People have always had gardens, usually for work but sometimes just for pleasure. And, not least, as a status symbol, a way to show off power and wealth.
Europe’s rulers created magnificent gardens with
avenues, fountains and enormous plantations to impress their contemporaries. The
French Versailles is unthinkable without its magnificent park as are Sanssouci
in Potsdam without its imposing terrace and the Dutch Het Loo without its
In Sweden, we have been a little more modest. For us,
the garden has been a place of work and purpose, cultivation and harvests, maybe
because it started out as a cabbage patch for the kitchen with cabbage and
beans and the odd herb.
At the turn of the last century, allotments came to the
towns to give people somewhere to grow their potatoes and plant fruit trees. The
idea behind allotments came from Germany and Denmark but quickly caught on in
Sweden. In the towns, allotments were annexed and, quite simply, planted for people’s
survival. Today, the allotment areas are small oases in the centres of towns,
perfect for walks and inspiring for those who want new ideas for their own
garden or balcony.
In time, gardens have come to be expected. When the
first council estates were built, fruit trees and berry bushes were of course
included. And in the 60s when the welfare state began to become established and
people had more holiday, the Sunday excursions went to Norrviken’s gardens in Båstad
and the flower garden in Blekinge’s Eringsboda.
In Helsingborg, King Gustav VI Adolf, together with
his first wife, the English Crown Princess Margaret, put Sofiero on the map thanks
to its designed flower borders and rhododendron plantations, and in the 90s a
garden party started there that attracted many followers.
Today, the towns and cities in Sweden compete to redesign
their old parks, maybe thanks to Enköping, which was the first, attracting the
Dutch Piet Oudolf to create beautiful perennial plantations in the centre of
the town. Enköping has become world-famous and has gained followers, including Sölvesborg
and Skärholmen. Thanks to its year as Culture Capital, Umeå has a new park
designed by the city’s son, Ulf Nordfjell. Gardens make a difference and have
come to be expected.
Today, an increasing number of private individuals also
open their own gardens. Every other year, the event A Thousand Gardens is held when
all kinds of gardens are shown in a single day, and many other events around
Sweden inspire us to show our own green worlds – to create desire and give inspiration.
“This is how I do it, welcome in and have a look!” When A Thousand Gardens was
last organised, almost 700 gardens opened. Skåne and Småland are the provinces
with most open private gardens.
It is of course particularly nice when there are new
public gardens that want to be on show. In summer 2014, Karin and Carl Larsson’s
garden in Sundborn in Dalarna opened in a new guise. The garden has been
recreated as it was 100 years ago with plants typical of the time. In June the
same summer, the then Minister for Culture opened Astrid Lindgren’s Näs, a new
open garden with space for culture and debate, seriousness and humour.
The garden is an important part of our cultural heritage and emphasises the history
and people. Gardens are important and involve everyone. As a tourist, you should
be able to go anywhere in our long country and there should always be a garden
to visit. Maybe a private one or an allotment area, a town or city park, a churchyard,
a collection of trees or just a small green patch to sit on and enjoy the
scents of the flowers.
Gardens have become a popular movement and a sort of
general education. Through others, we learn more about our own green places on
earth. That the garden is a place of relaxation and tranquillity is nothing new,
but that there are now so many places to enjoy them is fantastic. And that the
number continues to grow is even better, for the sake of people and the
Text: Gunnel Carlson