Book review – by Alice


New Nordic gardensNew Nordic gardens, Scandinavian Landscape Design by Annika Zetterman.  Published by Thames and Hudson March 2017. ISBN 978-0-500-51945-5.

This is a specialist book that I’d happily recommend to anyone – perhaps best appreciated over a cup of coffee with sockerkaka or glass of Jordgubbar Absolut.

“We see beauty in the bare and the exposed, and treat materials with the utmost respect. The definition of sustainability, a word used widely today, has always been fundamental to Scandinavian identity. We have had to work hard in a harsh environment, and everything had to be made to last”. Annika Zetterman.

A richly illustrated reference and / or coffee table book which will be of interest to anyone who is interested in Scandinavian as a region, the landscape, travel and the influence of design since the mid twentieth century.

This book explores the basis of Scandinavian design looking at key themes of planting, materials and lighting that gives a real sense and “simplicity… underlying a common of values and beliefs shared across Scandinavia” of the Nordic landscape and highlighting the difficulties and opportunities  associated with the harsh conditions and limitations of daylight.

The combined qualities of water, forests and rock are intrinsically intertwined in the Nordic way of living and the variety of case examples throughout this book did not disappoint.

Each chapter explains one distinct characteristic of Scandinavian design, showing how it can be applied to designing contemporary gardens and outdoor living spaces.

The simple, clean lines and the use of expressive, relaxed planting comes across from the photographs – species that would be considered quite common to the UK but when combined with the natural materials results in a slightly familiar look but with a slight twist.

Two particular examples stand out: a garden hewn out of the natural granite rock surrounded by forest planting in contrast to the simple, clean lines of timber decking and outdoor pool  and the second  a beautiful and simply constructed ‘Ipe’ hardwood footbridge and stairway winding its way down the rock face to a landing stage extending out on the fjord – just two of the many examples  illustrating the close relationship between outdoor living spaces and nature, which lies at the heart of the Scandinavian lifestyle and psyche.

Having spent time in Sweden during childhood holidays this inspirational book not only captures the essence of the designed landscape around homes and courtyards but also includes a useful plant species list and makes reference to one of my favourite (and under specified) trees – the Swedish Birch Betula pendula ‘Dalecarlica’ – the national tree of Sweden.  Named after being discovered in 1767 growing in the Swedish province of Dalarna ‘Dalecarlica’ is a slender tree with pendulous branches growing up to 7m in height with graceful with deeply cut mid green, slightly feathery foliage turning yellow in autumn. The bark is a very distinctive silvery white and a nice alternative to the more usual Betula utilis var. jacqumontii.

If you visit Sweden the province of Dalarna is well worth a visit, if only to see Birch on mass and the production of Sweden’s famous hand-carved Dala horses in the brightly decorated painted folk style. They come in all sizes from miniature and life-size – which I remember sitting on – to much larger works of public art!1540px-Dalahäst_i_avesta

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