Gardens of Sweden – towards Gothenburg

Guest writer, Susie White, concludes her three-part series on Sweden’s Gardens. In this third part she visits Jonsered Manor and Sammels Farm.

I had a sunny breakfast outside Naturum watching the geese on Lake Vanern before heading south again towards Gothenburg. I was looking forward to revisiting the garden that I designed two years ago for Jonsered Manor and to meeting up again with Head Gardener Peter Svenson.

Jonsered Manor is a large white mansion that is used by the University of Gothenburg. It stands overlooking a lake with gardens laid out on a slope. I wrote about how I came to be involved in making a garden for Reckless Gardener

Divided into four sections, the main area at Jonsered has a rose garden designed by Peter who is a well known rosarian. He grows many of his favourite highly scented roses including the very pretty double pink spinossissima cultivar ‘Poppius’ from about 1850 and named after a Finnish botanist Dr Poppius. The other areas are a formal garden, a vegetable garden with observation bee hive and the classic English garden that I designed.

As with every day of my visit, it was very hot! Although at Jonsered it can be very frosty in winter, plants in the garden here also have to be able to withstand heat in this bowl in the land. It’s much like my own garden which has seen a swing of nearly 50 degrees and was shown on BBC Gardeners’ World as an example to gardening with extremes of temperature! That was what gave me an insight into what I could plan for Jonsered.

The angelica grew tall above my head and was covered in pollinating insects. Pale yellow lupins and foxgloves were in their prime and the peonies were in full flower. Ladies mantle spilled over the path, the original sweet pea ‘Cupani’ was starting to climb up hazel poles and the leaves of Actaea ‘Brunette’ shone a rich chocolate colour.

The garden, as in all the gardens on my trip, was full of painted lady butterflies. They rose in pale clouds from the wide lines of catmint that run down the centre of the garden, an idea of Peter’s for calling to mind what was once a water feature.

Two new gardens had been added since my previous visit – a humorous garden with the large leaves of rhubarb growing next to a little wooden net and a white garden by Anna Mannheimer.

We had fika in the greenhouse area of the garden. This Swedish tradition is not just about the cinnamon buns but about giving a moment of pause within the day and bringing people together. At Gunnebo Castle garden, all the craftspeople have fika together, a time for chatting things ove and taking decisions.

My last garden was one that opens for the Trädgårdsresan scheme and a complete contrast, being a small private garden created in just the last few years from farmland. Sammels Farm is near Landvetter airport so if you fly to Gothenburg it’s possible to fit in a visit. It’s been a family farm since 1856 and the Samuelsson family have lived and worked here for five generations. They are skilled and self-sufficient being able to turn their hands to anything including furniture making and house building.

Christopher Samuelsson showed me around, explaining how he had made the network of small gardens, paths, walls and meadows. (pictured above) It’s a place of discoveries, of not knowing when you follow a path quite where it will lead to and has some delightful quirky features. It was also one of the bee-noisiest gardens that I have been in, the right plants attracting bees from their six hives as well as a mass of bumble bees and butterflies.

As stones were ploughed from the land, Christopher used them to make terraces on what was a slope below the wooden house. Paths are also made from salvaged stones with rock plants growing in the cracks between them. There’s a meadow with ox eye daisies and other wildflowers but also crocuses, tulips and irises followed by alliums and oriental poppies, enclosed by the traditional Swedish fence of slanted wooden poles. (pictured below)

It was another lawn,” said Christopher, “but I got tired of pushing the lawnmower.” Without a background in horticulture, he has just experimented which was really refreshing. When he had some saplings and wanted to make a larch and then an oak hedge he was told it couldn’t be done. “I thought I’d just try it anyway,” he said and now there is a series of garden enclosures flourishing within rather unusual hedges. “I learn as I go along,” he added, “and it’s easy when you’re interested to get skill and information.” He is trying out bending trees to form shapes and training beech to make a rectangular tunnel. I was fascinated to see prickly pear, Opuntia, outside and made possible by growing it in sand and siting it amongst stones to hold the heat. We were accompanied round the garden by two of the ten cats.

There were lots of idea in this garden. A line of sea buckthorn grown as standards, Saxifrage ‘Tumbling Waters’ planted in gaps in the tops of the boulder walls, plants normally recommended for shade growing happily in full sun and plants in the nursery plunged in sand to reduce watering. Free range chickens scratched amongst the apple trees; the family have planted 1,000 trees of 15 varieties and aim to double that.

There was something exuberant and spontaneous about Sammels Farm that I really enjoyed. As wet sat in the shade of an apple tree eating cakes made with homemade raspberry jam and whipped cream, it was a lovely relaxing end to my trip around the gardens of West Sweden. (pictured right: lupins in the classic English garden at Jonsered Manor).

I spent the last night at Eggers Hotel in Gothenburg which is right next to the central train station and to the bus station for getting to the airport. Grand yet cosy, it’s one of the oldest hotels in Sweden and with its parquet floors, Oriental carpets, chandeliers and palms in the conservatory it has a delightful nineteenth century feel. Breakfast was delicious, staff very helpful and friendly and it really set me up for the return home.

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Susie White was a guest of Visit Sweden. All images are strictly © Susie White.