The Swedish way of gardening

One of the gardens designed by Ulf Nordfjell. Located in Southern Sweden, the garden is owned by the Hakansson family and is on the Farstorp Estate. Showing his trademark clean lines and soft planting, all of Ulf's gardens are in tune with the local natural surroundings
One of the gardens designed by Ulf Nordfjell. Located in Southern Sweden, the garden is owned by the Hakansson family and is on the Farstorp Estate. Showing his trademark clean lines and soft planting, all of Ulf's gardens are in tune with the local natural surroundings
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Renowned Swedish garden designer Ulf Nordfjell, who is creating the Laurent-Perrier garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, offers tips on how to modernise your garden

Swedish design goes much further than Ikea, thanks to Swedish garden designers including award-winning Ulf Nordfjell, who is currently preparing for his forthcoming show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

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, he says.

“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,” he explains. “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.”

Sharp lines can emphasise any structures in the garden and are unusual as they are so rare in nature. They can also draw the eye to your focal point, he observes.

“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.

“Rather than placing it centrally, French gardeners will often place statues to the side, which creates different areas of interest around the garden.”

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 modern elegance.