Avant gar­den­ing

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

Living France - - À La Maison -

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.

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