Whether it's cruising in the UNESCO listed Geirangerfjord, marvelling at the Northern Lights in winter, wandering through the quietness of a conifer forest, or soaking up a garden filled with short-summer perennials, Norway offers a unique travel experience. Its Viking past is a major part of Western European and especially British history.
Norway's emergence as one of the greenest, most ecologically sustainable countries in the world means that there are also many innovative environmental solutions to see, such as extensive green roofs.
Garden Travel Guide to Norway
written by Louise McDaid, garden writer, editor, designer – LSM Design
Getting to Norway and around while you’re there
There are several international airports in Norway – Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, Moss, Sandefjord and Kristinsand in the south and Trondheim in the north. Oslo is a 2:20 flight from London, 7:25 from New York and 7:05 from Dubai. Asian destinations require a stop in either the Middle east or further south in Europe.
International ferries operate from Denmark, Sweden and Germany and there are local ferries that service both the network of islands and towns along the west coast. Fast trains connect major cities and towns have a local bus service. Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim also have local trams.
Driving in Norway is easy on good quality roads but driving in the more mountainous areas, with its very changeable weather, can be dangerous for the inexperienced. Norway now has a large number of environmentally-friendly plug-in electric cars powered by hydro electricity.
The major issue for travelling in Norway is the high cost of hotels and food.
Norway topography and vegetation
Norway is to the west of Sweden, between the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, with 25,148 km (15,626 miles) of coastline. Its topography is varied with high plateaus and rugged, glaciated mountain ranges that are separated by fertile valleys and plains. Its rugged coastline is made up of many fjords with isolated islands.
Much is blanketed by snow over winter, but spring sees alpine meadows bloom. Forest covers about a quarter of Norway’s land, both deciduous forests (mostly in the south) and coniferous. The highland areas and to the far north is tundra which is treeless but has dwarf shrubs and wildflowers. There are about 2,000 flowering plants that grow in Norway.
Climate of Norway
Norway’s climate varies from its southernmost point to its northernmost, a span of 13 degrees of latitude. Average temperatures vary from 16°C in July in Oslo to -10°C in January in the north. Norway receives 500-3000mm of rain per year, mostly falling along the coastal areas. Inland and eastern parts are drier. Norway has midnight sun in the summer months and no sunshine at all during winter.
Best time to visit Norway
Most visitors to Norway go in summer when there is endless daylight and pleasant temperatures. Summer is at its peak late June to early August with long days, short nights, and often quite stable and pleasant temperatures. Spring generally begins in May, prior to that many places are still in deep winter with the ski season running from November to April. Visit Norway in mid-summer to experience the midnight sun.
Norway garden style
Gardens open to visit in Norway are mostly Botanical Gardens which are interesting for their displays of local species, with trees such as birch, Norway spruce (Picea abies), pine, rowan, aspen, oak, hazel and cherry; perennial saxifrages, Aconitum, Anemone, Hepatica, Dryas, Trollius and many species of ferns, mosses and lichens.
In southern Norway, spring is heralded by the blooming of Hepatica nobilis var nobilis (blåveis) through the woods in late February and you can also see Norwegian wildflowers in meadows above 1500m from late July such as near Leirvassbu in central Norway. In autumn/fall, hillsides are covered with blooming heather (røsslyng – Calluna vulgaris)
Norway’s attraction is the country itself – its landscapes and nature. It has an abundance of fjords, islands, forests, mountains, waterfalls and lakes. Its botanical gardens feature alpine plant collections.
Best gardens to see in Norway
• Hovelsrud Farm and Garden, Helgøya – award-winning house and garden restored to its 1840’s splendour in a stunning lakeside setting. Formal garden with paths, fruit trees and shrubs, gazebo and fountains, large kitchen garden with popular plants from 1800s. Garden open Sundays, June to September.
• Flor & Fjære, Stavanger – blossoming garden with exotic plants and palms, 50,000 flowers planted to bloom each summer for an explosion of colour. Open from early May to late September. On the Island of Sor-Hidle located in a fjord, visits include a fjord boating experience.
• Stavanger Botanic Garden – 12 hectares of colourful perennial flower gardens and parkland, herb garden featuring medicinal and culinary plants
• Arboretum and Botanical Garden, University of Bergen, Milde – 7 hectare garden set within the university arboretum with Norway’s largest collection of roses, heather garden, peony garden, useful plants garden, Japanese garden and alpine garden
• Oslo Botanical Garden, Oslo – founded in 1814, displays a wide variety of plants from Norway and around the world, approx. 5500 different plant species. Scented garden, palm house, waterfalls and large rock garden with 1450 alpine species are among the highlights.
• Ringve Botanical Garden – 32 acre garden opened in 1973 at the University. Arboretum, Historic Park, Old Perennials, Rennaisance Garden, Systematic Garden and Ornamental Beds.
• Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden – at the University Museum, displays of small and colourful arctic species and plants from alpine and cold areas around the world. The Garden has 25 collections, of note are Saxifrage, Gentian, and Primula families, the Arctic, Himalaya, southernmost South America, and plants from old gardens in North Norway.
• Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo – the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland, showing more than 200 of his works in bronze, granite and wrought iron. He also designed the architectural layout of the park, completed between 1939 and 1949.
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