02 August, 2013

Thank you!

I'm back in the US! I wanted to thank you all for following my blog! I really enjoyed sharing my adventure with you. Here are just a few more pictures..

Before going to watch a climbing competition with the other students/volunteers. Left to right: Me, Heloïse, Claude (who has volunteered for 10 years at Lautaret!),Thibault, Maeva and Christophe (who is working on research for a Master's)
The stairs of the former Paris Lyon Méditerranée hotel restaurant which was burned down in 1944 by the German army. Plans are underway for a new visitor center for the garden to be built on the site.

A favorite bench

Verbascum lights up the foreground of this vista. 

Peak bloom!

Rolland, botanist and amazing chef from Marseille, Christophe, botanist and Maeva.

Mathilde sells plants in front of the garden for a nursery in Grenoble.

28 July, 2013

Parting images

It's hard to believe I'll soon be leaving behind France and another beautiful garden! On Wednesday, I will leave Lautaret for Grenoble, where I plan to explore for the day. The next morning, I will go from Grenoble to the airport at Lyon and fly to England. After a layover at Heathrow (hopefully it will go smoothly this time!), I will arrive in Philadelphia Thursday night!

I feel very lucky to have spent these past months at amazing gardens with many friendly and knowledgeable people! Out of all I've learned, one thing I know for sure is that I always want to keep traveling!

On to some pictures from Lautaret:

Berardia subcaulis, growing on the top of the tufa wall in the garden, grows naturally in isolated areas of limestone scree in the southwest Alps. It is considered a relic species from the Tertiary period, when the climate was more subtropical. When glaciation occurred, the plant took refuge in the scree areas where it is found today!

Geum rivale subsp. islandica grows in the Arctic, where alpine conditions can occur at sea level.
The garden is surrounded by subalpine fescue meadows, which are also maintained within the garden. Special signage points out some of the more than 50 plant species that are native to the meadows.

Campanula thyrsoides 
One of the labels that is used in the rest of the garden. I like how the family name is listed first.

Nigritella rhelicanii, a wild orchid found in the meadow smells like vanilla!

Just outside of the garden, a Dianthus is striking against the rocks. 

23 July, 2013

In the Nursery

Recently we have been doing work in the nursery. At Lautaret, the nursery consists entirely of cold frames. Near the front of the nursery the youngest plants, which have arrived from Grenoble, are placed under a darker shade cloth. As they mature and become acclimated to the conditions, they are moved to frames with a lighter shade cloth.
The area around the nursery is in the process of being developed. I helped to plant birch trees along the southern edge to act as a windbreak.

The darker shade cloth over the newest plants in the nursery.

The blue tags indicate plants that are ready to be planted out in the garden.
Claude sorts through the frames, setting aside dead plants and keeping the live ones to be moved to another frame. Only the plants that are going to be planted soon are left behind.

The rest of the nursery with cold frames covered by lighter shade cloth. Behind the nursery are some research plots.

Irrigation is done by sprinklers.

The pots that Claude removed are put into a new frame. A trench is dug in the sand, and the pots are carefully lined up! Sand helps to provide the right moisture to the plant and keeps the roots cool.

18 July, 2013

Activités dans le jardin

Besides being full of beautiful plants, Lautaret is also full of people doing many different activities. The daily gardening crew consists of two year-round gardeners, one seasonal and between four and seven volunteers and students. The chief task is weeding. I find it interesting to see what plants are weeds in the different gardens I visit. Here some of the common weeds are: Polemonium caerulum (Jacob's Ladder), Achillea millefolium (Common Yarrow) and several members of the Brassicaceae, including Arabis. The garden does not use any chemicals, so weeding is done exclusively by hand. Recently we have also been planting, topdressing and compacting the gravel paths and bringing tufa rock to the garden for a new bed.

One of the many research projects taking place focuses on Achillea millefolium. Samples were collected from around the garden and were pressed and dried. Next they will undergo chromosomal analysis to determine if there are different species present, or if it is all A. millefolium. The different specimens vary greatly as far as their leaf and flower color and shape.

Tools of the trade (L to R): A small hand rake to remove footprints from the bed, a screwdriver and narrow weeder which are useful for extracting weeds from cushion plants and in between rocks, a gouje (narrow trowel) is the default weeding tool. At the top is a gouje with a longer handle to provide more leverage for digging out larger weeds!
Loading tufa rock from a pile about 15 mins drive from the garden.

Christophe, one of the garden's botanists, labels the dried specimens of Achillea that will be used for the genetics study.

Maeva and Heloïse planting Lewisia rediviva var. minor in the North American bed.

Klei, a botanical illustrator from Brazil, is at the garden for a week to draw.

On a rainy day, Kathleen uses a Dremel to inscribe plant names on metal labels.

13 July, 2013

Out and about in the Alps

Here are some pictures from a few hikes I have taken in the Col du Galibier area, which is to the north, and about 160 feet higher in elevation, of where I am staying at Col du Lautaret.

Icy glacial lake

In French, these chunks of ice are called seracs. 

Pascal, the head gardener at Lautaret, poses with a chunk of snow which seems to be precariously balanced next to a stream.

Pulsatilla alpina 
Pulsatilla verna

These Gentiana flowers have amazing shiny spots on the inside.

Sardanella alpina can flower even when the rest of the plant is covered in snow.

On a southwest facing schist formation, cushions of Androsace helvetica are flowering.

One way plants have adapted to growing on scree is to root along their stems. As loose rocks shift downwards, these plants move down as well!
Movin' on down the slope

Geum reptans

Windy roads to reach Col du Galibier

08 July, 2013

Bienvenue en France!

I arrived in France on July 3rd after two train rides and a bus through the winding roads to Col du Lautaret, a mountain pass in the French alps and the site of Lautaret Alpine Botanical Garden. I was greeted right off the bus by Serge Aubert, director of the research station located at the garden. He drove me up to the garden, which is surrounded by incredible scenery! 
In my first few days of work I have been doing the detailed weeding work that I was expecting, but I have also worked on adjusting labels, which allowed me to see a great deal of the garden. Although it is only about 5 acres in size, the garden has more than 2000 alpine species from around the world. Over 50 beds display plants from different geographical areas, habitats, or based on their properties or taxonomies. For example, there is a Himalayan bed, a wetland bed, a medicinal plants bed and a campanula bed, among many others!
The garden is also interesting because it occurs at the confluence of the northern, southern, inner and outer Alps. Because of this diversity of ecosystems, geology and climate, around 1/3rd of the flora of France, or 1500 species, is found around Col du Lautaret! 
Here are just a few pictures of the garden!

The dramatic backdrop to the garden.

Armeria ruscinonensis and Iberis nestle in rocks in a bed with plants from the Pyrenees.
Papaver nudicaule in a meadow area.

The beautiful bright orange flowers of Trollius ledebori are native to Siberia.
Most of the plants displayed in the garden are started from seed in nearby Grenoble and then grown to size in  a nursery at the garden, including these cold frames.

Tiny cushions have plenty of space to spread.
To avoid overhead watering, which can cause some cushion plants to rot, irrigation tubes circle the plants.
A frame featuring Himalayan plants has mist irrigation to increase humidity around the plants.

The chalet where I am staying is located in the garden. Not a bad commute..