The Swedish way of designing gardens

Ulf Nordfjell. Picture: PA Photo/Handout.
Ulf Nordfjell. Picture: PA Photo/Handout.

Swedish design goes much further than Ikea, thanks to Swedish garden designers like Ulf Nordfjell, who is preparing for his forthcoming show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, writes Hannah Stephenson.

Yet it is possible to bring Swedish design to your own garden, giving it a more contemporary feel with clean lines and good use of symmetry.

Ulf explains: “Sweden doesn’t really have the same tradition as the UK in terms of its gardening. England has a much richer history with many different styles, ranging from old and traditional to extremely modern.

“In Sweden we favour clean, simple lines and like to create the feeling of space. Most notably, Swedish gardens must be adaptable to the harsh climate, so we use materials that can cope with that such as granite, concrete, timber and steel.

“We have extreme winters and long summer days and so have to carefully select plants that can cope with these conditions. In the summer when it stays light until late, you can go out and do your gardening at 3am.”

He observes that sharp lines can emphasise any structures in the garden and are unusual as they are so rare in nature.

“One way to do this is by pruning hedges. In the Laurent-Perrier garden, I have pruned quercus hedges, which are underlined by low walls of travertine. These draw the attention to the pergola, where there is an elegant water feature.

“Water can be a great way to add character to your garden. It adds movement and you can easily build around it. You can be creative and choose a sculpture or piece of art for added interest.

His favourite British plants include Anemone ‘White Swan’, Iris germanica, stipa grasses and taxus (yew) hedges.

His Chelsea show garden will be a contemporary take on a romantic garden, acknowledging the heritage of the family-owned Laurent-Perrier champagne house while incorporating a modern elegance.

He has chosen simple materials such as stone, wood and metal, complemented by perennials in a colour palette of soft pinks and blues, as well as creamy oranges, yellows and whites.

Perennials will be planted in blocks in different layers, including iris, viola, dianthus, stipa and verbascum in full sun and thalictrum, gillenia, aruncus and anemones in half shade.