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Garden Designer Visit: Annika Zetterman’s Ode to the Swedish Coast

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Garden Designer Visit: Annika Zetterman’s Ode to the Swedish Coast

May 15, 2020

Swedish garden designer Annika Zetterman, author of New Nordic Gardens, brings to life gardens that seamlessly extend the natural Swedish landscape. For clients on the island of Värmdö in the Stockholm Archipelago, Annika took inspiration from the sea, the surrounding vegetation, and even New England.

With an active family who lives and plays outdoors most of the year, the clients asked for a garden that would be an ode to the Swedish landscape—and their own love of the outdoors. (The archipelago is a collection of 25,000 islands off the coast of Sweden that attracts summer and year-round residents wishing to escape busy city life.)

“With a lot of water close by, the climate is milder here than on the mainland,” says Zetterman, “but can also suffer from dry summers with less rain and strong winds, hence knowing what plants that thrive and locating the best area for seating away from strong winds is very important.”

Let’s take a tour of the garden.

Photography by Annika Zetterman, courtesy of Zetterman Garden Design.

Above: “This garden is situated on a slope, an esker, containing lots of large stones, so preparing the ground was key before construction could start,” says Zetterman.

The plot is on three levels: The top and bottom sections are used for parking, and the central area hosts the main entrance of the house and a separate garden space that was created to be an area in which to relax and enjoy nature and the sea. On the other side of the garden is a pathway to a private beach with a beach house, a wooden deck with an outdoor kitchen, and a shower.

Above: To create the multilevel garden and connect the spaces, Zetterman installed retaining walls and pathways to stabilize the earth and create focal points throughout the garden.

Granite was used for pathways and walls, and slate for paved sections. There were some stones originally on the plot that Zetterman worked into the landscape. The area is very sunny, so the lawn was kept to a minimum; instead, Zetterman chose sea gravel for its low-maintenance nature and to echo the colors and mood of the sea.

Above: A view of the sea. Annika describes the intent of the design she calls Harmony Garden: “It is the perfect place for a cup of coffee in the morning sun, observing the busy wildlife or reading the paper.”
Above: To create a garden that has visual impact throughout the seasons, Annika chose plants with structure, and of different sizes to create visual interest, particularly perennials and ornamental grasses that can cope with the harsh weather.

Annika describes her overarching design sensibility for this garden: “The garden is created with soft and smooth shapes in both hard and soft landscaping, with irregular paving and round stones and gravel. The layout of the planting is carefully planned in several sections among the gravel as well as softening retaining walls, embedding the garden yet leaving it open, with choices of low-growing plants and moving ornamental grasses, creating a sense of freedom.”

Above: For height and color, Salvia ‘Rose Queen’ and Nepeta superba are used throughout the garden.
Above: Rosa ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ adds fragrance and a visual focus.
Above: A hardy perennial pink geranium, G. sanguineum ‘Apfelblute’ is a low-growing flower that adds softness to the stone.
Above: No seaside garden is complete without a rugosa rose; Zetterman planted perpetual bloomer Rosa rugosa ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’.
Above: In late spring, the bold flowers of Allium cristophii rise from a bed of hostas.

Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea ‘Transparent’ grasses stay fresh from spring until autumn and connect the domesticated garden to the wild landscape. Prunus pumila var. ‘Depressa’ keeps the garden maintenance-free in the summer.

Above: In autumn, the star of the show is Echinacea ‘Green Jewel’, a chartreuse green that creates a striking contrast with the pink and purple flora.
Above: Another tip Zetterman offers for round-the-season impact, is to not prune back plants with interesting seedheads until spring.

Says Zetterman, “To work with enough soft landscaping is foremost. In this case, the client has a love for the countryside and likewise the sea, also seen in the interior.”

Above: “Playing on the New England theme evident in the home’s interior design was a rather natural way to continue this theme outdoors, in the planting as well as the hard landscaping, the random paving, the ornamental balustrade, and the playful stepping stone path,” says Zetterman.
Above: From the entrance a path wiggles through colorful plantings, catching the beauty and bounty of the blue sea and sky. The path ends in a smaller seating area with views of the tranquil garden, the house, and the sea.

See more of our favorite romantic landscapes in our curated Garden Design 101 guides, with tips for Roses: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design and other Perennials, including Salvias and Lamb’s Ear. See more landscaping ideas:

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