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In the garden with: Folko Kullmann (Society of Perennial Friends)

Folko Kullmann – Photo: Kristijan Matic

Folko Kullmann has been President of the Gesellschaft der Staudenfreunde e.V. (GdS) / Society of Perennial Friends  since 2016. With almost 5,500 members the association is one of the largest plant lover societies in Europe.

Plants have fascinated Kullmann since his childhood and so it was no surprise that his hobby became his job and also his vocation: He studied Horticultural Sciences in Weihenstephan, worked in Europe’s largest nursery in Bad Zwischenahn, Germany as well as in London at the Botanic Gardens, Kew and did research into the cultivation of vegetables at the chair of the Munich Technical University. After doing an internship at a Stuttgart service title publisher, today the chartered horticultural engineer writes, translates and develops successful garden books. He is additionally the editor responsible for the “Perennial garden”, the member magazine of GdS.


Mr. Kullmann, what is fascinating about perennials? Why are so many people dedicated to the GdS?

Kullmann: Perennials are simply the most diversified and versatile garden plants that one could wish for. There is an incredible abundance of them, they come in all colors and shapes, sizes and growth habits. Perennials grow in all areas of the garden, in the shade, in the sun, on garage roofs or alongside and in the garden pond. Skillfully combined using perennials  one can make sure the garden is almost always blooming. What other types or groups of plants can keep up here?

The many events, lectures, plant exchanges, garden visits and trips that the members of the GdS organize within the regional and specialist groups is another aspect – over 500 every year and not only in Germany, but also in neighboring countries. The membership fee includes the provision of the magazine “The Perennial Garden”, which is published four times a year and our members can take part in the annual seed exchange campaign. This spring over 30,000 packets of seeds comprising of over 2,600 types and sorts were sent out to the members.

Perennial lovers are in my experience open to many other garden themes, are interested in all, not just one group of garden plants. The interest in plants, in gardening and the environment connects people, one experiences this every day in the GdS.


Your book “Gärtnern mit dem Hochbeet / Raised-bed gardening” that was published in 2015 has developed into an absolute bestseller. Why are raised-beds so high in trend at the moment?

Kullmann: It sounds a bit trite, but raised-bed gardens are simply ingenious. One doesn’t have to bend over, it doesn’t have to be dug out, it is easier to combat snails and weeds and one can keep a close eye on one’s vegetables – gardening at eye level, so to speak. Apart from that it still allows one to grow vegetables and herbs, if the soil in the garden isn’t ideal for the purpose – for instance like in my garden with its marl limestones that are as hard as concrete. You can’t get further than ten centimeters down with the digging fork let alone with the spade. A raised-bed garden allows you to grow vegetables and herbs in a courtyard or in a drive in the city, where the soil is paved, tarmacked or compacted. And what’s more: Raised-bed gardens can look very chic and can be ideally used to divide or structure the garden or to even out slopes.


What does your own garden look like and how do you use it? Is it more like a place of relaxation or a field of experimentation where you try out the garden projects and trends that you write about?

Kullmann: In the meantime, our garden has to serve all sorts of purposes. Originally, it was only planned as a field of experimentation and for photo productions, but as things always tend to come about, the usage constantly changes. The many objects that crop up in the course of the various projects also want to be integrated into a design or replanted somewhere else. But the garden is of course always a place of relaxation – whereby I don’t envisage lying on a lounger or hammock when I think about garden relaxation, but more about the continual plucking, weeding, planting, cutting and observing. Precisely the things other people define as “work”, that is what I do to relax from the desk work. And the garden not only serves as a place of retreat for me, it is also the habitat and a refuge for countless insects such as butterflies, wild bees, dragonflies and beetles, birds, hedgehogs, shrews and occasionally foxes also visit us. Frogs and newts swim around in the pond and I hope that we will be able to find lizards in the dry-stone walls next year. The wild perennial fields comprising of native and exotic plants provide the right setting and nourishment. There is only one thing you won’t find in my garden: a manicured lawn – that is far too time-consuming for me. The colorful flowers and herb grasses are much more exciting.


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