Basel is located in northern Switzerland, just across the borders of both France and Germany. The meeting attracted over 20 members, with some travelling up to 1000 kilometres. We were staying in the Basel Youth Hostel, located very conveniently in the St Alban quarter next to the old city centre. With most people arriving Thursday afternoon, we were able to relax over dinner at the hostel, renew old acquaintances and make new ones.
We woke on Friday morning to the sound of raindrops and an ominously grey sky. Using a variety of cars and minibus, we crossed into Germany and within 30 minutes had reached Laufen, the home of the Zeppelin nursery. Set on a hillside with what, in fine weather, must be wonderful views, this nursery is famous to many people for its Peonies, Irises, Hostas and Poppies. However for us it is where C. heracleifolia 'Cassandra' was bred. Sheltering under umbrellas we were given an history of the nursery and a guided tour of the beds. And, in a sign that things would improve, the rain halted and the sun even tried to shine. Needless to say, very few people came away empty handed.
Lunch was taken in various restaurants in the nearby village, with local asparagus in season and on nearly every menuand it was wonderful.
It was then back to Basel, a quick change and off on a walking tour of the old town, given in an impressive double act by Stefan Tschirky and Anne Forster. They had done their research very well and as we were conducted from one famous building to another, we were given a comprehensive commentary on the old town's history.
The old town is largely pedestrianised, which makes walking even more pleasant. Possibly the grandest building is Basel Minster, with impressive ornamentation both outside as well as inside. However Basel has many other interesting sites, including a large number of decorative fountains such as the one shown to your left.
That evening we made our way by the highly efficient tram system to the Brüglingen Botanic Gardens for a presentation by Klaus Körber on "Recommendations and Experiences with Clematis", before dinner in the See Garten restaurant in the adjoining park. And the special on the menu tonightyou guessed itasparagus.
The sun was shining on Saturday morning as we made our way by tram back to the Brüglingen Botanic Gardens, where Stefan has his Clematis collection. We were guided round by Stefan and Thomas Füglistaller. The gardens are extensive, very nicely laid out and containing large Peony and Iris collections.
Stefan's clematis collection is relatively new. The weather over the last few weeks meant that some of the montanas were starting to go over, whilst the early large flowered cultivars had barely started, but I found a fine C. montana 'Marjorie' still in it's prime.
Lunch at the See Garten self service restaurant, then back into Basel for a wander through the Basel University Botanic Gardens. It's fairly compact but has some quite interesting plants, including a hot house of giant water lilies and a display of insect eating plants.
We had a couple of hours free time in the afternoon, for more sight seeing or perhaps some shopping. One of the local specialities is Basel Läckerli, small cakes or pieces of confection made with flour, honey, nuts, orange and lemon essence, spices and schnappsdelicious. We were not the only ones to be seen carrying a bag back to the hostel.
But no time to loose, we had to get back out to Brüglingen Botanic Gardens for aperitifs before our second presentation, by Ralph Schreck on his "Successes and Failures with Clematis".
Dinner tonight was a change to the program, Regula Bönicke (assisted in the preparation by Kathrin Pfenninger) invited us all to supper at her house. She lives about 40 minutes by tram outside of Basel.
A lovely garden and a lovely evening, with beautifully prepared food. We ate, drank and chatted the evening away in a most pleasant and comfortable setting.
Sunday and the final event of the meeting, a presentation by Hans Ruedi Horn on "Clematis sibirica in Norway" with a number of slides showing us how the plant grows in the wild.
To make any meeting go smoothly requires a lot of effort behind the scenes. Our thanks go to everyone involved, notably Regula Bönicke and Kathrin Pfenninger for a wonderful evening, our three presenters, but especially Stefan Tschirky and Anne Forster for making the whole event run as smoothly as a Swiss watch!
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