Sofias Country Gardens
Peder Lamms garden
Last summer I had the joy of visiting antique expert Peder Lamm and his wife Charlotta who live in a beautiful 18th century vicarage in Skåne, Sweden. The house is a pearl, beautifully renovated and furnished with a mix of antiques and modern furniture, set in perfect surroundings deep in the countryside. All around it there are vast fields, deciduous forrest and endless skies reaching the horizon. This pastoral view is like an extension to the garden, and so Peder has concentrated on the courtyard of the old vicarage, making there a small and private yet abundant garden.
When Peder and Charlotta moved to the house some ten years ago, the courtyard was a barren area. Nowadays it is lush and green, mostly thanks to the custom made rusted-iron raised beds. The soil next to the house is filled with centuries of rubble, and by making planters it has been possible to garden without even trying to dig down into the earth where it would have been a back-breaking and hopeless project to get anything to grow. The raised beds are therefore not only decorative but also innately practical. The south-west facing L-shape of the house creates a perfect microclimate for catching heat and sheltering the plants from the wind, whereby plants survive and thrive far above their normal growth zone. Peder has emphasised the microclimate by covering the courtyard in pale shingle that reflects the warmth onto the plants along the walls of the house. Here he grows peaches that are espaliered in a fan shape to give them as much sun as possible, and this gives them time to ripen into the softest sweetest fruits. "We eat the fruits every day for breakfast while they are in season, but as we get quite a lot of them I also make apricot jam for the winter." he says. "I really enjoy making jams and pickling gherkins, and cooking is one of my favourite pastimes!"
As any frequent house guest will testify, Peder is a magician when it comes to preserving vegetables and making relishes of the abundant crops he grows in the raised bed. On the south gable of the house he has made a narrow but deep bed for his tomato plants, and each year he cultivates at least a dozen different varieties from seed. "We eat a lot of them fresh in salads, but these too I preserve by making different kinds of tomato sauces to be frozen and used in winter." says Peder. In any given year, he will grow tomato varieties ranging from little yellow sweeties to large dark, almost black, beefy kings and the challenge is to always find something new thet he hasn't grown before. "They do need a fair amount of water if it is a sunny and dry summer, but nothing beats the taste of sun-ripened tomatoes and the south wall is perfect for that!"
Yet, much as he adores the edibles he goes in for a combination of edible and decorative plants with equal amounts of enthusiasm. An aesthete by nature, he loves simple flowers such as the white Buddleja davidii, dark red sunflowers or the gorgeous agaves grown in pots placed around the garden. The masses of butterflies that turn up as soon as the Buddleja starts to flower brings hours of joy to watch. To encourage wildlife Peder also keeps a poppy lawn behind the house, and lets wildflowers creep into nooks and crannies along old stone walls. All living things are welcome in this garden, including the cats that simply turn up one after the other. "We have never bought a cat. They have all just turned up on the doorstep or in the barn, and as they have been fed and cared for they have slowly moved into the house with us. Once they come close enough, we take them to the vet to be neutered and vaccinated and given a proper health check. They seem to love it here, and I love them although I am terribly allergic!" he says with a laugh.
As you walk around the house, old cast iron urns planted with agave are placed with precision to frame a view or enhance a seating area. Further away, amongst a group of trees, a white hammock is ready for lazy afternoons. On the north side of the house, towards the road, Peder has made a long border filled with white Hydrangeas. Although it can be very dry during the long warm summers these bushes make a thick hedge with abundant flowers that last long into the autumn. Peder still dreams of building a big greenhouse but with a roof to mend and the far part of the house waiting to be renovated and converted into an antique shop/ bed and breakfast these dreams are still on hold. Yet, as all gardeners know, what would a garden be without abundant plans and dreams for the future?