Where Goldenrod is a Star


IMG_3417 Late-summer border

Greetings from Bavaria.  I’m here to celebrate my favorite aunt’s 80th birthday and am having tremendous fun with the federation of cousins.

But I did take the time to tour the gardens at Weihenstephan, which are on the site of a former abbey, as well as the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world, now state-owned. (My cousin’s wife teaches at one of the universities in Munich.  Her children don’t get a break on their tuition because of it, but she does get a discount on Weihenstephaner beer. A culture with its values firmly in place!)

Today Weihenstephan is also an Ag school, which makes its public garden much more interesting than your average stiff public garden. 

IMG_3430 Love the two colors of the window boxes on this modern building!

Everything is very carefully labeled, for the students as well as the public, I’m assuming. 
IMG_3431Pansies ready for pansy class? 

And there are experiments throughout, such as window boxes planted with vegetables with varying amounts of fertilizer added that make it clear that there is some optimum point beyond which too much is just too much.

IMG_3441 How much artificial nitrogen is too much?  To me, any amount.

There is a general fascination here with plants that are simply too big for their britches, such as the ‘Green Acres’ hosta below.

IMG_3425 ‘Green Acres’ and spokesmodel

But by far the best part of the garden are the sunny perennial borders, which are entirely yellow now:

IMG_3415 Short goldenrod, tall rudbekia

There is nothing here but humble prairie plants: goldenrods, towering varieties of Rudbeckias, a neat yellow helenium I haven’t seen before, plus loads of different sunflowers.

IMG_3414 Tall goldenrod, short rudbekia

Put them together, and the experience is dazzling.  Makes me want to dig some goldenrods out of my fields and concentrate them into horticultural sunshine.


  1. I love how differently plants are percieved around the world — here, people are so used to seeing goldenrod in roadside ditches, we hardly consider it in our gardens. In europe, they love it. And in Japan: It is a hated, non-native invasive weed!

  2. Michelle, thanks for posting you pics
    I too love the two colors of the window boxes on the modern building! The architecture is interesting, but cold. The window box color is used in a controlled way and successfully draws you in for another look.
    Love the use of “weeds”.
    For my blog, http://www.wedigdoinit.com, I just started writing articles about gardening tourism called the Not So Accidental Garden Tourist. Soon all of my Wish List Gardening Stops will be placed in a column on the blog.
    Your pics fit right in with this premise. I love seeing gardens other gardeners find out their excursions.

  3. I am very big on goldenrod – I have it in my mixed borders with Veronica spicata ‘Sunny border blue’, Liatris and of course, Rudbeckia! I am also a 1st generation German-American with a large, extended family (and favorite Tante) in Bavaria (just outside München). Maybe this explains my obsession with goldenrod?
    Have a wonderful time! Tschüss!

  4. Great photos! I’ve never visited those gardens, now I wish I had.

    (As for the break on tuition, well, it only costs a few hundred per semester in Germany. The beer is probably more of an incentive.)

  5. Thank you for including us in your Aunts birthday travel. I knew that you would find the bright spot in the whole country. I love the tour and the window boxes are a great idea for color at the school.

  6. I just was in Minnesota and saw a lot of goldenrod and rudbeckia growing wild along fields and beside woods – very pretty. Lots of German folk in the area I was in – I didn’t realize those plants are popular in Germany.

  7. I am a disgrace to my German heritage. Goldenrod leaves me cold. Maybe it is because my German ancestors immigrated too long ago. I have no attraction to late summer borders. Now the big leafed host, mm-mm. I think it was all the fake jungle foliage in Tarzan movies. Loved those movies as a kid.

  8. Michele,thank you so much for posting the pics from Weihenstephan.We were there last July.Did you see the Rose Garden too? And the veggi Garden was awesome.And the Biergarten(great Porkroast)I wonder how many people go to Freising when they visit Munich.We are going back next year.Thanks again.

  9. Great pics< Michelle. I have always wanted to see this garden. My late father attended and graduated from Weihenstephan Ag school right after the war, before emigrating to Canada. I've seen the gardens in many a magazine article, and I have always found them tremendously inspiring. Must see them one day...

  10. What are the tall purple plants in the photo of the nitrogen experiment? Excess fertilizer or not, these are intriguing.

  11. Lisa, it’s purple kale, which was everywhere in the vegetable garden. A really handsome plant and probably great in a soup, too.

  12. I think that weeds are great for flowers, too. I like the two story potted plant boxes. I wish that more places had them. Maybe, I could go and interduce them to apartment complexes.

  13. Thanks for the info, Michelle. Kale is a pretty plant, but I never would have recognized it in the photo. Those are some window boxes!

Comments are closed.