St. Pauli Bunker: A place 4,700 plants will call home

High above the city, where St. Michael’s Church and the world-famous Elbphilharmonie are within eyeshot, an impressive public city garden will come to life on the St. Pauli Bunker by 2021. A nursery is already growing around 4,700 plants for this spectacular project.

The first images of what’s to be a magnificent natural oasis show a lush “mountain path” winding its way up the outside of the bunker roof—and are already generating plenty of enthusiasm and amazement. The renowned “Seite Drei” section of the Süddeutsche Zeitung (one of Germany’s largest daily newspapers) praises the “courage” and entrepreneurial “boldness” of the project, stating that it brings to mind what was once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Babylon: the Hanging Gardens of Semiramis.

Eine ganze Reihe der Bäume auf dem Dachpark werden Obst tragen. Hier stehen Apfelbäume der Sorte „Roter Gravensteiner“.
A whole slew of the rooftop garden’s trees will bear fruit, namely apple trees that grow Red Gravensteins.

Since this summer, around 180 people have been working on realizing the vision of a green bunker and new recreation area. In two years, it will elevate the neighborhood’s quality of life. The concrete refurbishment, which was necessary even without the addition of another story, is now complete. This means that construction of the five pyramid-like stories—the highlight of which will be the gigantic city garden—can now get underway.

For the property developer, Hamburg-based Matzen Immobilien KG, the traditional tree nursery Lorenz von Ehren is an important partner in the quest to give the bunker its green touch. Founded in 1865 and based in the Hanseatic city’s south, this family business is one of the most important players in the national and international “green industry.” The nursery’s 160 employees cultivate a total of around 600 hectares of land which yield 500,000 trees and shrubs. The average age of the trees is 25 years.

Die weitläufigen „Quartiere" der Baumschule von Ehren sind beeindruckend. Hier der Blick auf den „Prager Schneeball“, ein immergrünes Ziergehölz, das bis zu 300 cm hoch und 150 cm breit werden kann und bald den Stadtgarten auf dem Bunker St. Pauli ziert.
The von Ehren nursery’s extensive “quarters” are certainly impressive. Here, you see the Prague Viburnum, an evergreen shrub that can grow up to 300 cm high and 150 cm wide—and will soon adorn the city garden on the St. Pauli Bunker.

For a long time now, thousands of plants for the extended St. Pauli Bunker have been growing in Lorenz von Ehren’s spacious “quarters.” These include various tree species (field maple, white winter bell apple, Scotch Pine shrub, Zoeschen maple, “Finkenwerder Herbstprinz” apple, shadbush, Scots pine, holly), large shrubs up to six meters tall, climbing plants, hedges, roses, and overhanging trees and shrubs. Most of the plants are native to Northern Europe and therefore accustomed to changing weather conditions. They’re also able to handle the changing climate of today. 

In terms of growth and size, the trees and shrubs adapt to their surroundings and conditions. After all, when they’re sitting over 50 meters high on the bunker roof, they will have to contend with heat, storms, and rain. The weather they’ll endure means that they require a certain amount of robustness to them—quite like Hamburg’s residents, really. Bernhard von Ehren, managing partner of the nursery, explains: “It’s of course very important to consider the special features of this unique location. The plants don’t just have to be drought-resistant and frost hardy but also insensitive to wind.”

Earmarked and sealed: this field maple is assured a spot on the St. Pauli Bunker

Strong and healthy trees and shrubs are a basic prerequisite for ensuring that what’s planted on the bunker remains green throughout the entire year. This is why, at least once a year, the nursery’s gardeners have handled each and every one to ensure they’re cared for, fertilized, and that their branches and roots are professionally cut. Once the rooftop garden is complete, these tasks will continue to be tended to by horticulturalists and landscapers. 

Many of the trees that are currently growing at Lorenz von Ehren are already standing an impressive three to four meters tall. One has to wonder: when the 4,700 plants leave the nursery, how will they reach the “Hanging Gardens of Hamburg”? Compared to the Wonder of the World in Babylon, it’s probably going to be made a little easier thanks to today’s crane technology.

The Lorenz von Ehren nursery is growing 4,700 plants for the rooftop garden. Many have now reached a handsome height. These Scotch Pine shrubs grow to between 3 and 5 meters tall and reveal their most beautiful colors in May/June.

By Frank Schulze