The man with the green thumb

Why he loves his flowers

He waters them all by hand. City gardener Thomas Wyss cherishes and looks after the flowers on the Chapel Bridge as if they were his own.

A man of passion and patience

Why his job cannot be automated and why sometimes, sign language is the only thing that helps.

It is 5 a.m. on the Chapel Bridge. Thomas Wyss turns the key to the vestibule of the Water Tower, carefully rolls out the 140-meter-long hosepipe, switches on the faucet and begins to water the flowers. There are no pre-installed irrigation pipes; on the contrary, manual work and experience are called for.

City gardener Thomas Wyss ensures an optimum water supply and looks after Lucerne’s most famous flowers. His job also includes removing withered plants, checking the boxes for pests and disease and occasionally replacing plants. He enjoys the solitude of the early morning just as much as the contact with passers-by. What he does not like is handing over responsibility for his plants to others, having already established a relationship with them in the greenhouse.

The plants have to be watered by hand with a garden hose..
The plants designated for the Chapel Bridge remain in the Municipal Parks and Gardens Department's greenhouses until May every year.

Interview with city gardener Thomas Wyss

How long does it take to water the flowers?

Thomas Wyss: Five to six hours. The loss of pressure in the long hose means that the water only comes out relatively slowly. But I like working at this pace, as it gives me plenty of time to observe and tend to the plants.

And how often do they have to be watered?

It varies. Sometimes I water them every five or nine days, depending on the weather. In May, the plants can make do with relatively little water – every 14 days is enough. As the temperature increases and the plants grow bigger, they need more water. That is why the watering process cannot be automated. On average, we water them once a week.

Why so early in the morning?

So that I don’t disturb the passers-by, and they don’t disturb me. At first I am alone on the bridge, and then the first joggers start to run past. Then it becomes more and more lively, and I get to meet some interesting people. People often speak to me.

Sometimes I have to come in at very short notice, such as on a hot Sunday afternoon. I don't mind that at all.
Thomas Wyss, city gardener

What sort of experiences do you have?

Most people ask me for tips on plant care or want to take a photo of me. Some tourists grab the watering device I use to take a selfie with it. Once, I even met a municipal gardener from Sydney. I am very bad at foreign languages, but we always manage to make ourselves understood somehow, sometimes by resorting to sign language. And luckily the botanical names are the same all over the world.

Do you sometimes have negative experiences?

Every now and then, people pull off the blossoms, tear out whole plants or dump litter between the flowers, especially at weekends or after events. We install additional brackets to make sure no flower boxes end up in the Reuss. Vandalism has not really become more frequent, but such incidents do still affect me personally. Somehow I feel quite attached to the plants.

Five to six hours...
... is how long it takes to water all the plants on the Chapel Bridge.
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