Sweden has dazzling fairy-tale gardens to see surrounding Baroque and Renaissance palaces and castles, many large and interesting botanical gardens, green city parks very popular with locals, and exciting street art in Malmö. Sweden was also the home of Carl Linnaeus, one of the world’s most noted scientists, responsible for developing a system of plant taxonomy still in use today.
Garden Travel Guide to Sweden
written by Louise McDaid, garden writer, editor, designer – LSM Design
Sweden Topography and Vegetation
Sweden is located on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden is bordered by Norway to the west, Finland to the east, and it is on the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia.
Sweden is made up of thousands of coastal islands, forests and mountains, with inland lakes dotting the flat to rolling spreading lowlands. The mountains lie to the west with the highest point, Kebnekaise at 2,111m (6,926 feet). There are tracts of vast deep green wilderness to sparse arctic landscapes. Over half the trees are coniferous with the southern areas also having deciduous trees. Higher mountain elevations have aspen, mountain ash, and birch with native species of various types throughout the country. The forests are rich in berries, including lingonberries and blueberries, and mushrooms.
Climate of Sweden
The climate of Sweden is temperate in the south and subarctic in the north. From about late May until mid-July, sunlight lasts around the clock in the north. During this period Stockholm, in the south, has only a few hours of semi-darkness. On the other hand, in mid-December it has only about 5.5 hours of daylight, with areas in the north having 20 hours of darkness.
Sweden enjoys a favourable climate for its location. It is generally considered mild but changeable. In the south, snowfall is irregular and average January temperatures range between −5 and 0 °C (23 and 32 °F). Coastal waters seldom freeze. In the northern interior there is heavy snow for up to eight months.
Summer temperatures vary less than winter, although summer is shorter in the north than the south. “Spring” arrives in Skåne during February but not until late May in northernmost Norrland. The mean July temperature in Haparanda is 15 °C (59 °F), and in Malmo 17 °C (63 °F). Annual rainfall in Sweden is 600mm, mostly in late summer and autumn.
Sweden’s Garden Style
Sweden has many interesting gardens to visit. Many castles were built during the 18th and 19th centuries, surrounding parklands and attached formal gardens. Often located by the sea or lake shores, they are particularly picturesque in their setting and make fascinating and enjoyable places to visit.
Many Swedish parks established in the mid-1800s created the foundations for today’s beautiful recreational spaces in town and city centres. In the mid-20th century Sweden became a leader in the development of modern gardens, with landscapes being influenced with contemporary concepts and designs which continues today.
There exists a garden tradition in Sweden, its roots lying in the country’s European cultural heritage. Swedish private gardens are generally informal, with gardeners taking their inspiration from nature and displaying their passion for flowers. Although Sweden has a cool climate, many flowering perennials flourish in the south and centre of the country. More recently, Swedes have also become very interested in growing edible plants that fruit in a short summer, such as goji berries.
There is a thriving community of garden visitors, who each year flock to private and public parks and gardens. The major public gardens have the recently formed Swedish Society of Public Parks and Gardens promoting Sweden’s garden heritage from forest landscapes in the north to the formal palace gardens of the south.
Swedish landscape designer Ulf Nordfjell won a Gold Medal and Best in Show at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2009.
Best time to visit gardens in Sweden
The ideal time to visit Sweden is from June to August which are the warmest months. All the cafes and attractions, including open-air museums and gardens, are open. Interestingly, except for special occasions, the major cultural venues in Sweden such as the opera, dance, ballet, and theatre, shut down in summer.
Summer also is the most expensive time to fly to Sweden, as this is peak season. Spring is worth considering, May to June in Sweden, as it is a very pretty time to visit with the countryside bursting into colour with wildflowers. Visit in winter to see the northern lights.
Best gardens to see in Sweden
Best gardens to see and visit in Stockholm
• Drottningholm Palace – Sweden’s best preserved royal palace built to French prototype in the 17th century. The permanent residence of the royal family, there is a beautiful park and Baroque garden dating from 1681. Open to visitors year round.
• Haga Park – also known as Gustavian Park, it’s a very popular green pleasure garden in the style of an ‘English park’ with beautiful avenues and interesting historic buildings such as the Sultan’s copper tent from 1787 and Haga Palace.
• Humlegården – major park in Ostermalm began as a royal garden growing fruit, spices and hops. A popular public park since 1869, it has a statue of Carl Linnaeus and is the site of the State Library.
• Millesgården – the home of sculptor Carl Milles with a studio, sculpture park and art gallery. His most significant works are here plus art collection, and mosaics and décor created in his home. The famous Milles flower pot replicas in museum shop.
• Skansen Open Air Museum, Djurgården – the world’s oldest open-air museum founded in 1891, Skansen features 5 centuries of Swedish buildings, including many farmhouses surrounded by period-style gardens.
• Princes Eugens Waldemarsudde Park and Gardens – 70,000 square metres of estate on the sea-approach to Stockholm, richly vegetated with deciduous trees and the grounds include rocks, sandy inlets and meadows. Flowers grown in the garden and in the estate hothouses are used indoors in magnificent floral displays that are still assembled in accordance with the instructions of the Prince.
• Rosendals Garden Foundation (Rosendals Trädgård) – a large market and biodynamic edibles farm-to-fork garden, with cafe and bakery. The Foundation also runs workshops and children’s gardening projects. Open Tuesday – Sunday Feb-April and Oct-Dec, open every day through May-Sept.
• Tantolunden – a large park by Årstaviken on the island of Södermalm with more than 100 allotment gardens and sheds with creative carpentry and gardening since 1915.
• Stockholm City Hall – National Romantic style of architecture on the shore of Riddarfjarden Lake with superb south-facing garden in the Arts and Crafts style. Proportion and detail are key elements.
• Ulriksdal Palace – on the banks of Edviken Lake in the National City Park, built in the 1600s. Visitors to the Orangery can wander freely amongst the exotic plants and sculptures.
• Woodland Cemetery, Stockholm – cemetery blending nature and architecture in the early 1900’s was award World Heritage status for its unique qualities. Design centres around a Nordic woodland experience. Visitors welcome year round.
Best gardens to visit in Malmö
• Castle Garden (Slottsparken) – an organic garden behind the Malmö Museum with inspiration and tranquility. Nursery with plants for sale, 400-500 species grown and open year round.
• Dania Park – a seaside park in a modern neighbourhood of Malmö, fronting onto Oresund Strait that separates Sweden from Denmark. Creative changes in ground levels, grassed areas and steps into the water.
• Katrinetorp Manor – in an idyllic, lush green setting near the Öresund Bridge. Built in the 1800s made up of gardens and an English landscape park. Katrinetorp is one of the best-preserved Empire style manors in Sweden. Baroque ornamental, rose, kitchen, conservatory gardens and English landscape park.
Best gardens to visit in Gothenburg (Göteborg)
• Garden Society – since 1842 and is Sweden’s oldest public park. Typical 19th century and is now listed. Thousands of roses, carpet beddings, lush woodlands and 1878 palm house.
• Gothenburg Botanical Garden – 175-hectare early 20th century botanic garden with 16,000 different species, nature reserve and arboretum. The actual garden is 40 ha. Highlights are the Rock Garden, Rhododendron Valley and Japanese Glade.
• Tjolöholm Castle – built in 1898-1904, mix of 14th century English style, Art Noveau and innovative design features. Nearly 30 buildings, several beautiful gardens on a peninsula with rich flora and fauna with walking routes through oak forests and beach meadows.
• Urban farms – the urban farming movement has exploded in Gothenburg in recent years and the city has become renowned as Sweden’s best city for urban farming. Guided tours are becoming available to the city’s urban farms and gardens to meet some of the pioneers.
• Public Parks – Gothenburg has many parks of various sizes and characters, some are natural green areas, others action spaces, others smaller parks for relaxation and views over the city and archipelago.
Other gardens to visit in Sweden
• Apotekarns Garden, Simrishamn – on the coast of the Baltic Sea, this is a Mediterranean style oasis with lavender, fig and olive trees and grapes created in 2002. Garden, furnishings, tiles and accommodation.
• Bergius Botanic Gardens, Brunnsviken – on the island of Ornö (south-east of Stockholm). Herb garden, Italian garden, Japanese garden, mountain garden with alpine plants, high-vaulted Edvard Andersen Conservatory.
• Blå Huset, Borrby – a blue house with a contemporary garden and nursery specialising in perennials. Described as a plant lover’s oasis filled with creativity and fun, 8 years old. Half planted with drought resistant perennials and shrubs, the other half hydrangea, heuchera and peonies.
• City Park, Enköping – several hundred varieties of perennials, bulbs and ornamental grasses are generously used over large areas with interesting trees and shrubs.
• Ericsberg Castle, Ericsberg – one of Sweden’s best preserved baroque castles with park and lake. Collection of Swedish trees, exotic plants featuring Fritillaria meleagris in the Spring Garden, a labyrinth and Orangery.
• Fredriksdal Museums and Gardens, Helsingborg – open-air museum with 18th century mansion, historical buildings and a working farm set in a unique landscape spread out over several gardens, parks and fields. Flowers and plants from the region, a rose collection, historical kitchen and herb gardens and various meadows and pastures.
• Garden Society, Linkoping – the Horticultural Society was founded here in 1859 to create a public park in the city, and get the people interested in gardening. 13-acre oasis of lush gardens in the city centre.
• Gunnebo House and Gardens, Moindal – beautiful restored 18th century estate originally built as a summer residence, designed by Carl Wilhelm Carlberg, town architect of Gothenburg.
• Gronsoo Manor, Enkoping – built in 1611 and surrounded by gardens from the beginning, thereby offering a view of Swedish garden history. Traces and structures can be observed from at least five different time periods.
• Hovdala Manor Park and Orangery, Hässleholm – a park and kitchen garden enclosed by a hornbeam hedge and late 18th century orangery. Plants chosen for both cultural and historical characteristics.
• Kulturcentrum Järna, Sormland – or the Garden Park, is unique place where art meets garden and agriculture. Evolved from farmland with Bruno Liljefors’ love of the wild nature; from Nils Nilsson construction of gardens, pathways and plantations; from Arne Klingborg’s enthusiasm for art. Landmark James Turrell permanent installation “Sky Space”.
• Linnetradgarden (Linnaeus Garden), Uppsala – Linnaeus became director of what was then the most northerly botanic garden in the world. The house where he lived is in the garden and is now a museum with the restored garden.
• Norrvikens Gardens, Båstad – villa and garden influenced by Italian style also with English gardens. Regarded as a Swedish example of the Arts and Crafts style.
• Carl Larsson Garden, Sundborn – the home of artists Carl and Karin Larsson with renowned garden is Sweden’s most famous home. Guided daily tours of the house and garden from May to September.
• Rottneros Park, Värmland – manor with surrounding natural parks, innovative garden design and over 100 mostly Swedish sculptures in an exciting combination. Contemporary garden design and art meet tradition.
• Sofiero Palace and Gardens, Helsingborg – 19th century palace, the summer residence of Gustaf VI Adolf whose interest in rhododendrons resulted in a collection of over 500 species. Gardens full of flowers and plants, celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2016.
• Stora Hyttnäs Garden, Sundborn – 19th century garden of the Linderdahl family next to Carl Larsson’s home. The house is now a museum with separate garden rooms; ornamental garden, kitchen garden, meadow and woodland.
• Tirups Örtagård (Tirup’s Herb Garden), Staffanstorp – nursery with a herb garden in two sections with over 600 species. Older part with soft shapes of old-fashioned perennials, the newer part is stricter with plants divided in terms of colour.
• Uppsala Botanic Garden – 17th century botanic garden in baroque style, formerly attached to the royal palace.
• Wanås Konst, Knislinge – a place where art, nature, and history meet. Wanås includes a medieval castle, an organic farm, an organic café, a picturesque sculpture park with over 50 permanent works, and an art gallery.
• Wij Garden, Ockelbo – natural, simple aesthetic in this vibrant sensory garden. Roses, herbs, vegetables, with sustainable practices.
Garden shows, festivals and events in Sweden
• Malmö Garden Show, Malmö, Sweden – held over three days in spring, around the time of Chelsea Flower Show, this year it was 27-29 May 2016. Garden and balcony exhibitions, international designers, innovative ideas, garden market, workshops. Held in the attractive park behind Malmohus Castle, Scandinavia’s oldest Rennaissance castle.
• Gothenburg Green World 2016, Gothenburg, Sweden – a year of amazing green experiences in the city’s premier parks, from traditional garden art and unique botanical exhibitions to organic farming, pop up green installations, and concept gardens.
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