• Sofias Country Gardens

Tjolöholm Castle and gardens


Who would have thought that on the west coast of Sweden you would find an English castle in Tudor style with a gorgeous Arts and Crafts garden and parklands surrounding it? Yet there it sits, right by the sea and surrounded by rolling countryside only 40 minutes by car from the city of Gothenburg. The location is idyllic for a great day out, and visitors can enjoy the gardens, parkland and a walk on the beach or a dip in the sea before having a meal at the restaurant or finding souvenirs in the gift shop. How nice it is to be looking back at pictures from my visit last year, and dream of this in the middle of winter!

The castle was commissioned by James Fredrik and Blanche Dickson and built between 1898 - 1904, although sadly James Fredrick died before it was completed. Both the castle and the gardens were designed by Lars Israel Wahlman, who although never actually having visited Great Britain until 1900, was greatly inspired by British ideals. Although the greenhouse and vegetable gardens are long gone, the formal garden closest to the house retains its heritage with neatly arranged formal borders, box hedging, clipped yew trees and beautifully curated perennials as well as decorative pots filling up the nooks and crannies near the house.

The Arts and Crafts influence is still strongly represented, with a soft palette of colours in the mix of perennials and shrubs in the borders. There is a harmony in the planting scheme that looks effortless but which is actually quite hard to achieve. In the shadier parts of the gardens soft purples, mauves and pinks are used while in the sunnier borders different shades of blue softly accompanies a wider colour range.

Typically characteristic of the time period is the use of architecture and different kinds of structures to enhance the gardens. Both a thatched folly and a stone grotto are to be found, as well as a pergola walkway flanked with narrow perennial borders and yew hedging. Much structure is gained from sturdy stone walls that run along the sides of the gardens and frame the paths leading further afield to where the formal garden ends and the parkland takes over. The landscape slopes gently down from the castle to the sea, and the gardens are arranged in neat terraces that softly melt into the surrounding parklands. Here, the borders become deeper and wilder; the flow between the cultivated and the curated is very much in the character of the Arts and Crafts ideal.

With its close vicinity to the sea the mood of the gardens changes not only with the seasons but also daily and almost hourly with the weather. In a day the weather will change from hot sunshine to cloudy shade, but this closeness to the sea also creates an auspicious microclimate that favours the gardens as the warmth of the open waters keep the frost at bay long into the autumn. Many of the flowers on display will not survive winter in my garden, but I'm still much inspired by my visit and already thinking about how I can tweak my own borders next summer.


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