A trip to a zoological park in Alsace and a good helping of Brussels sprouts are in store for Sue Bradley as the winter chills begin to bite
Le Parc Zoologique et Botanique at Mulhouse in the Alsace region is home to more than 1,200 animals belonging to 190 different species, including polar bears, Asiatic lions, Siberian tigers and Malayan tapirs.
It’s also a plant-lover’s delight with landscaped gardens offering beautiful vistas throughout the seasons.
Located some 241 metres above sea level on the outskirts of the city, the 25-hectare park was created by a group of industrialists in 1867, and still has 20 mature trees and a large conifer area that date back to its earliest days.
In the years since, the gardens have amassed more than 3,000 different types of plants, earning them a reputation as one of the greatest botanical collections in the north of France.
Come April, visitors are regaled by the spectacle of more than 45,000 tulips ( above), along with thousands of daffodils and hyacinths, while May is the month to enjoy more than 400 varieties of rhododendrons and some 500 different irises. Hydrangeas go on to fill an area of the park with colour in July, while dahlias steal the show during late summer.
Other collections include peonies, day lilies and grasses, along with topiary shaped into fantastic forms. There is a garden for the senses featuring plants chosen for their perfume and texture, and a romantic pool reminiscent of the spirit of an earlier age.
The park was regarded as a model for zoological gardens during the 19th century, and is still highly respected today for its participation in international programmes to safeguard endangered animals and plant life. This conservation work, which has been going on for more than 30 years, includes a rock garden dedicated to plants from Alsace, some of which are especially rare and much admired.
One area features species from the floodable prairies of the Rhine plain, such as the Siberian iris, bladdernut and the long-leafed speedwell, and there is also a rockery in which hill plants located between the Rhine plain and Vosges mountains grow. www.zoo-mulhouse.com Plant shrubs or trees now and they will then be ready to put on growth in spring. Buying bareroot plants will save money. Tender plants will need protection from frost. Cover with garden fleece or bring plants into a frost-free place for winter.