Saturday, May 13, 2017

What you find in a garden center in Germany

My trip to Germany last week went by in a heartbeat, and there wasn't much time for exploring. However, my mother and I made it to an OBI garden center one morning. OBI is a major chain of home improvement stores, much like The Home Depot or Lowe's in the U.S. (In fact, Wikipedia says OBI is #3 in the world behind these two.)

I wasn't expecting any huge surprises, considering that the average OBI customer is more interested in low prices than unusual plants, but I was still hoping to find something a bit out of the ordinary. Let's see if I did!

Outside the store there was racks upon racks of the usual bedding plants (geraniums, petunias, marigolds, etc.) as well as vegetables. In the garden center proper, more bedding plants but also some very nice lupines and hostas. (I shouldn't be surprised; hostas grow well in Germany, as opposed to California.)


The only succulents I saw in the outside area of the garden center were sempervivums. That's par for the course since many of them are native to the mountains of Europe. They tolerate a great deal of cold and don't need much water. I saw some in the cemetery up the street from my mother's house, and I think they should be used even more in landscaping.



Here's one plant I had never seen. I could have sworn I photographed the label, but I didn't. For all I know, it's a common bedding plant, but it was new to me. Does anybody know what it is?


I was surprised by OBI's large selection of conifers. I've had a simmering love affair with conifers for a long time now. If I lived in the right climate, I think I'd get into collecting dwarf conifers.


The biggest surprise was a monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), a conifer from Chile. This is one of my favorite trees of all, and seeing it in a big-box garden center made me very excited. Maybe they're becoming more common in the general nursery trade now? It was not cheap (€45, about $50), but it's a very slow growing species so the price is fair. My mother said my brother bought one at a discount supermarket a few years ago (even more surprising to find one there!) but that it had died (no idea why).

Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana)

OBI also had several varieties of clumping bamboo, including this Fargesia scabrida. Fargesias do really well there (my brother was two in front of his house) and would look so much better than the boring shrubs so many German homeowners prefer.

Fargesia scabrida

OBI's indoor plant area (heated) held a few surprises too. The first one was a dwarf bamboo. It looked like plastic, but it was real. The label said Bambusa pogonatherum, but a quick Google search revealed that that is incorrect. The plant is Pogonatherum paniceum, a grass from the Seychelles. It's as closely related to bamboo as lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) or heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica)--i.e. not at all. 


My mother loves orchids and I wanted to buy here the one below but she proclaimed it to be too demanding (my mom is no-nonsense and doesn't have time for fussy plants):


The real draw for my mother was the cactus table. She can only grow them inside, on her window sill.

Cactus babies in terracotta pots (much nicer than plastic, I think)

See the brown stump behind the plants? That's an old agave flower stalk! I definitely did not expect to see that at a garden center in Germany!

My mother picking out a moon cactus

I really wanted to hate these (plant torture!!!) but they did make me smile

No, we didn't buy any

But I did buy this hanging kokedama cactus arrangement for my mom

Here's my mother with her new cactus babies

They'll join a motley gang on her living room window sill, like this Haworthia
I guess it's no surprise from whom I got my love of plants. Happy Mother's Day, Mutter!

18 comments:

  1. Calceolaria, also called lady's purse, pouch, slipper flower and pocketbook flower, or slipperwort.

    I like your mom's sweater.

    This post was very interesting to me to see how stores are in Germany.
    In your earlier posts I didn't see any gardens. Are allotments used?

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    1. Thank you, Jane. I had a feeling calceolaria was a popular bedding plant.

      As for allotments, there definitely were when I was young. I don't know if they still exist. I'll ask my mother.

      Most single-family homes do have gardens, at least small ones, but there was surprisingly little going on (and hence to photograph) when I was there.

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  2. Glad you still managed to visit a garden centre whilst in Germany and a have a quick peek on what's it like there in a DIY chain. Here we have B&Q. Monkey Puzzle Tree is fairly common now but it's relatively expensive due to its slow growth, which kind of puts a limit to its presence in gardens nowadays (although it was extra popular during the 70's here). I love it and have one growing in a pot.

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    1. I love my monkey puzzle tree, and it's done well in a pot even in our climate. There used to be a very large one in Capitol Park behind the California State Capitol in Sacramento but it's gone now. I've often wondered what happened to it. It must have been 50 years old.

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  3. Wow, it very much felt like one of our big box stores!

    So was the Agave (now dead) planted in a display garden like area? Like it had spend its life there, bloomed, died, and nobody bothered to remove it?

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    1. That dried up agave carcass was just placed there. They must have brought it in as a prop.

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  4. Interesting to see that Germany's big box stores are similar to those in the pacific northwest. The monkey puzzle tree is a surprise as we usually only see them at nurseries here. The cactus torture is kind of funny but it looks as if the costumes are glued on. How would one ever get them off the plant as it starts growing?

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    1. Yes, the costumes are glued onto the cactus. In hindsight, I should have bought one for my mom to see what happens as the cactus grows...

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  5. It looked very much like one of our Home Depot or Lowes plant departments, right down to the tortured plants (although I've never seen cactus in costume here). We get Calceolaria up here in the PNW as an annual for planting in container arrangements or out in the garden as bedding. I, too, love your mom's sweater!

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    1. It makes sense that this OBI garden center looked like a HD or Lowe's in the PNW. The climate is fairly similar.

      I don't know where my mom got that sweater. I like it as well!

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  6. Always interesting to find unusual, promising plants in big box stores. To me, Germany is even more interesting. A list of overused, uninteresting garden plants for various locations is in order!

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    1. I wanted to go to a small nursery not far from my mother's house but they got flooded (!) the day after I arrived. No kidding. It rained so hard that within two hours the creek nearby reached flood stage. The flooding didn't last long, but there was mud everywhere.

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  7. That's one good-looking Haworthia on your mother's window sill. Brief as your trip may have been, I hope you enjoyed it!

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    1. That Haworthia is so perfect, it looks like it's made of plastic, LOL.

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  8. Those Calceolaria are probably similar to the florists hybrids we get in the PNW as seasonal plants. Annie's Annuals sells Calceolaria integrifolia 'Kentish Hero', a perennial type with similarly colored flowers. It's borderline hardy in the PNW. I lost my main plant and most of the smaller ones I started from cuttings, but at least one survived.

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    1. I've seen 'Kentish Hero' at Annie's but never in bloom. I need to look for it the next time I'm there.

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    2. This is the start of prime blooming season for Kentish Hero, but I don't think it will like Valley heat much.

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