Helmut Kientzler Passes Away
Helmut Kientzler, one of the owners of the Kientzler/InnovaPlant group of companies, passed away unexpectedly on March 7, 2018.
Gary Grueber of Cultivaris, a friend and colleague of Kientzler’s and the former product development manager at Kientzler Young Plants, authored the following tribute:
Born on February 8, 1950 as the son of Else and Ludwig Kientzler, Helmut grew up as the child of horticulturists in the family young-plant company in Bad Kreuznach and discovered his love of plants at an early age. When his father unexpectedly died, Else Kientzler took over the management and further expansion of the company — explicitly so that her three still very young children Iris, Ludwig and Helmut would have a future in the Kientzler family business. After earning his degree in economics, Helmut entered the company at the tender age of 22.
Many in the industry do not know that Helmut Kientzler — in his own quiet ways — was instrumental in bringing about change in the entire ornamental plant industry. His pivotal, if largely unrecognized role in promoting innovation within the Kientzler group of companies was almost only known to those within the organization. But without his active participation, many huge projects would never have been realized, e.g., the establishment and successful expansion of the international Proven Winners network, the exceptionally successful Landesgartenschau in Bingen 2008, and the annual rendition of the famous Chaumont garden festival in Bingen in the years thereafter.
Both brothers, Ludwig and Helmut Kientzler, led and managed the company together for decades and jointly laid the foundation for the worldwide presence of the Kientzler group of companies. The corporate management was a yin-yang relationship between the two brothers — in the best meaning of the term. They complemented each other perfectly; one of them a driving force, the other pensive and strategic. In tandem, they transformed the Kientzler group of companies into one of the most innovative and trendsetting companies in the industry.
His pronounced sensitivity for plant aesthetics — and his rigorous defense thereof — was coupled with a strong love of plants and garden culture. These traits led to a fundamental change in how plants are used in gardens, balconies and terrace, to this very day, and not only in central Europe, but also overseas. Concepts were conceived, honed and launched successfully in the market under his guidance; garden style was made accessible to both growers and home gardeners, always with a strong emphasis on sustainability and success for the consumer. On his desk, one found the quote, “Plants transform inert material into living beauty”.
He never wanted to be in the limelight, never the center of attention. He loathed having anyone go out of their way on his behalf. He was much more comfortable operating from behind the scenes, always gathering information and opinions, always thought things through carefully. He was circumspect, pensive and enjoyed debating about recent developments in the industry and how theywould affect the overall Kientzler strategy – well into the evenings.
He lived his life for the company and for his family, and was always generous to others and only rarely splurged on himself. If you came to the company on a Sunday afternoon, you would invariably find his car in the parking lot. He could then usually be found in the greenhouses, inspecting the quality of the crops or reviewing the many new varieties in the trials without having to fear being interrupted.
Despite his quiet curiosity in regard to other countries, cultures and people, he only rarely embarked on long-distance journeys (with the exception of business trips) –and occasionally a weekend in Switzerland or Alsace, but never a longer vacation. Only in the last few years did he actually book longer journeys – sadly, he is now indeed “far, far away”.
His family, in particular his two sons Alexander and Thomas, all Kientzler employees and the entire industry will always and fondly remember him as the placid, pensive and circumspect aesthetically-driven force behind the scenes at Kientzler. He leaves behind a void that is far greater than the many important responsibilities that he untiredly managed for decades within the Kientzler organization. He will be sorely missed by us all. — Garry Grueber