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The Flower-Fields of Alpine Switzerland An Appreciation and a Plea

The Flower-Fields of Alpine Switzerland
An Appreciation and a Plea
Title: The Flower-Fields of Alpine Switzerland An Appreciation and a Plea
Release Date: 2018-08-23
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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CALTHA PALUSTRIS and PRIMULA FARINOSA on the upper fields of Champex towards the end of May.




“Into the fieldes did he goe, which then faire Flora bedecked,
redolent blossoms, O how grateful to the sences.”
Francis Sabie, Pan’s Pipe.


London    ::     ::     HUTCHINSON & CO.
Paternoster Row       ::       ::       ::       1911


[Pg vii]


Last year Mr. G. Flemwell gave us a verybeautiful volume upon the Alpine Flora, and ithas met with well-deserved success. But theauthor is not yet satisfied. He thinks to dobetter, and would now make known other pictures—thoseof Alpine fields, especially during thespring months.

Springtime in our Alps is certainly the mostbeautiful moment of the year, and the monthsof May and June, even to the middle of July,are the most brilliant of all. It is a season which,up to the present, we have rather considered asreserved for us Swiss, who do not much like thatwhich is somewhat irreverently called l’industriedes étrangers, and perhaps we shall not be altogetherenchanted to find that the author à la modeis about to draw the veil from our secrets, openthe lock-gates of our most sacred joys to the[Pg viii]international flood, and sound the clarion to makeknown, urbe et orbi, the springtime glory of ourfields. With this one little reservation to calmthe egotistical anxiety which is in me (Mr. Flemwell,who is my colleague in the Swiss AlpineClub, knows too well our national character notto understand the spirit in which we make certainreservations with regard to this invasion of ourmountains by the cosmopolitan crowd), I wishto thank the author, and to compliment him uponthis fresh monument which he raises to the gloryof our flowers.

He here presents them under a different aspect,and shows us the Alpine field, the meadow, thegreat green slope as they transform themselvesin springtime. He sings of this rebirth with hispoet-soul, and presents it in pictures which areso many hymns to the glory of the Creator. Andhe is justified in this, for nothing in the worldis more marvellous than the re-flowering of Alpinefields in May and June. I have seen it in thelittle vallons of Fully and of Tourtemagne inValais, in the fields of Anzeindaz and of Taveyannaz(Canton de Vaud), at the summit of the[Pg ix]Gemmi and on the Oberalp in the Grisons; Ihave seen the flowering spring in the BerneseOberland and on the Utli (Zurich), in the vallonsof Savoie and in those of Dauphiné; I have seenthe metamorphosis of the Val de Bagnes and ofthe Bavarian plain, the transformation of themarvellous valleys of Piémont and of the elevatedvalley of Aosta. But I have never seen anythingmore beautiful or more solemn than spring in theJura Mountains of Vaud and Neuchatel, with theirfields of Anemone alpina and narcissiflora, whenimmense areas disappeared under a deep azureveil of Gentiana verna or of the darker GentianaClusii, and when the landscape is animated bymyriads of Viola biflora or of Soldanella. Inreading what Mr. Flemwell has written, my spiritfloats further afield even than this—to the Valdel Faene, which reposes near to the Bernina,and I see over again a picture that no painter,not even our author, could render: the snow,in retiring to the heights, gave place to a carpetof violet, blue, lilac, yellow, or bright pink,according as it was composed of either Soldanellapusilla, of long, narrow, pendent bells, which[Pg x]flowered in thousands and millions upon slopesstill brown from the rigours of winter, or Gentianaverna, or Primula integrifolia, whose dense masseswere covered with their lovely blossoms, or GageaLiotardi, whose brilliant yellow stars shone onall sides in the sun, or Primula hirsuta. Allthese separate masses formed together a trulyenchanting picture, which remained unadmired bystrangers—since these had not yet arrived—andwhich I was happy and proud to salute underthe sky of the Grisons.

Our author seems to have a predilection forthe blue flower of Gentiana verna, and I thankhim for all he says of my favourite. When,at the age of ten years, I saw it for the first time,carpeting the fields of the Jura in Vaud, mychild’s soul was so enthusiastic over it that therewere fears I should make myself ill. This impression,which dates from 1864, is still as freshin my memory as if it were of yesterday. Blue,true blue, is so rare in Nature that Alphonse Karrcould cite but five or six flowers that were reallyso: the Gentian, the Comellina, several Delphiniums,the Cornflower, and the Forget-me-not.[Pg xi]The blue of the Gentian is certainly the mostsuperb and velvety, especially that of Gentianabavarica. A group of Gentiana verna, brachyphylla,and bavarica which I exhibited at theTemple Show in London in May 1910, and whichwas a very modest one, it having suffered duringthe long voyage from Floraire to London, wasgreatly admired, and did not cease to attract theregard of all flower-lovers. Blue is so scarce,every one said, that it is good to feast one’s eyesupon it when one meets with it!

The practical side of this volume resides in theinformation it offers to lovers of Alpine flowersin England. One readily believes that, in orderto cultivate these mountain plants, big surroundingsare necessary: a great collection of rocks,as in the giant Alpine garden of Friar Park. Wehave proved in our garden of Floraire—wherethe public is willingly admitted, and which flower-loversare invited to visit—that mountain plantscan be cultivated without rockwork, and that itis even important, if one wishes to give an artisticand natural aspect to the garden, not to be tooprodigal of rock and stone. Much verdure is[Pg xii]essential, it is necessary to have a frame for thepicture, and that frame can only be obtained bycreating the Alpine field. One day at Friar Park,Sir Frank Crisp, the creator of this beautifulalpinum, taking me aside and making me walkaround with him, showed me a vast, emptyfield which stretched away to the north of theMatterhorn, and said: “It is here that I wishto establish a Swiss field to soften the too rockyaspect of the garden and to give it a fitting frame.”And since then I am unable to conceive that therewas ever a time when the Alpine garden at FriarPark had not its setting of Alpine fields. Therewas no idea of making such a thing when thegarden was begun; but once the rockwork wasfinished the rest imposed itself. One needs theflower-filled field, l’alpe en fête, by the side of thegrey rocks.

This is why, in our horticultural establishmentat Floraire, we make constant efforts to reproduceexpanses of Narcissi, Columbines, Gentians,Daphnes, Primulas, etc., grouped in masses as wehave seen them in nature, and as Mr. Flemwellgives them in his book.

[Pg xiii]

Herein lies the great utility of this volume,and the reason why it will be consulted withpleasure by gardeners as well as by alpinists andlovers of nature generally.

Henry Correvon.

Floraire, Near Geneva,
January 2,1911.

[Pg xiv]
[Pg xv]


I. Of our Enthusiasm for “Alpines” 3
II. Alpine Flower-Fields 12
III. The May Fields 21
IV. The Vernal Gentian 35
V. In Storm and Shine 48
VI. The June Meadows 64
VII. On Floral Attractiveness and Colour 86
VIII. The Rhododendron 102
IX. The July Fields 114
X. The Autumn Crocus 134
PART II [Pg xvi]
XI. Alpine Fields for England 149
XII. Some Ways and Means 162
L’Envoi 179

[Pg xvii]


1. Caltha palustris and Primula farinosa on the upper fields of Champex towards the end of May Frontispiece
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