When I was growing up there was American Cheese & then for something fancy there was Swiss Cheese. So many decades later in Switzerland, there is no “Swiss” cheese, but there is Tilsiter, Appenzeller, Emmentaler, Le Gruyere, and many more. The uniqueness of these flavors is attributed to the mountain meadows the Brown Swiss, Simmental, Braunvieh breeds of cattle graze on to create these flavors. Today in Murren, there was a cow parade. Some of the 270,000 which have been up in the alps for the summer came down through town. This event is a celebration of the grazing traditions and cheese making Switzerland cherishes. The dairy cattle are accompanied by herdsmen who will spend the summer: milking each cow twice a day, collecting the milk, and making it into cheese in the mountains. Doing all of this high in the Alps is quite a remarkable, physical, and logistical endeavor.
Murren, Switzerland is a village where flowers and gardening in the summer appear to be a passion equal to snow sports in the winter. Visiting here for a few days I’m staggered by the beautiful displays of flowers seen everywhere I turn.
Murren is a popular destination for travelers, so it would be easy to assume this is done just for the tourists who come. Though the visitors speak a multitude of languages, nearly everyone understands the language of beauty in the window boxes and small gardens terraced on the slopes.
Gardens are filled with moments of happiness and heartbreak. For years our garden had a wall of lush green creeping fig (fig ivy). Just two tiny plants had grown over 20 years to create a thick, dense layer of green covering the entire west wall of the back yard. It was nearly 3’thick and rose easily 4’ above the 8’ wall. It crawled over into my neighbor’s yard where it was generally the only thing green to be found there. It blocked the neighbor’s house entirely. I loved it.
I have lived my life with plastic. I’ve used Tupperware, saran wrap, water bottles, toys, and tools. I have a yellow plastic flower pot that is 45 years old. I remember the film, The Graduate, when Mr. Mcguire offering Benjamin one word for his future, said “Plastics. There’s a great future in it.” But today I’m living with plastic guilt.
I wander the world looking for glorious gardens. I’m always noticing the trees and the flowers where ever I go. Today I was going to Home Depot, and I found a glorious southwest spring display. The Hacienda Children’s Hospital at 610 W Jerome Ave, in Mesa, AZ opened in October of 2015. My usual side street approach to Home Depot allowed me to watch the construction of the building from its earliest beginnings. It is a beautiful structure w/ an integrated steel tree rising up the side of the building and framing the entryway canopy. It has been attention grabbing from the start. The facility was designed by the Devenney Group, who specializes in medical architecture. I’ve contacted them to find out who the landscape architect is for this project because right now, this moment the landscape has blossomed into its full glory. The plants are just a bit over three years in the ground and the time combined with the wet winter has created a moment of true desert glory.
Forgotten Gardens of the Islands of Salvation
Devil’s Island was an isolated prison from 1852-1953 with some 80,000 prisoners held in unspeakably horrible conditions during that time. Now we tourists wander about it looking at the crumbling buildings, glancing at the chapel paintings done by the imprisoned art forger, Francis Lagrange.
The Sunnyside garden sits high on a hill in just east of the Capital, St Georges, in Grenada. You must walk a broad, steep and uneven driveway to reach the gardens. Once again the garden is placed to take advantage of the best views. The true gardener for this property was a woman, who had her own money and a passion for plants. Today she is nearly 90, and unable to physically or mentally participate in the gardening. Her son, Randy and his family have taken over the care of the garden and are just beginning to manage it so cruise tours can visit. Many improvements are needed but there is a collection of plants and a treasure of designs built by decades of dedication.
This small country seasons the world with nutmeg (20% of the world’s supply), mace, cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, bay leaf, and cacao. This agricultural output rightly gives the country the spice isle title. It is also a land of rich volcanic soil. The weather here is 78 degrees and sunny, rainy spells, averaging 218 rainy days. The island is humid but balmy sweet breezes keep the temperature bearable. Grenada sits at the end of the hurricane range but Hurricane Ivan hit in September 2004 damaging 90% of the homes and killing 39 people. Before that damage was fully repaired Hurricane Emily hit in July 2005. The damage can still be seen today with stacks of pulverized cars and trucks sitting around the island. What do you do with the trash when it comes in such enormous amounts? The vegetation helps some since Pink Coral vines grow wild here and cover some of the junk.
January in New Orleans offers Camelias, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and the anticipation of Mardi Gras season. A walk through the Garden District with grand houses and mossy green balustrades gives a peak of the garden challenges in this area. In my garden every drop of water is precious and purposely placed, here water is in the air, and preventing overgrowth is part of gardening. One must pull out, cut back, lift up, so the chosen plants are allowed to see the sun.
One of my favorite BBC shows is “As Time Goes By” w/ Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer playing Jean and Lionel. In the show, many a dilemma is smoothed over with the quintessential British option of a Gin & Tonic. I notice that bit because my cocktail of choice is a G & T. After all what else should a gardener drink? Gin is infused w/ botanicals such as juniper berries, lemon peel, almonds, cucumber, chamomile, angelica root, apple, coriander, leaves, fruits, and flowers, it is a liquid combination of the garden. I’ve been traveling in England for a few weeks and I was surprised to discover that Gin is having its moment of fame all over the cocktail and retail scape of the country. How else can you explain the varieties of gins for sale in the market?