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Nurseries in Halstenbek
Nursery in Wales

A tree nursery is the name given to commercially cultivated areas for trees , shrubs , roses ( ornamental trees ), fruit trees and forest plants . The tree nursery is a sub-group of horticulture and does not belong to classic field management or forestry.

They are planted here (technical term: educate ; schooling means rooting ) or cultivated in containers until they have grown to a certain size, in order to then be sold to resellers ( e.g. garden centers or Christmas tree sellers) or end users , such as gardeners ("horticultural nurseries") , fruit growers ( "fruit nurseries"), Winzer or forest farmers ( " forest nurseries to be sold").

Tree nursery (correct term: gardener specializing in "tree nursery") is also a training occupation. Since the specialization in production on the one hand and sales on the other hand is also increasing in tree nurseries, there is the possibility of specializing in the field of tree nurseries (similarly also in ornamental plant cultivation) in the German federal states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia to focus on "sales and advice" (so-called plant consultants ). In Switzerland this profession is called tree nursery .

Cultivation methods

Harvest of five-year-old spruce in Thuringia in 1984
Containerized nursery in Cutchogue, Suffolk County , New York State. In the background "foil houses" (without cover) for wintering

Trees are propagated by sowing or by vegetative propagation using root or shoot parts, for example by cuttings or by meristem culture . Cultivars are usually propagated through refinement , i.e. through copulation or inoculation, since sowing normally leads to a spread of the phenotypic characteristic expression (see: Mendel's rules ).

Row planting in a nursery in the Netherlands

During several years of development are replanted the plants several times (technical term: verschulen ) to the plants to provide their age and growth type corresponding leased space. The main purpose of transplanting is to keep the root ball so compact that the last time the customer planted the crown and root ball in a ratio that is compatible with the tree. If the roots were allowed to grow undisturbed, the root ball would be too large to be able to dig them out of the earth and transport them at all or at economic cost. If you cut off large parts of the root ball instead, the remaining roots would no longer be sufficient to supply the crown with water and nutrients.

Larger trees are very expensive because they have to be replanted several times.

In the case of container plants , the spacing between the plants is increased accordingly by means of spines .

The detailed cultivation methods are quite different for the variety of tree nursery crops.

Planted products and services

The nursery industry has a wide range of products with a range of over 200,000 different items. The companies produce and market woody plants (from seedlings to several decades old park or avenue tree). Contrary to what the word “nursery” might suggest, not only trees, but also shrubs and other woody plants are processed and sold by tree nurseries. A sharp demarcation from companies that are generally dedicated to horticulture is often not possible in practice.

The products vary greatly in nurseries. The desired trees and other woody plants differ initially in their type and thus also in the duration of their growth, but the demand also covers a wide range of sizes. Fully grown trees or small sprouts (young plants) are sold. The majority of the trees are used as ornamental trees.

Some tree nurseries operate park-like facilities that are accessible to the public, some of which are even free of charge.


The art of growing trees from cuttings was probably brought across the Alps by the Romans. In the Middle Ages, plants were usually propagated and grown in the monastery gardens . The basis of the plants grown there is probably also an imperial decree from the 8th century, the so-called Capitulare de villis . Princely gardens with their own plant culture have been created since the 14th century. After the Thirty Years War , forests were systematically rejuvenated with saplings for the first time. The utility of some trees for various crafts led to the agricultural production of trees. A delimited piece of the garden was used near the house. Field names such as Telgenkamp in the Westphalian-speaking area indicate the cultivation of linden trees (botanically Tilia ). Since the baroque period, tree nurseries have been established in the court gardens and in the parks of the aristocratic estates, which are considered the beginning of tree nursery. These were originally intended to cover personal needs and not to sell the products. From the second half of the 16th century, the first forest and forest ordinances were issued to counteract the overexploitation of the forests in the past Middle Ages with the resulting problems such as erosion , lack of wood and drying out. One of the measures was forest nurseries to produce young plants for reforestation.

In addition to the forestry schools, the first fruit tree nurseries can be found in Germany from the 17th century. In France, part of the tree nursery is still in operation today, which was laid out by the Carthusians in the orchard of the Chartreuse de Paris in 1650 and has since been incorporated into the Jardin du Luxembourg .

Special assortments, for example cut topiary trees and special trellis shapes, experienced a great boom. Numerous rarities came to Central Europe from the New World , which are still coveted ornamental trees and shrubs in our gardens and grounds. As a result of secularization, many of these gardens and their tree nurseries came into state ownership and formed the basis of today's state palace administrations.


Mouse-gray sand snap beetle on a branch - its larvae are one of the pests that can cause greater damage in tree nurseries

Due to the cultivation of similar plants on large areas, tree nurseries are particularly affected by infestation by forest pests (see monoculture ). This includes, for example, that the click beetle larvae, known as wireworms , such as the mouse gray sand snap beetle , settle in the soil . These larvae feed underground on the roots of young plants and seedlings. Even freshly laid seeds such as acorns are not spared from them. The pests also include the spotted sawfly , such as the common spruce sawfly . The pine sawfly is also often found in tree nurseries, but the damage it causes is nowhere near as great as that caused by the common spruce sawfly. The pests feared in tree nurseries also include the small and large black weevils .

The undesired spread of pathogens and pests through international trade also creates major problems. The resistance of native plants to bacteria / viruses from other climatic zones is often not given, insects lack their natural enemies.

Bale cutter for cutting out root balls

Like many farms, tree nurseries therefore use fertilizers and pesticides when necessary . This can be a significant environmental problem if improperly used . Especially in the centers of the tree nursery, such as B. in the Pinneberg district, there is a potential risk to the groundwater, less because of nitrogen fertilization, but mainly because of the use of pesticides. In the past, pesticides with the active ingredients 1,3-dichloropropene and 1,2-dichloropropane were used there for chemical soil treatment against nematode infestation ("soil fatigue") . Although 1,2-dichloropropane has not been approved in Germany since 1987 because of its low effectiveness, the substance is still found today in soil and groundwater due to its high stability, and limit values ​​are sometimes exceeded. As a result, several wells and entire waterworks had to be shut down in the Pinneberg district and activated carbon filter systems had to be built.

However, the so-called “ good professional practice ” and application based on the results of scientific experiments can minimize an environmental risk . Since 2001, Schleswig-Holstein, the federal state with the largest tree nursery area, has had a "coordination office for ecological nursery schools in Schleswig-Holstein" based in Bordesholm , which also aims to reduce pollution. Biological nurseries work without chemical herbicides and pesticides and without mineral fertilizers, put dilated crop rotation , cover crop cultivation and mulching methods and measures to beneficial organisms and so are trying to build a self-regulating system.

Some nationally be marketed - predominantly North German - nurseries criticize a proposed amendment in the German Environmental Code , according to which the part of the public sector , for reasons of conservation of biodiversity and to the partly caused by the national wood trade Flore corruption combat in new plantings in the open countryside, only those trees are used who are native to the region concerned ( autochthonous ). Other tree nurseries, mainly in southern Germany and marketing regionally, welcome this new regulation and see it as an attractive market opportunity. Similar regulations for securing the origin of reproductive material have long been common in the forest sector for economic reasons ( non-indigenous seed sources often turned out to be unsuitable and caused major losses) (in Germany it is set out in the Forest Reproductive Material Act).

Nurseries in Germany


The " Association of German Tree Nurseries " differentiates the offer of its members

  • Deciduous trees (with ornamental and flowering trees for gardens, parks and public areas and as hedge plants). The most important cultivated deciduous trees are: common oak , sessile oak , alder , beech , hornbeam and mining and Norway maple .
  • Wild trees (including for the edge of the forest, for renaturation and for the greening of rivers, roadsides etc .. Roses, creeping and climbing plants, park, avenue and street trees).
  • Conifers / evergreens (ornamental and flowering trees for gardens, parks and public areas and as hedge plants). The most important conifers grown are: Douglas fir , silver fir , forest pine and larch .
  • Fruit trees (pome, stone and berry fruits, walnuts and hazelnuts) and
  • Forest trees for wood production and sustainable forestry.
  • Refining documents for fruit and ornamental trees

The placing on the market of tree species suitable as forest plants is subject to strict legal requirements in Germany.

Economic data for Germany

Fruit tree grafting in a tree nursery in Lünen

(Status: 2000 unless otherwise noted)

  • Total production area: 24,690 hectares
  • Number of companies: 3,779 (tendency decreasing) with around 28,000 employees
  • Total production value: € 1.3 billion
  • Export performance (2002): € 75 million
  • Plant production: approx. 1 billion plants / year

A relatively small number of them operate organically: In Germany currently around 45 companies (including 2 in Schleswig-Holstein), mostly assortment tree nurseries for final sale, with a total of around 370 hectares of open land or 7 hectares of container area according to projections (as of 2003). This corresponds to an area share of the total production of 0.91%.

Tree nursery Späth

The Späth tree nursery in Berlin-Treptow is the oldest tree nursery in Germany.It was founded in 1720, was the largest tree nursery in the world in the 1920s and was the center of the GDR tree nursery from 1949 to 1989 . Today the former tree nursery is attached to the Humboldt University as the Späth Arboretum .

Tree nurseries in the Pinneberg district

Tree nursery in Pinneberg

The Pinneberg area in Schleswig-Holstein is now the largest closed tree nursery area in Europe. However, the cultivated area decreased from 4,239 hectares in 1996 to 2,931 hectares in 2017. At the same time, the number of tree nurseries fell from 410 to 199 companies.

The German Tree Nursery Museum was founded in the Pinneberg district in 1994, and in 2001 it was relocated from its original location in Prisdorf to Thesdorf on the site of a former tree nursery.

After the Duke of Schleswig and Count of Holstein, Christian VI. Already in 1737 had issued an ordinance on the creation of “living hedges” ( Knicks ) and in 1785 a “practical aid institute for better knowledge of local and foreign woody plants” had been founded in Kiel, the decisive step followed in 1795: In that year the Hamburg merchant Caspar founded Voght in Klein-Flottbek (then still in the Pinneberg district) established the "Flottbeker Tree Nursery" as the first tree nursery based on the English model. His "manager" was the Scottish gardener James Booth . The commercial nursery and tree nursery "James Booth & Sons", which emerged from this in 1812, is the nucleus of today's Schleswig-Holstein tree nursery area. The numerous gardeners trained there later settled in the region with their own tree nurseries due to the good climate and soil conditions. The creation of the railway network in 1850 and the proximity to Hamburg with its port then meant that the plants could also be sold nationwide. The Kordes tree nursery began growing roses in 1887 , and Rosen-Tantau soon followed in 1906. From 1900 onwards, fruit growing also became widespread. It was only after the Second World War that tree nurseries began using machines and pesticides.

Tree nurseries in the Ammerland district

Presentation of shaped cuts in the " Park of the Gardens " near Bad Zwischenahn

There are more than 350 tree nurseries on 2,600 hectares in Ammerland , from which 90 percent of all rhododendron bushes grown in Germany and 75 percent of the free-range azaleas come from.

The tree nursery in the district of Ammerland is funded by the state of Lower Saxony . In 1976/77, the Horticultural Training and Research Institute (LVG), which was previously based in Aurich- Haxtum, was established on the site of today's “ Park of Gardens ” immediately west of the Zwischenahner Sea . At the instigation of the then Lower Saxony Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke , the Lower Saxony Garden Culture Center (GKC) developed from 1998. In 2002 the Lower Saxony State Horticultural Show was held on the premises of the GKC . In 2003 the area of ​​the former garden show was renamed the Park of the Gardens .

The 14 hectare "Park of Gardens", which is operated by the Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture , the Ammerland district, the Bad Zwischenahn municipality and the "Fördergesellschaft Landesgartenschauen Niedersachsen mbH" and was visited by 132,000 guests in 2009, is regarded as a showcase for the horticultural industry in general of the Lower Saxony and Ammerland tree nursery in particular.

Many tree nurseries in Ammerland operate show parks. The best known are the rhododendron parks of the nurseries Hobbie in Linswege and Bruns in Gristede .


Individual evidence

  1. Sylvia Butenschön, Jens Beck: Form follows function - layout, organization and design of early tree nurseries in Sylvia Butenschön (ed.): Early tree nurseries in Germany , Univerlagtuberlin, 2012, p. 45 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  2. Le jardin du Luxembourg. L'histoire du jardin fruitier. ( online ) on the website of the French Senate
  3. Interest group for supra-regional plant trade in the Bund deutscher Baumschulen (BdB) e. V. .
  4. Leaflet Autochthonous Woods - Use in Planting Measures (PDF; 709 kB), Ed .: Bavarian State Ministry for State Development and Environmental Issues , Bavarian State Office for Environmental Protection .
  5. Ingo Kowarik, Birgit Seitz: Perspectives for the use of local (“autochthonous”) woody plants (PDF; 242 kB), Institute for Ecology at the TU Berlin.
  6. Producer group for autochthonous tree nursery products in Bavaria ( Memento from September 22, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  7. A. Behm, Monika Konnert: On the development of the concept of origin in forestry and forest genetic research , Bavarian Office for Forestry Seed and Plant Breeding, Teisendorf.
  8. ^ Späth'sches Arboretum in Berlin-Treptow , World of the Garden.
  9. Cindy Ahrens: The number of tree nurseries in the Pinneberg district has halved in the past 20 years. In: Local. Pinneberger Tageblatt, January 9, 2018, accessed on December 2, 2019 .
  10. In English and Scottish tree nurseries, plants were transplanted after 3 to 5 years and offered for sale, which is why they were grown on a large scale. At the same time, trees between the ages of 10 and 15 were transplanted in Germany and were generally only intended for personal use. ( About the benefits of wild tree nurseries , in: Gottlieb Rammelt: Mixed economic treatises for the best of agriculture and gardening , Johann Gottfried Trampe, Halle 1768, p. 93).
  11. The company "JG Booth & Co" was created through a spin-off of the department for seed and flower bulb trade from "James Booth & Sons". The owner was James Godfrey Booth , who had left the company at the beginning of 1828 by mutual agreement with his brothers.
  12. see collaborators under John Cornelius Booth
  13. Roland Benn: Im Reich des Gärtner ( Memento from April 14, 2017 in the Internet Archive ), Merian Oldenburg, p. 62 (PDF; 2.9 MB).

Web links

Commons : Nurseries  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Nursery  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations