Sofias Country Gardens
Gunnebo Palace and Gardens
If you happen to be visiting Göteborg on the west coast of Sweden, you will find there are some lovely gardens near by that are absolutely worth a visit. One of them is Gunnebo house and gardens, a beautifully restored 18th century estate with one of Swedens best preserved baroque gardens.
The house was designed by the architect Carl Wilhelm Carlberg and built by merchant John Hall, and much of the gardens originate from the same era.
Closest to the house lies the formal gardens, a delightful harmony of symmetrical plantings in the style of Italian renaissance and French baroque that were inspired by Carlbergs travels abroad. The original drawings have acted as the basis for the extensive renovation work, started in 1946 and continuing until this day. The lawns are laid out and maintained in accordance with 18th century practices, a fact that I found utterly charming. In the very beginning lawns were often grass dug up from grassland fields and transplanted in the gardens, inspired by the large park landscapes made popular in England. Still today the lawns in the formal gardens are cut by scythe, and as filled with little native flowers as they would have been back in the time before weedkillers were even invented.
At Gunnebo there are two kitchen gardens, the Old Kitchen Garden that lies between the house and the old servants quarters (which now houses the restaurant) and the New Kitchen Garden which is situated by the entrance to the estate (close to the parking lot). Both vegetable gardens adhere to organic gardening principles as in accordance with the Swedish KRAV regulations. KRAV is Swedens most utilised organic food label, with 98% of consumers recognising it. It aims not only to promote food produced in an environmentally friendly way, but also to reduce the use of nanoparticles and environmentally harmful packing material, increase biodiversity, enhance animal welfare and reduce climate impact, so in many ways it is a far stricter organic food label than most.
The Old Kitchen Garden is not an exact replica of an 18th century kitchen garden, but more a modern interpretation of what such a garden could have looked like. It is planted in a slightly whimsical pattern with an exuberant mix of vegetables, herbs and cut flowers in deep borders that are edged with robust timber frames. There is little bare soil visible in the beds; in most places a thick layer of mulch preserves the moisture and keeps the weeds at bay. All along the back fence pear trees have been espaliered, with varieties such as Autumn Bergamot pear, Fikon pear, Espargne, Fullerö, Swedish sockerpäron, Taffel pear and Windsor represented.
Next to the old servants quarters a new greenhouse has been built, and infront of this lies the large New Kitchen Garden. The New Kitchen Garden focuses on being a more true representation of what a vegetable garden from the 1700s would have looked like, and therefor mainly heritage variety vegetables are cultivated in it. It is still a young garden, with dainty fruit trees and young berry bushes enhancing the geometrical pattern of the layout. Because the vegetables are used in Gunnebo restaurant, the planting scheme is each year considered in collaboration between gardeners and chefs. To maintain soil health the garden follows a 6 year crop rotation scheme in the vegetable beds, which is actually a far more complicated pattern than the often used 4 year rota.
To finish off a perfect day out, there is a beautiful gift shop housed in one of the little buildings next to the gardens. Everything in the shop is so immensely aesthetically pleasing that it is almost impossible to go home without a souvenir. But then, sometimes it's ok to indulge!