In conjunction with the spoga+gafa trade show in Cologne, Germany, we had the opportunity to visit two family-owned garden centers in the area, Garten Müller and Dinger’s Gartencenter, which both have a long and beloved history in the area. Founded in 1947, Garten Müller is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year at the store, which moved locations in 2007 and expanded in 2011. Dinger’s Gartencenter, founded in 1960, is known as the first garden center built with the American model in mind in Europe. Read on to see photos and highlights from our visit.

Garten Müller

This hanging basket hydrangea generated excitement when we first walked into Garten Müller’s outdoor nursery, as it was the first our international group had seen. Peter Sporkert, manager of the family-owned business, said the popular product, available in multiple colors, sold quickly. By the time we arrived in early September, only a handful remained.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
Garten Müller is in a residential neighborhood, which limits its space a bit, and is also just off the main expressway. Because of this, the Müller family built up the land to create a hill around the nursery, which not only acts as a sound barrier, but also makes the rows of trees and shrubs more aesthetically pleasing and the items in the back easier to see.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
The café at Garten Müller is in the middle of the garden center, just off the container display featuring pots from elho, Emsa and Esteras. It is a popular draw for families, especially because parents can watch their kids play on the playground that is visible from the outdoor dining area of the café.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
Beyond the playground there is also a petting zoo, where children can visit the resident farm animals.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
Though plants, including trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials, are the top-selling departments at Garten Müller, they do diversify with other items, including produce, wine and beer. Sporkert says they may not sell as many units of alcohol, but they have higher price points, thus generating good sales for the garden center.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
Garten Müller has a robust houseplants department, offering ferns, sansevieria, cacti, orchids and succulents.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS

Dinger’s Gartencenter

When The Palmencafé was established in 1992, Dinger’s expanded the interior retail greenhouse to more than 43,000 square feet to accommodate the space.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
Fall was in full swing when we visited Dinger’s Gartencenter the first week of September, as evident from one of many beautifully designed displays around the stunning, 53,819-square-foot, open-air greenhouse, which was added in 2001.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
Dinger’s original greenhouse design was inspired by the traditional U.S. garden center model.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
A map at the entrance helps visitors navigate Dinger's retail space, which is more than 320,000 square feet.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
First impressions are important, and Dinger’s Gartencenter is noted for its excellent curb-appeal, but the last perception also matters. On the way out of Dinger’s, visitors are presented with the same eye-catching displays and merchandising found within the store and a list of upcoming events, giving them a few reasons to come back.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
Tour attendees marveled at Dinger’s merchandising. Here are just a few displays that caught our eye. Visitors also noted the “thrillers” throughout the plant benches to help break up long rows of plants and create interesting visual elements.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
Before Dinger’s Christmas bazaar officially opens, the store shields the entrance as the space is transformed in anticipation of the popular seasonal section.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS
Dinger’s has hosted a bazaar for the winter holiday since the late 1970s, though we didn’t confirm if the bazaar opened as early then as it does now. An additional crew of people is hired to set up the Christmas department, and it opened in mid-September.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS