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Eden Plants story

My life as a 'cactophile' – a biographical sketch

Ingo Breuer

I was born as Theodor Ingo Adamczyk in 1955 and since childhood I have had an interest in plants and nature. During my school holidays I spent a lot of time on the little farm of my uncle who worked as a gardener and taught me a lot of things about how to grow plants.

When I was 10 years old, I got a cup with four flowering Mammillarias as a birthday gift from my mother. I grew them on the windowsill of a big window facing south. So I had good conditions to grow them successfully and they flowered again during the following year.

My schoolteacher knew about my interest in cacti and gave me a book written by Walter Haage (Freude mit Kakteen) which became my 'bible' for some years because it was 1965 and internet and Google did not exist at the time!

In 1969 we got our own house with a big garden in Ibbenbüren where I was born (I did not grow up there) and I was happy to be allowed by my parents to construct a cold frame in which to grow my little cactus collection outside in the garden. It was about 3 m² but without heating. So I built a shelf in the cellar of our house with artificial light running on a time switch above the boards. My parents always supported me with my hobby and gave me space for me to develop it.

Using this method, after the first winter I got so many flowers on my cacti when they started to grow again in the cold frame that I was encouraged to do much more and to build a bigger collection.

During my school holidays I worked in a nursery in order to save money for a real greenhouse. When I was 16 years old, I got in contact with the branch of the German Cactus and Succulent Society in Osnabrück and became a member of the society (since 49 years now). The branch members helped me a lot to increase my knowledge on the matter and on the number of plants in my collection. They also asked me to hold lectures for the branch because they knew about my deep interest! My first lecture was about how to grow Euphorbias!

The next important step was my new greenhouse, when I was 18 years old. It was 12 m² made of a solid steel construction covered with special glass intended for greenhouses. My father allowed me to connect it to the heating system of our house and a friend of mine, who was an electrical engineer, installed a fully automatic system to control heating and air ventilation.

This enabled me to leave the greenhouse for some time on its own because my school days were over and I had obtained the necessary requirements to enter university. However, first I had to do two years of military service in the ambulance corps. During this time I could not be at home very often because I did my service in Bavaria (Mittenwald) which was about 900 km away from home (this was the time when I started to love the wonderful countryside of Bavaria). Before I left home for the military service, I taught my mother how to water and to maintain the cactus collection, this she was very willing to do because she liked to see all the beautiful flowers very much.

In 1976 I started my studies in Biology at the University of Bielefeld. During my time there I had a job as a student assistant at the little botanical garden there. Its head was also interested in cacti and I helped them to build a nice, well-presented collection. People at the university could see them easily when walking around the university building and so I got in contact with other cactus lovers.

Obviously, I joined the branch of the Cactus society in Bielefeld at that time. My first visit there was at their Christmas party where they had a quiz and tombola. The people there did not know me, of course! What should I say, I won the quiz and the first prize of the tombola too. This impressed them a lot and even after many years they spoke about that introduction of mine!

In 1983 I finished my studies in Bielefeld and moved to Düren because I supported Brigitte and Jörg Piltz during that time while they were establishing a new nursery there. My plants were still in my greenhouse in my parents’ garden but during my studies I replaced the first one with a bigger one with an area of 36 m² which I had obtained from Brigitte and Jörg Piltz, because when they moved from their old place to Düren, they built a much bigger one. I got in contact with the Piltz family because of my interest in Gymnocalycium, which started in the mid-70s. At that time Jörg Piltz was one of the leading experts (and still is) with a lot of experience from all the trips that he made with Brigitte and others in South America.

My second interest during the time of my studies was in Mammillarias. I had close contact with two of the founders of the 'Arbeitskreis für Mammillarienfreunde', which was established in 1977 in Münster by nine persons. From the end of the 70s until moving to Düren, I was the editor of the Journal of that Society for some time.

As mentioned already, my plants were still in my parents’ garden but my first flat in Düren had a small conservatory which unfortunately was not very sunny. So I could not grow cacti there. Since some time I also had an interest in small Aloes and Haworthias and, by accident, I got about 50 different offsets of Haworthia from a friend who had obtained them from the botanical garden in Bonn. So 1983 was the start of a very successful and intensive establishment of a big Haworthia collection.

In 1984 I started my first, well-paid job as a quality inspector in a paper manufacturing company in Düren which enabled me to rent a house with a garden where I could build a new greenhouse and bring my old collection to the new place.

A friend of mine and new neighbour in that small village near Düren was the chairman of the cactus branch in Bonn and so I joined that branch and not the branch in Düren.

In 1990 I got married to Maria Breuer, a belly dancer whom I had met at a party. This was the time when I changed my name to Ingo Breuer. I learned a lot about this subject and we spent much time on events all over the country. In another small village close to Düren we found a house that we could buy and I spent much time in renovating it. I also built three new greenhouses and I never interrupted my efforts to enlarge my collection.

During the 80s, Ernst and Marita Specks (formerly Exotica Specks) organised conventions about succulents where very famous speakers like Prof. Werner Rauh from Heidelberg held lectures.

There I met people from the former East German Succulent Society (Fachgesellschaft andere Sukkulenten) and we started a group interested in Aloe plants. At that time, I took over the job as the editor of their journal together with Hans-Jürgen Thorwarth (a famous artist drawing plants). We started to change the name of the journal into 'Avonia', which still exists and is now a very famous bilingual journal, published by a couple of idealists. We had a few very nice meetings continuing for some years.

During this time I got in contact with Dr. Raymond Dedeyne (from Wommelgem, Belgium), who got me in contact with Cok Grootscholten (from Honselersdijk, Netherlands). Both are Haworthia collectors and they had contacts all over the world, especially with people in South Africa. They had a lot of very rare material which nobody else had and luckily they propagated their material which one could obtain from them at reasonable prices. This was the start of my collection with good material with scientifically relevant data.

Another important step towards enlarging my knowledge about Haworthias, was my contacts with people from the University of Cologne (Dr. Joachim Thiede and his Professor, Dr. Jürgens). I joined their lectures about ecology of succulents in South Africa and similar matters. This made me look for myself at how the plants look in habitat, what their growing conditions are and so on.

When I was 40 years old, in 1995, I gave myself a present - a trip to South Africa joining some of Prof. Jürgens’ students. I had a three weeks’ excursion with them to different places with quartz pebble fields in the Little Karoo where they made investigations of all the relevant factors and why the vegetation there is so different from the surrounding area with sandstone or shale. Such places were only known to them so far from the Knersvlakte area. The results of this excursion (and others) were the material of the doctorial dissertation of Dr. Ute Schmiedel (now from the University of Hamburg).

As I had no experience on how to find Haworthias in nature, and none of the students did, I was walking around looking everywhere while the students took their measurements. It took me three days to find my first Haworthia (now I know that the places around and in the quartz pebble fields nearby, in which I was looking was not a good area to look for Haworthias) but, at least, I found H. viscosa and I still have a piece of it in my greenhouse.

During this trip, we got an invitation from the head of the Cape Nature Reserve to join their annual meeting in 'Die Hell', a very lonesome camp high up in the Swartberg Mountains, and I did some climbing on the slopes of the Swartberg where I found many other succulents but no Haworthias at all. After the meeting we went to the Laingsburg area and there I found my first Haworthias of real interest without any help from others, H. arachnoidea, lockwoodii and scabrispina.

Our host of the Cape Nature Reserve invited me to join him at his home in Cape Town because I told him that I needed to look at some preserved specimens in the herbarium since I had decided to take the matter in a more scientific manner and I had already started collecting all the original descriptions and other relevant literature on Haworthias.

One person who supported me a lot in getting all this material (no internet at that time) was a former student of Biology at the University of Aachen, Wolfgang Borgmann, now working as an environmental officer for a big company.

It took me nearly ten years to collect and study more than 1000 references about Haworthias. In 1998 I decided that it was the right time to publish the results of my research and the reasons for this can be found in the foreword of my book 'World of Haworthias, Vol.1' (now out of print):

'……The Lexicon of Succulent Plants by H. Jacobsen contained numerous brief descriptions of Haworthias but I found these difficult to match in order to classify my own plant material.
I had great expectations for M.B. Bayer's Haworthia book, published in 1982. In this book he reduced the abundant number of Haworthia names, supporting his findings with constructive and convincing explanations. The excellent photographs helped to remove doubts in making comparisons with my own plants but, nevertheless, I had now become even more curious and wanted to extend my knowledge further.
The Haworthia book by J. Pilbeam, published in 1983, had many excellent pictures and contained some new names. These names more or less referred to remarkable forms that were of special interest to collectors. Accordingly, in my opinion, they are not very helpful towards a better understanding of the genus.
The book by C.L. Scott, published in 1985, confused many Haworthia collectors because he presented a rather different classification to that of Bayer. Scott did not accept the three subgenera erected by Uitewaal and used by Bayer. The detailed descriptions, supported by photographs and distribution maps, corresponded to existing plants available in cultivation but I could not agree with most of Scott's opinions.
Therefore, these three books could not give me satisfactory answers to all of my questions and this situation was the inspiration for my own investigations. Starting in 1989, I decided to collect and analyse all available references published on Haworthias. This book is the culmination of my preliminary findings

Apart from my literature work, I wanted to enlarge my knowledge of Haworthias in the field. Fortunately I got in contact with a field researcher and grower of plants, Vincent de Vries from Oudtshoorn in South Africa. In 2000 I started my second trip, first together with Vincent in the Oudtshoorn area and later joined by David Morton Cumming from Bathurst. I did the second part of the trip only with David in Port Elizabeth – Humansdorp area. By means of this trip I got a better insight into the 'World of Haworthias' and it encouraged me to make more such trips. During the next few years I did another two trips per year and so I got a good overview on the most important elements of these plants.

I continued to publish many papers since then, another book (vol.2 of 'World of Haworthias’), two updated classifications in 2010 and 2016 and so on. Until now, Haworthias are still very important in my mind.

When I divorced in 2002, Ernst Specks, whom I know since the end of 80s, made me an offer to rent his old greenhouse in Golkrath, while he was building an even bigger one in Hoven, the next village, because he knew that I was short of space for my collection. I was limited with three small greenhouses (50 m²) on my private property where I lived with my ex-wife and Ernst offered me a 300 m² greenhouse, fully equipped, for a very reasonable lease, an offer which I could not refuse. 15th July 2002 was the start of eden-plants.

I moved my collection to Ernst's greenhouse in Golkrath and rented a small flat nearby for my belongings which I had brought with me from the house in which I lived with my ex-wife. In the meantime, I learnt more computer techniques and started a new profession as an IT-consultant testing SAP-software for insurance companies, which was a totally different matter from that which I had ever done before. I was employed by a big German company (msg) which had its development department in Passau about 700 km away from my new place. This was a big challenge for me and my ability of organisation but I could manage working in Passau and building up a big collection, much bigger than before.

Of course, to cover the running costs I started to sell more plants then I did before but because of my job being so far away, I could only do it with a web shop ( . Since there was internet then I could do it and keep in contact with my customers from anywhere!

I do not know how it happened, but already after two years, the big greenhouse that I rented from Ernst was running out of space. Unbelievable! This meant that either I had to stop enlarging the sales area or to reduce my private collection!

During my time in Golkrath two other important things made their way into my collector’s life! At that time I had also got in contact with Uwe Beyer (Cono's Paradise) and, because of his thousands of beautiful Lithops, I fell in love with them! Apart from a short interruption, I still grow and propagate them. My second new love is Sulcorebutias, which are very handsome growers and fascinate everyone, not only cactophiles, with their colourful flowers, many of which are bicoloured and some have even three 3 colours!

In those days, Uwe bought cacti collections given up by their former owners for many reasons and so he bought two important Sulcorebutia collections, one of which was that of Willy Fischer (WF), who had many original clones from Heinz Swoboda (HS), besides his own collected plants. The other was that of Edmund Kirschnek (EK) and I took most of the material that was left. That was the start of a new big collection, now with about 4000 different records and more than 12,000 plants.

Again it was the twist of fate that drew my attention to an advertisement which I saw at the bank. It was in 2004 and it was offering a house with a nursery at the back (4 greenhouses with an area of 1,500 m²) at a purchase price which was only for the house and property, the greenhouses being offered for free! It was in Oberbruch, only 10 km away from Golkrath. So I managed to buy it. But you cannot imagine what a hard job it was moving all the plants which filled up a 300 m² greenhouse! I did it all by myself with my small caravan, not counting how many trips I had to make! But 300 m² of plants in an area of 1,500 m² looked quite empty! So I started growing and propagating as much as possible. I managed to fill it up. In 2005 I was ready to open the nursery to the public; the official date was 15th July 2005. Now I think that I have enough plants in my private collections and for sale. I have now retired from my job as a Senior IT consultant and shall use my time to document my collection resulting in some nice publications. Then I must think about reducing my collection to the size that it was when I started 50 years earlier. I like the plants too much and I want to leave them in a good condition when I have to leave the planet in some years from now.

I think the story of my life as a cactophile reminds some readers of their own story. I can say that I was a very lucky person to get so much support from so many people and I am still glad to be able to grow my beloved plants!


My greatest thanks go to my friend George Borg Marks from Malta, who supported me a lot in the past few years with maintaining the plants in the greenhouse, with very lively discussions on all aspects of the matter and also with checking my paperwork!