Botanical Garden of the University of Basel, near the Zoo and the station. This huge glasshouse was built in 1898 but is still standing and with the same giant water lily that it was built to house! Other attractions include the lovely Alpine Gardens, as well as superb collections of orchids, ferns and succulents. Like all botanical gardens in Switzerland, this one is free to visit.
Hester Macdonald is a British-qualified, award-winning garden designer with her own practice in the Lake Geneva region.
She founded the Swiss Gardening School in 2012 to provide gardening courses in English for amateurs, by professionals.
For more information. visit her website.
Image: Park Seleger Moor