• Sofias Country Gardens

Cold climate garden: wild spring flowers


In the cold climate garden, nature is much stronger than on land with centuries of cultivation. Even if there are areas of wilderness in England and Europe, the countryside has been tamed so long ago that nature is more easily kept at bay. In Finland where 78% of the land is covered by forest and 10% with inland lakes and streams, nature with all its might is a constant and invasive force for the gardener to contend with. For me it is very much the charm of cold climate gardening - my garden extends way beyond any boundary and continues into the surrounding woods and fields. Therefore I think of the naturally occurring wildflowers as part of my garden, and each spring they give me so much joy as they suddenly turn up after a long and boring winter when the ground is frozen solid.

My favourite wild flower must be the wild liverwort (Anemone hepatica syn. Hepatica nobilis) that grows in our forests in early spring when almost nothing else dares to flower. It is a rare flower, and as a child I was always told it was a protected species and not to be picked. It is in fact not a protected species in Finland, but in many parts of Sweden it is. There are of course many cultivated varieties that are a joy to have in the garden, but I must admit I love the wild ones just a little bit more.

I do know that the Dandelion is a terrible weed that most people could do without, but luckily for me I am a fan of the wild garden style and so I let it be a welcome inhabitant of my garden. I find the yellow flowers cheery, and although it insists on popping up all over the place (a bit like relatives, really) any annoyance I would feel is offset by the fantastic service it does to the insects of my garden, acting as a free for all eat as much as you can buffet. There really is no better early spring nectar plant than the simple dandelion, and therefore I happily include it on my favourite list here!

In the field below the old farmhouse at Stensund there is a sea of Cowslips (Primula veris) that fill me with joy each spring. Since I started creating a garden around my new house at Humlegård, I have been carefully transplanting some of these plants in the grass between the borders. After a few years in the new location, they have kindly begun to spread and so the population continues to grow. I think they are wonderful! they look like small pom-poms on stalks with lace-cup flowers. Who ever thought to make such a silly flower exist in the wild?

Not quite wild, but neutralised, is the simple pink cottage Aquilegia that has been growing next to the old farmhouse at Stensund since generations back. I have tried collecting seed to increase the stock, but they seem to have a mind of their own and as yet all my attempts to grow them have failed. That said, they seem to multiply by themselves just fine in the area they already inhabit. Perhaps they just like it best at home?

A little bit later, when spring turns to summer, Sticky Catchfly (Silene viscaria) (Lychnis viscaria L.) pops up all over the place in glorious pink drifts. They too grow where they like, and although I would love to have drifts of them appearing at places designated according to my plan, they stubbornly follow their own preferences. Such is the lot with wild flowers, naturally.


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