Updated: Jun 27, 2022
My sister-in-law has recently bought the most beautiful big greenhouse and I started thinking about the kind of plants that all Norwegians love and that you see in most Nordic gardens. Lise and I share a love of plants and gardening and I am really excited to see what she's going to grow in her greenhouse. We both enjoy gardening for food but there are some ornamental plants that no Nordic garden is complete without.
Most Nordic gardens are in a fairly cold climate zone (Zone 5 and below) and so tender pants usually need to be brought in for the winter, but there are plenty that weather the harsh winters well, but will also flourish in warmer climes.
Fruit bushes, in particular berries
The Nordic region is famous for it's berries and Scandinavians love to have them fresh and as often as possible. You will see many Nordic dishes (sweet and savoury) that contain berries and they are enjoyed to the full when they are in season. Although raspberries, blueberries and lingonberries grow in abundance in Scandinavia, the Scandinavian gardener will still plant strawberries, raspberries and currants.
The beauty of tulips is that once you have planted them they can left to do their own thing for years to come. In Norway they are some of the first flowers to come up in the spring and so are welcomed into most gardens to add a little summery brightness to the start of the season.
April in Norway sees pansies for sale in almost every shop. They are cheery, colourful and remarkably hardy. One can happily plant them in the ground before the last frost and they will continue flowering all through the summer and well into the autumn. I love that they self seed and so you find lots of tiny pansy plants the following year.
I've never found roses the easiest thing to grow and in Norway I find them particularly tricky with the damp weather and plant's tendency to get mildew, but they are seen in so many Norwegian gardens and a beloved part of it.
Thuja or other conifer
Many larger or rural Nordic gardens already have pine trees or conifers growing and a lot of those are naturalised. But thuja hedges or a statement conifer in the garden are found in so many planting designs. They are perfectly adapted for the cold weather with their needle like leaves and add some much sought after green throughout the winter. Apart from the beauty of a large conifer they also make excellent hedging plants.
Apple or pear trees
My mother-in-law told me many years ago that every single Norwegian garden has an apple tree and it certainly seems that way. Many of them are really old and have wonderful gnarled bark and trunks. And of course there is the beautiful blossom to be enjoyed in the spring and fruit in the autumn.
Heather or ling
Both of these plants grow naturally in the wild in Scandinavia and so are perfectly adapted for life here. They have a profusion of pretty little flowers that last and last with delicate leaves that weather the cold of winter very well.
Lilacs are not shrubs for a small garden unless you can find the dwarf variety, but they add a beauty and lushness that many Norwegian gardens crave after the bare branches of winter. Lilacs are some of the first trees to bloom and the evening smell of lilac blossom is wonderful.
These hardy, tough little bushes are perfect for the cold climates of the Scandinavia countries. They have small thin leaves and a profusion of brightly coloured flowers that follow the leaves in the summer. They don't need a lot of care, just some basic trimming in the autumn and are a reliable addition to the Nordic garden.
There's something so beautifully tropical about lilies of all kinds. I am a huge fan and although I've not had the best of luck in Norway with my favourite giant lilies, the yellow and orange variety with shorter stems do incredibly well here. They tolerate the cold winters really well and disappear into the ground, only to return again in the spring and give the us the pleasure of more big, beautiful flowers that last for weeks. Many Norwegian gardens have the grassy yellow day lilies that can be left to get on with things without much interference besides the occasional splitting up.
I hope this short list has given you a little inspiration to introduce some beloved Nordic plants into your garden, or maybe you already have some and never realised it.
Why not head over to the Living a Nordic Life Facebook group and share some photos of your garden with us. We are always chatting about Nordic life and how we can have some Nordic living wherever we are.