Sandra has been in travelling though Denmark, Norway and Sweden, preparing the itinerary for next year’s Ross Garden tour. Here she shares a sampler of tastes of high summer in the far north.
Never have I seen so many berries! Stalls in the markets are piled high with fresh rowanberries, cloudberries, gooseberries, red and black currants, strawberries and raspberries. Breakfast in the Hotel Hensen, Stockholm is traditional, with pickled herrings, mustard herrings, smoked turkey and ham, Swedish meatballs and lots of delicious cheese. It’s all washed down with sweet elderberry juice, which is similar in flavour to apple, but not as strong. And then, best of all, cloudberry jam on sour dough buns. Cloudberries look like small golden blackberries but because they ripen slowly in cool Scandinavian bog areas they develop an intense sweet flavour, a bit like baked apple and great for jam!
Berries in the market in Helsinki. Photo - Sandra Ross
In high summer Scandinavia, gardens are heavy with the weight of pears, apples - and all varieties of berries. Markets are a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. In the main square in Uppsala, market stalls are piled high with chanterelles (wild mushrooms), which are collected from the forests at this time of year and sold in the main square along with the raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. The Helsinki market on the harbour front is best and biggest of all: more gold and black chanterelles; flower stalls with an abundance of flowers, especially sunflowers; stalls selling traditional fish, salmon, herrings, and other tasty delights including reindeer sausages, fish burgers and big pots of mixed fish hotpot that smell tempting; and of course plenty of berries.
Helsinki market. Photo - Sandra Ross
Carl Linnaeus, Sweden’s most famous scientist, was born in Uppsala in 1707, and his garden has been restored for the tercentennial celebrations of his birth.
As I walk through the gate it’s a step into the 18th century. His garden is a botanical one, designed in Baroque style with its purpose the study of plants. It’s set out in a series of parterres: annual; perennial; spring and autumn, where Linnaeus could observe and record the performance and morphology of plants. It is here that Linnaeus developed his binomial plant naming system, a new classification of the plant kingdom, which is little changed since this time. He classified plants into 24 classes according to the number and arrangement of stamens in the flower, and into orders, according to the number of pistils. These orders were further divided into genera and then species.
Linnaeus Garden orangery. Photo - Sandra Ross
Linnaeus was the first to recognise the importance of plant communities, particularly aquatic ones. He built a series of ponds: river pond, lake pond and marsh pond, in order to study the relationship between the plants in each of the three aquatic environments. This was the first study of plant ecosystems. Linnaeus argued that all cultivation should be based on the knowledge of natural habitat, climate, soil and humidity. He grew plants from all over the world, using an orangery to over-winter the more delicate specimens. His students brought them to him from expeditions all over the world. Daniel Solander, who sailed with James Cook and Joseph Banks on the Endeavour on their voyage in 1770 to Australia, was one such student. Banks and Solander found flora so rich that they re-named Stingray Harbour, Botany Bay.
Princess Mary’s Palace
It’s a fairytale; a girl from Tasmania falls in love with a prince, and moves to Denmark to live in his kingdom, happily ever after. So I was keen to see where Mary lives at Fredensborg Palace, just north of Copenhagen. I am met at the gate by a security guard for a grand tour in his buggy. The Danish flag is flying over Mary and Frederick’s wing of the palace and a guard patrols outside because she is due back later today. The palace itself is grand, built in Italianate style, white with cupola-style roof. Mary and Frederik’s wing is rather plain, single storey and unadorned; no garden just a sheet of lawn where the children can play.
Fredensberg Palace. Photo - Sandra Ross
Best of all the gardens here is the vegetable garden, a favourite of Prince Henrik, father of Prince Frederik. It’s very decorative with an arbour of roses its full length, and cut flower beds interspersed with vegetable plots. Huge racks have been placed over the empty beds with onions and garlic drying. The new orangery faces this garden and is reflected in a mirror pond in front. It’s a home for fruiting figs and citrus, but its main use is for functions.