In the eighteenth century, Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) had given natural history research a fresh impetus and had provided a new perspective on nature, with Uppsala University as the centre. Botanical research remained important and one of his later successors as professor in botany, Rutger Sernander (1866-1944), wrote his thesis about the development of vegetation in Gotland in 1894 (Warming 1909). From the 1910s, Sernander performed an important position in the reform of landscape design by criticising traditional parks. In his criticisms he reinforced the late nineteenth-century conception of the ‘nature-loving Swede’ (Hillmo et al. no date) by arguing in favour of parks more in keeping with the existing landscape rather than schemes imported from outside. In 1918 he had criticised St Erik’s Park in Stockholm for the lack of respect to natural features on the site, which deprive future citizens ‘of existing natural values that cannot be recreated’. He thus promoted projects which included features of the local landscape with plant material more sympathetic to the existing characteristics of the site (Andersson 1993). In doing this, Sernander merely expressed contemporary concerns and took an approach which had already been acknowledged in the design competition for the new South Cemetery in 1915, the later Woodland Cemetery, Enskede. An early ecological garden that well displays the mood of the times was that at Vasaparken, Uppsala, also referred to as the biological park or school park, as it was intended for educational purposes. It was laid out in 1911 around the newly established Biological Museum and there were areas representing the flora of the three main plant geographical districts of Sweden: Gotaland (south), Svaeland (middle) and Norrland (north) (Adren and Lagerwall 1997:170). In 1926, Sernander published Stockholms Natur (Stockholm’s nature), which was intended as a masterplan of future park development for Greater Stockholm and for nature reserves within the boundaries in the city (Bucht 1997:85).
By the 1930s, there had been a general adoption of the above principles by Swedish landscape architects, who expressed their theory and principles as follows:
The utilitarian style has strongly influenced the construction of domestic buildings; they are often asymmetrically planned, have large windows exposed to the sun, and, if possible, are sufficiently free from screening to permit of distant views.
Ordinarily, the garden is planned in such a way as to form a direct relationship with the house, access from one to the other being everywhere facilitated. The garden thus becomes a part of the dwelling.
Its arrangement is decided more for the activities of the people— especially of children—than for flowers. It allows for seats and benches resting on pavement areas which relate to the house, and lawns as extensive as possible, though not always mown. Paths and walks are reduced to the minimum and often consist only of stepping stones between which grass or creeping plants are allowed to grow, thus conserving a homogeneity between the units of the plan. Pools for the children are much appreciated and, when possible, they are made deep enough to allow for bathing. In general, trees are not numerous in these gardens; most people prefer to have flowering shrubs. Even [when] herbaceous plants are used they have a definite part of the plan devoted for their culture, and need not, as formerly, be confined to the conventional flower bed. There is little room in gardens now for the bedding plants which for so many years have enjoyed such a wide vogue.
The utilitarian style of building has exercised a profound influence on gardens, which it appears to be ridding of conscious symmetrical planning. The arrangement of gardens is freer and more mobile than formerly. One does not look for axial construction and the monumental planning of former styles, which could never be prevented from looking severe, above all when close to the house, the hard lines of which can be softened by subtle plant arrangements. One strives to create a contrast between the disciplined outlines of terrace walls, paved spaces, pools, etc., and a free and luxuriant vegetation designed to produce a happy decorative effect and to give the impression that it is the work of nature or of chance. It is pleasant to leave an existing gnarled pine in a paved courtyard the aspect of which is otherwise strictly architectural, or to arrange matters so that trees with heads of interesting shapes appear to detach themselves from the smooth walls of the house, their rigidity being softened by the foliage. It is admissible that between the paving stones of courtyard space should be left for isolated plants to give the impression that they have grown there spontaneously.17
Tunnard (1937) noted that Swedish designers preferred ‘to group their plants in simple natural arrangements rather than confine them to severe geometrical patterns’.
Post-war Swedish planting design was widely regarded as exemplary (Haywood and Booth 1954), with Frank Clark noting that the ‘free planting of flowers and shrubs follows the teachings of our own William Robinson so closely that it must be more than a mere coincidence’ (Clark 1947). George Chadwick similarly detected the influence of Robinson and Jekyll, describing ‘the use of Petasites and rhubarbs for foliage effect, the naturalising of tulips in the long grass in Humlegarden, the cow
‘Sensitively controlled naturalism’ of the Stockholm School included the use of both exotics and horticultural plant varieties. The movement was popularised with the photography of C. G. Rosenberg who here depicts Tegnerlunden, an inner city park
parsley and meadow plants or the Astilbe and Heracleum and the other streamside plants in Tegnerlunden, and the waterside planting along Norr Malerstrand’ (Chadwick 1966). Landscape architect Brenda Colvin, however, felt that this style was more derived from the Germans who ‘had an extremely sound grasp on the ecological aspect of landscape architecture’ and that ‘German landscape teaching had had a marked influence on the continent’ (Colvin et al. 1952). Whilst pre-war landscape education had had strong links with Germany or with Germany via Denmark, direct English influences were less frequent.18 One of those influenced by German examples was landscape architect Magnus Johnson who had studied with Ttixen and had practised in Sweden on his return in the 1930s (Florgard 1981).
The most significant reputation regarding the use of plants rested with the Stockholm Parks Department, headed from 1938 until 1971 by Holger Blom, who as early as 1942 was noticed in Switzerland and the Netherlands as ‘forcing a direct connection between nature and man’ (De Wit 1942). Blom employed different landscape architects, including Sven A. Hermelin, Ulla Bodorff, Walter Bauer and Erik Glemme, to design the various schemes. Post-war he would be a regular visitor abroad, including Britain, where he would give lectures about the progress in establishing the Stockholm park system.19 Particular significance was attached to naturalistic landscape design, in that it was felt that the ‘social democracy of the Scandinavian countries…is aptly expressed by the free style, sensitively controlled naturalism of the Swedish park’ (Clark 1947). They were the schemes identified by Chadwick (above) and illustrated in photographs by C. G. Rosenberg, which epitomised the work of what became known as the Stockholm School (Figure 2.22). Plants did not just include natives but also strong growing exotics and horticultural varieties, arranged in naturalistic groupings.