Whether it’s through reading this blog or from following my Instagram profile, you’ve probably realised by now that my love for all things Nordic doesn’t stop at my front door. My garden too is very much influenced by the design style I love.
Even though we live several hundred miles away, it hasn’t stopped my husband and I bringing lots of inspiration home with us from our many trips; recreating, to the best of our abilities, a little Nordic oasis in the heart of South Liverpool.
So, in the absence of yet another holiday this summer I have been consoling myself with a virtual tour of the most stunning gardens thanks to Finnish journalist, writer and content creator, Johanna Vireaho and her latest book, ‘Nordic Garden Design’.
Johanna recently took time out of her busy day to chat more with me about the book, her own garden design journey and how plants, florals and interiors are a constant source of inspiration to her too.
Here’s what she had to tell me:
When did you first discover your passion for plants, and how have great Nordic gardens influenced you ever since?
My love for plants and flowers began as a young child. We lived in a rural area, which was surrounded by meadows all filled with amazing wildflowers and there was a local flower farm nearby too.
The farmer would regularly dump waste cut flowers and bulbs, so me, my sister and cousins always ran to take a look whenever we saw his truck passing by. We would gather up as much as we could carry, making bouquets and planting hundreds of tulip and daffodil bulbs in my Mum’s garden.
My Uncle and Godfather was a keen gardener too, professionally growing annuals and veggies, and it was he who taught me a lot about the different varieties and what growing techniques to use. But it was only when my husband and I bought our family home that my serious gardening career and a lifetime of plant adventures began.
Over the years I have been fortunate to see so many amazing Nordic gardens through my work: some glorious, some humble but all with a great spirit and feeling. Each one making a lasting influence on my thinking.
What for you constitutes a great Nordic garden, what characteristics where you looking for when writing your book?
In the Nordic region, it is viewed as a privilege to live so close to nature, and as a result we have an enormous respect for our surroundings, whether that’s forests, lakes, fields, or mountains.
Our gardens therefore are an extension of this landscape and nature is an integral part of them. The gardens included in the book all have this in common, no matter where in the world they are.
In the book, garden photographer Hanna Marttinen and I, also wanted to include interviews with leading garden experts and designers on specific themes. For example, we spoke to Petteri Masalin, the Creative Design Lead at Fiskars Group about garden tool design as well as environmental biologist, landscape designer, horticulturist, and researcher Taina Suonio on biodiversity.
In 2019 Taina was the first ever Finnish designer and first ever Nordic female designer to showcase her work at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Her ‘The Roots in Finland Kyrö Garden’ was awarded a Silver-gilt, and afterwards the garden was incorporated into the existing garden of the Finnish Embassy in Belgravia.
Do you think there are similarities between how Nordic homes and gardens are designed?
In both our homes, and our gardens we love simple forms, functionality and natural elements. Whether we live in an old wooden house or a modern style apartment, we always try to live in peace with nature, and not to work against it.
In the Nordic countries our daily lives have always been heavily influenced by this close relationship with nature and the impact the seasons have on it. As a result, now more than ever, biodiversity and sustainability are becoming increasingly important.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to bring Nordic style to their own garden design?
Nordic gardens go beyond trends, they take time and are carefully executed, using the highest quality materials.
When it comes to the hard landscaping celebrate the natural beauty found in the granite, gravel or timber you are investing in. Let your planting be simple, soft and wild, again drawing inspiration from the world around you. That could be rolling hills and meadows or a pine forest thick with ferns and moss.
Finally keep your garden clutter free. Throughout Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland we do not decorate our gardens with an abundance of decorative items, instead we bring in elements such as outdoor showers and saunas, which are characteristic of the Nordic lifestyle.
What are your top recommendations for garden lovers visiting Finland?
I would recommend visiting the Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden, it is one of Helsinki’s most popular visitor attractions and situated very close to the city centre. Its glasshouses and surrounding grounds offer nature lovers a unique experience all year round.
Also, Annala Manor Park, with its mansion house, public park and historic gardens, the Haaga Rhododendron Park and the Mustila Arboretum, which is a very special forest park less than two hours from Helsinki.
Thank you so much to Johanna for chatting with me and hopefully it won’t be too long before I can visit her recommendations for myself.
The Nordic Garden Design book is printed by Cozy Publishing and available to buy now from the Finnish Design Shop, priced £32. To find out more about Johanna visit her website or follow her on Instagram.
Like this post? Then read more about how I used a trip to Copenhagen to influence my own garden.
Image 2 courtesy of Johanna Vireaho, all other images by Nicola Capper.