Simon’s castle garden attracts green tourism
Gardener and landscape architect Simon Irvine has managed the castle garden at Läckö Slott with great success for over three decades. What does Simon have to say about West Sweden's growing garden tourism, and what are the qualities of the green plant kingdoms in this area?
Castle Garden and Flower appeal
Simon Irvine is the gardener and designer who has worked for 30 years at Lilla Slottsträdgården (The Little Castle Garden) at Läckö Slott outside Lidköping. He is also an author, photographer and garden designer with commissions in all the Nordic countries. How does Simon Irvine view the increasingly popular garden tourism in West Sweden?
- The growing international awareness of garden culture may now allow us to raise more interest. It is always fun to meet other people that have gardens as a hobby. A garden is a cultural activity, not a place. This idea has now become a movement across the whole of Europe: creating a growing meeting place. The theme of gardens is a good way for visitors to see what distinguishes West Sweden from the rest of Europe, with our special conditions and unique places. The difference is local climates, but ambitions are very similar. The result is dependent on geographical conditions and the individuals. When visiting open gardens we can also see the person behind the plants, and such personal meetings are often what encourages people involved in this area.
What defines a typical garden in West Sweden ? There is no simple answer to this question, because even though the landscapes here have clear characteristics, they also have a rich diversity of species and include almost all of Sweden's plant zones. Garden enthusiasts often talk about the Coastline & Cottage Gardens in Bohuslän, Woodland in Dalsland and Meadow in Västergötland. The essence of gardens in West Sweden are their summer meadow flowers, honeysuckle, roses, lilac arbours and tough perennials. There are fragrant heathers and junipers, birch, old fruit trees, berry bushes and round-pole fences. The granite and water of Bohuslän are natural features in many gardens.
What are the special qualities of our West Sweden gardens?
- There is a major focus on summer gardens in Sweden. There are very few staff during the winter at the castle garden at Läckö Slott, so the period from March to October involves a lot of work. As a garden designer, I must first consider the prevailing climate, water supply and the possibilities in different parts of West Sweden. Bohuslän has a poor water supply so the planted areas will occasionally dry out, and this must be planned for. I personally would also choose plants that can withstand the coast’s salty winds. The further east from the coast, inland toward the Dalsland woodlands, there is more earth to grow plants in. Rhododendron, more robust perennials, roses and similar plants thrive here.
- The castle garden at Läckö Slott is on rocky ground, but we have the whole of lake Vänern as a reservoir so it is always green and lush. Everything we cultivate in the castle garden goes to our restaurants. Guests can taste the vegetables after they have been refined in different ways. It’s part of our overall concept of offering delicacies from the region, from its farms, gardens, lakes and forests, and all on site.
What are the most important creative issues in the garden?
- I work with what is close at hand: the climate, the soil, the rock types and the local plants. I am definitely not a “bulldozer-designer” who clears large areas to create something completely new. Environmental awareness is my motto. My gardens have always needed the presence of people and care over a long period of time. I developed the plans for Läckö Slott garden in the winter of 1989 - it’s always felt like “my own garden” with a 50-year plan. Well, we’re already 30 years along the way!
What sort of tips would you like to give to people visiting West Sweden?
Photographer: Petter Magnusson
Photographer: Happy Visuals
Photographer: Lina Ikse Bergman
Photographer: Eva S. Andersson
The green treasure map
The association called Svenska Trädgårdar i Väst (Gardens in West Sweden) has created an interactive treasure map of gardens that are open to the public in West Sweden. The name of the website is Trädgårdsresan (Garden Journey) and it describes gardens you can visit at castles, manor houses and farms, in garden landscapes and cultural environments. The list also includes a number of smaller private gardens. Enjoy the green diversity of West Sweden with some coffee and cakes or an organic lunch among roses and fruit trees. Look through the locally produced foods, arts and crafts in the farm shops and you’ll find enough plant power to last you all year round!