Alpine House

Alpine HousePicture Gallery Alpine House

In spring 2002 we finished the building of our new Alpine House. It is built for the cultivation of rare and delicate alpine plants from all over the world, except the tropical regions.
It is built as a ‘earth house’ which means that the body of the house is inserted more than one meter into the surrounding ground. The advantage of this construction is that it heats up slower in summer and the cooling in winter is lower.
The house is 15m long by 5m wide and nearly 4m high. Inside it has a partition wall, the larger part remains totally unheated and temperatures in winter drop down to – 7°C, the smaller part is kept frost free. As a good ventilation is essential parts of both sides of the roof and the side walls can be opened automatically. Three ventilators guarantee the important, constant air circulation. A 1m wide and 15cm deep channel at the bottom of the house may be filled with running cold water in summer to help to cool the house additionally and to raise the humidity. The channel is filled with clay bricks to increase this effect and to make it possible to walk on it. Cold water pipes within the beds help to increase a cold root run of the plants. The whole water is not wasted but is used to fill our ponds in the open garden.
The sides of the beds in the middle of the house are 60cm high and are filled with gravel for excellent drainage and a very sandy soil. To create the image of an alpine landscape little hills -up to 1,20m high -were built on these beds with special stones from the Toscana/ Italy that naturally bear a lot of holes – a perfect place for many alpines. The inside of the hills is filled with gravel, sand and the mentioned cold water pipes, only the outer layers are filled with our alpine soil mix. On the whole north side of the house we have tables, the ones in the heated section is used for propagation and pot plants, in the unheated section the table is filled with our alpine earth to grow the plants in -like the beds mentioned before. The plants are watered with rainwater which we collect separately.

At the first side one would expect that these alpine plants, used to a very harsh environment – with deep frost, ice- and snowdrifts in winter and often high temperatures in summer – would readily adapt to the climate in lowland. Unfortunately not – up there in the mountains, they are protected by a constant snow or ice cover during the whole winter that gives them a good protection. In summer the precipitation are often lower than at the lowlands and especially the temperatures at the mountains drop down during the night times which gives the plants a resting time that is often missing at low altitudes.
The cycles of thaw and freeze, strong frosts without snow cover, rain, and here in Innsbruck a special, regular occurring warm wind (called Föhn) from the south, are the worst elements these plant have to compete with in winter. Long periods of rain or the hot summer nights together with these winds complicate the culture of alpine plants at low altitudes.
Many of these adverse circumstances are very much reduced in an Alpine House.
In addition animal ‘pests’ like insects, blackbirds, cats, martens, mice, ants - causing major damages in the open garden are excluded or easily controlled.