New Nordic Gardens – Annika Zetterman.

New Nordic Gardens, Scandinavian Landscape Design – Annika Zetterman.

Gardens “should be designed with dignity, worked on with modesty and maintained with persistence. This is how we think, how we work and this is what we are.”

There is an ethos and a feeling in Scandinavian design which is perfectly distinctive and, though often copied elsewhere, is never matched for it is a design of its place and of its people. It embodies what it is to be Nordic, to be faithful to tradition, to be in touch with one’s environment, to remain simple, honest and true.

Simplicity, modesty, and elegance are at the heart of all Scandinavian design and this is epitomised in garden design by the use of high-quality materials – generally raw and bare – selected for grace and sustainability and to compliment the garden environment.  In recent years Nordic gardens have undergone major transformations but continue to look to the historic design heritage as a strength. They are influenced by the past but designers are developing new gardens which are innovative, push design boundaries and bring the appeal and beauty of a traditional approach aligned with a modern flair to today’s gardeners. The evolving design is less pale, less tame and less neutral and now more daring and resolute in its approach.

Annika Zetterman is at the forefront of this new surge in garden design. She is based in Stockholm, has designed gardens throughout Sweden, while her international success and reputation have brought her to projects further afield. One could not hope for an author more in tune with modern Nordic garden design and it is no wonder that her book is a thing of beauty with a simplicity of purpose and presentation, perfectly in keeping with the Scandinavian design ethos.

New Nordic Gardens is organised around a number of themes, each given a chapter of the book: the basic principles of Scandinavian design, responding to the light which is particularly special in Nordic countries along with guidance on plant selection, colour palettes and hard landscaping. Designs which show response to the seasons are featured along with examples of urban and environmentally friendly gardens and those which suit the present ever so popular movement to grow your own food. The Scandinavian countries have a strong sense of community spirit and community gardens, playgrounds and landscapes for socialisation are given particular attention.

These chapters are generously illustrated with photographs of, in the main, modern Scandinavian gardens showcasing contemporary design and they make a significant contribution to the overall impact and enjoyment of the book, an example of an excellent fit and balance of illustration and text.

Although it is Nordic gardens which are central to this book, it has relevance and significance for a wider audience and will be an enjoyable, informative and inspirational read. The book describes the fundamental notions of how to make a garden composition visually interesting with guidelines on organising space in a logical and practical way, making it useful and readily enjoyable, and these principles have universal application.

[New Nordic Gardens, Scandinavian Landscape Desigh, Annika Zetterman, Thames & Hudson, London, 2021, Softback, 288 pages, £25, ISBN: 978-0-500-29614-1]


12 thoughts on “New Nordic Gardens – Annika Zetterman.

    1. There is a concentration on architecture so it would have best application in the areas closest to the house rather than further away in the garden. There are some general guidelines which are universally applicable – keep it simple, high quality, natural materials.

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  1. Looks really gorgeous and there looks to be a strong element of design. I’m getting a bit tired of gardens so rewilded that they resemble “the back of the haggard” rather than a cultivated and cherished garden.

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    1. Yes, form, shape and design – the architectural elements – feature strongly though plants and planting are given adequate space also, in a secondary position.


  2. Thank you for showcasing this. As Swedish garden lovers it was cool to see it featured. It’s a special thing – gardening in a country with so much of it’s wilderness not just intact – but accessible (in Sweden there’s a law called ‘Allemansrätten’ – ‘The right of everyone’ – which stipulates that private land owners cannot close their lands to people – since nature belongs to everyone). So in some ways our gardens are islands in their wild, wider surroundings – closely tided in with the architecture, and filled with a need of more ‘controlled wilderness’.

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    1. I have a friend in Finland and enjoy the contrast in approach to gardening I see from her photographs – a garden within a woodland/forest. It is a beautiful contrast and setting. The book features the architecture of Nordic gardens quite strongly, more than the planting.


      1. I just placed an order on Zetterman’s book – now you gave us the tip – I’m looking forward too reading it. Finland – to me that’s forests, and moss – and an endless number of small lakes. They are masters at architecture that make gardens out of wild spaces. They share that sense that Swedes also have – that you never run out of nature (the entire population of Sweden is just a couple of million more than in the city of London – on about twice the area of the UK). Culture features so heavily in our gardening – and prove that gardening is in fact art. Thank you!

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      2. I have just peeped at your blog. Today will be busy with reading those who contribute to a Six-on-Saturday weekly report – and there are some rugby games to be enjoyed – and then I will come back to read with you. I hope life has improved for you – illness is never a welcome visitor in a family.


  3. Life is under control right now – at least on the surface (sort of like the garden :-).) We have an ongoing struggle with health, and are becoming experts at finding quality of life regardless. And in the garden – in nature – that is easy. Thank you for kind words!

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