History

Rock Garden about 1870

Exploring alpine flora has always played a pivotal role for the Department of Botany of Innsbruck University. The Patscherkofel Alpine Garden with its experimental stretches, the Alpinum and the new Alpine House in the Botanical Gardens contributes to making this focus accessible to the wider public.
The cultivation of mountain plants already has a longstanding tradition in the Tyrol. In 1864 Professor Anton Kerner published a book entitled "The Cultivation of Alpine Plants", in which he provided soil requirements and cultivation instructions for about 500 species. The Rock Gardens in the Innsbruck Sillgasse are known to be some of the first in the world and are well-known throughout Europe. The first botanic alpine garden above the tree line was set up by Anton Kerner 1875 on the Blaser, but was dissolved after his death.

Alpine Garden and house of the gardener 1930

During a mountain tour in the Mont Blanc region in 1926, the onetime governor of the University Chancery, Dr. Georg Heinsheimer took the opportunity to view the Alpine Garden Linnaea, belonging to the botanic gardens of the Department of the University of Geneva which included the laboratory Bourg St. Pierre (near the Great St. Bernhard). Heinsheimer thought that what had been achieved there should not be impossible in Innsbruck and sought to create something similar here in cooperation with the authorities responsible, as the construction of the funicular to the Patscherkofel provided the best preconditions for such an undertaking.

Walther Büttner with his dog

In 1930 the Province of Tyrol and the City of Innsbruck donated two plots covering 8700 m2 to the rectorate of the Leopold Franzen`s University, Innsbruck to facilitate the creation of an alpine garden and subsequently the introduction of a biological station. Since then the grounds are used as an alpine garden by the University of Innsbruck. In July 1935, the gardens and a small gardener's cottage were opened in a small ceremony by the then Head of the Department of Botany, Univ. Prof. Dr. Adolf Sperlich. The then employed gardener, Viktor Holzmann was forced to join the war as a soldier and the gardens were consequently left to themselves.

House in winter 1952

It was only in 1946 that Holzmann found his successor in Walther Buettner, who was an enthusiastic lover of alpine plants and felt quite at home, both on the Patscherkofel and at one with his garden. For years he returned from mountain walks with numerous plants from near and far for the garden and grew others from seeds or exchanged them for others. Buettner also spent the winter months on the Patscherkofel where he even planted potatoes. He was proud of his strawberry patches which provided additional income - they ripened between August and September, a time when there were no strawberries to be found in the valleys. In April 1973 Walther Buettner retired and a successor could not be found due to lack of funds.

Laboratory building today

Since 1992 the horticulturists of the Botanical Gardens have re-cultivated some parts of the garden. By laying an extensive round walk it became possible to open the gardens to the public that had been closed for 20 years. On the 15th September 1994 the Alpine Garden and the new laboratory were officially opened.