Friday, May 10, 2013

A jewel in west-central Germany: Damstadt Botanic Garden

Klaus Werner, Gartenmeister of Darmstadt Botanical Garden, photographing Echinocereus in bloom

I was told by no less authority than Dr. Stefan Schneckenburger that there are over 100 botanic gardens in Germany. Dr. Schneckenburger is the director of Darmstadt Botanical Garden (who also happens to be the current head of the All German Botanic Garden union). Although up to now I have only sampled a dozen or so Central European botanic gardens, it is apparent to me that the quality of their collections, the maintenance of these collections is of a standard unimaginable in most of the rest of the world. Darmstadt botanical garden is relatively small by European Standards--but a jewel nonetheless. It would take pride of place in any city inside or especially outside Germany.

In this blog I will be featuring just a few pictures in and around the greenhouse complex. I will show a small portion of the outside gardens in another blog: although relatively compact at a dozen or so acres, the garden is jam packed with plants--many unique, and with delightful garden design. It would take a small book to do it justice. I came here at the behest of Gartenmeister Klaus Werner--who coordinates operations in the flashy new greenhouse complex, concentrating on Succulent collections and the hardy succulent garden. He managed a perennial nursery in a previous career, and is an inveterate traveler around the world (we met in Colorado last year and struck an immediate friendship): he is a wonderful host and an extraordinary plantsman, as the next few pictures will attest--a tiny fraction of his extensive greenhouse realm.

Mammilaria section in full bloom
One of many choice Mammilaria sp.
I neglected to note the name of this species of Mammillaria--and since there are hundreds if not thousands of species in this genus, keying it out in my hotel room in Gottingen this evening is a bit of a problem...perhaps you can help?
Uncarina grandidieri from Madagascar in wonderful bloom
What a treat to see these exquisite Madagascar pachycauls blooming so gorgeously. I saw wonderful Madagascar plants at many German botanic gardens this week--but none had Uncarinas this husky or floriferous.

One of their rarest specimens is this Dioon caputoi from near Puebla, Mexico where only a few hundred plants persist. This one was collected over a hundred years ago by Purpus, and has been maintained here ever since (a testament to the care of botanical gardens)...The two links in this paragraph can lead to a lot more information about this plant--considering there are many thousands of plants in this collection, imagine that each has a similar story...perhaps not quite so dramatic.
Hardy succulent garden at Darmstadt
Another of Klaus' responsibilities has been to create and care for this wonderful garden (along with the Yucca society of Germany which has donated money for plants and helps with their care)...I was pleased to see some South Africans making an appearance here too, along with many American plants (including that very happy single-leaf Pinyon in the center--Pinus monophylla. One of the best specimens I've seen in any garden--including North America (our's at DBG look mighty good though...)

Here Klaus is photographing the first flower on a large quantity of Rabiea albipuncta that he grew from seed...destined for testing in the garden I think.

A splendid clump of Ferocactus glaucescens...which looks as good as it would in nature. (Maybe better!0

Welwitschia mirabilis
This dramatic tableau of Welwitschia is benefiting from some supplemental lighting--used by many of the gardens I visited to help compensate for darker winters. These husky plants were coming into bloom, and Klaus was anxiously hoping that male and female flowers might coincide so he might have seed again. I hope he does! And we might have some--this is not a plant one often encounters in American public gardens...

Echinocereus pulchellus
 I am a sucker for any Echinocereus, and this must be high on the list of cutest in this genus....

Pinguicula planting
 There were wonderful collections of insectivorous plants outdoors and indoors: and creative ways used to stage and grow them, like these wet rocks loaded with butterworts...

There is even creative staging UNDERNEATH benches--here a wonderful begonia sucking up the Lebensraum where weeds might grow....(notice my clever use of German?...)

One of the benches loaded with slipper orchids in the Orchid greenhouses....

Corps de Ballet of Ant Plants on a bough with moss
 I believe trhese are Myrmecodia. Something about them reminded me of the elephant dance in Fantasia...

A section of cold frames dedicated to challenging alpines like Dionysia
Stephanie Hartmann, on the left, who cares for the Orchids and many rare plants in frames, with the ever smiling face of Klaus Werner--who is not just a Gardenmeister, but a dynamo of plantsmanship and friendship. Thanks for a wonderful four days in Darmstadt, Klaus! To be continued in the expansive outdoor collections, including a wonderful Alpine garden!


  1. The Dioon looks like a Phoenix.....

  2. How humiliating! Of COURSE it's Phoenix theophrasti, from Crete (which is also critically endangered there--and diseased in the wild) so this too may become an ark plant. Thanks for catching my egregious mistake: the light was bad on the Dioon and I didn't take it--but the links I highlighted will show pix of it if you must see it! Thanks you sharp eyed Mr/Ms Anonymous.

  3. The Mammillaria looks like a hahniana ssp woodsii.


  4. Love the Uncarina soooo floriferous, outstanding! The carniverous bed is whimsical. What a delightful place to visit.

  5. Thank you, Magnus! You've saved the day...

    Hope we might see your garden in the next few days?

  6. Yes i hope so! Talk to Peter, he knows the details......



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