Walther Haage (1899-1992)

The younger son Walther had to waive his botanical studies and learned the profession of a gardener. During his wandering years through Stuttgart, Belgium and Sweden he enlarged his horizon and built up new contacts, with the aim of rebuilding a company, damaged and weakened by WW I. Although inflation made lives difficult he financed some expeditions to America in order to collect new cacti. His work with “cacti hunters” such as Fric, Buxbaum, Lembke, Viereck or Backeberg became famous. Very soon the name Haage again stood for a large and special assortment and Walther now sold cacti all over the world. Walther Haage was very successful as author, too. His first book “Kakteen im Heim” (also aviable in English: “cacti at home”) was published in different languages printed as a big edition. After his father died in May 1930, Walther Haage took over managing the company and converted it into a competitive seed cultivation business.

In the Third Reich the “non-Aryan” cactus had to live underneath the tables. With a high rate of losses the cacti collection was carried. What is more, WW II destroyed the base of the business and every connection into foreign countries. Due to large orders of the former director Prof. Baranov of the botanic garden of Leningrad, who was stationed as a commandant of the Red Army in Erfurt, the cacti collection could survive the hard years after the war. He recognized the risks for the collection, which was threatened by the hard winter. After a while some lorry loads of coal reached the company.

The development of the society in the former GDR created a lot of problems. After the means of production were rationed at the beginning, represses against the owner and his crew became wicked. In the year 1961 the press of the GDR “celebrated” Walther Haage as one of the last private gardeners who had to be taken on state participation. In 1972 the company was entirely taken over by the state within just one week. The company and the leadership had been lost to the state. Walther, who was still working as the manager of the seed cultivation, carried on influenced the development of the company.

At the same time he started writing of books again. Works as “Das Praktische Kakteenbuch” (” Practical book on cacti”) or “Schöne Kakteen richtig pflegen” (“How to correctly care for beautiful cacti”) were written. His wife Lotte gave him a lot of support during this time. Until today the encyclopaedia “Kakteen von A bis Z” (“Cacti from A to Z”) is a widely spread lexicon for cacti friends – and it’s very hard to get a hand on. For his work Walther Haage became honorary member of the German cacti association and in 1988 the “golden cactus” was awarded to him by IOS. This award was handed over by the deceased princess Gracia Patricia of Monaco for special results in cacti cultivation. Walther Haage died at the age of 91, shortly before the 170th jubilee of the company in 1992. You could meet his wife Lotte at the age of 95th in the greenhouses, where she was looking after “her” plants and taking care of the stock plants.

After the East German Government had taken over the company, its new official name was “VEG Saatzucht Zierpflanzen – Brigade Kakteenzucht”. The management of the brigade was taken on by Walther’s son Hans-Friedrich Haage.

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