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..