Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday 21 July 2017

Uppsala and the Flower King

Last week Cliff and I went on holiday to Sweden, it was a quickly planned break and we chose the destination because we've loved previous trips to Scandinavia, there was a convenient flight from our nearest airport and I'd seen some photos of lovely gardens in Uppsala on Twitter.

Uppsala is the home of Sweden's oldest university, founded in 1477; and it has a magnificent red-brick cathedral which is the tallest church building in Scandinavia. There are also impressive modern buildings, pedestrian shopping streets with heated pavements that won't get icy in winter and miles and miles of cycle-ways. 

But this blog post is about the person Uppsala is most famous for ... Carl Linnaeus, The Flower King. If you know just a little about botany or about the scientific names of living things, you will probably have heard of Linnaeus but may not know who he was and where he lived.

In 1741 Carl Linnaeus was appointed professor of Medicine at Uppsala University, with the job he got a house and a garden ... this became his botanic garden, where his collection of plants was kept and his system of how to categorise them was developed. In the years after his death the garden was neglected but has now been reconstructed and planted as Linnaeus would have organised the plants, each with their neatly written labels.

In the garden there are cold frames and an orangery, sunken ponds and even houses for monkeys! While Carl was busy giving lectures and tending his plants, his wife Sara-Lisa ran the household and looked after their 7 children; she organised the servants and with the daughters even spun and wove the cloth for the household linen. Sara-Lisa also had to entertain guests who Carl often invited at short notice ... she had a reputation of being stern, but it sounds like she had a lot on her plate!

The house is beautifully decorated with reproduced wallpapers and the exhibits include some of the family's clothes. Carl seems to have been an energetic and enthusiastic teacher, he devised nature walks from the town out into the countryside to show his students wild plants growing in different environments. And he called his 8 walking routes "Herbationes Uppsalienis", here they are drawn on a map.

If we'd had more time and and our hiking boots we would have explored the longer routes, but we were happy to walk a short section of the Herbation from the church where the Linnaeus family worshipped to the farmstead at Hammarby that Carl purchased to provide an income and produce, and a home they would have when they no longer had use of the university house in town.
Our adventure began by catching a bus to the village of Danmark and before setting off on our walk we looked inside the church ... which today is a beautifully light and serene space. In the 18th century the walls would have been white-washed but now the walls have beautiful painted decorations.

The modern glazed entrance porch is etched with horse chestnut leaves.

And the organ with birds and intertwined tendrils.

The Herbationes routes are all marked with these blue posts, so the routes are easy to navigate.

We followed a lane out of the village and along a track between a fields of green peas and flowery meadows.

The weather was warm so we took a break under the trees, the little red house was owned by Linnaeus as part of his farm, in return for allowing a veteran soldiers to live there he was let off paying tax.

After about 4 kilometres we reached the edge of the farmstead and the fenced vegetable patch.

The Linnaeus farm house is a large red-painted wooden building, visits are by guided tour only because inside has been preserved exactly as it was when Carl and Sara-Lisa lived there. One of their daughters continued to live in the house before it was preserved as a museum, Carl Linnaeus was a celebrity scientist in his own life-time so no-one changed the house after his death. 

All the wallpapers are original and Carl's study and the bedroom he shared with Sara-Lisa are decorated with botanical prints pasted over all of the walls.

(borrowed image, source unknown)

Behind the farm house and buildings is a rocky hill and woodland, here Carl built a small museum to house his precious collection of specimen plants and fossils, safe from possible fires which often broke out in the town. He also grew plants grown from seed sent to hime by people from across Europe, including Siberian plants sent by Catherine II of Russia.

I sat in the wood behind the farm and looked at the Swedish 100K note we'd brought with us (from a previous trip to Sweden, the note ceased to be legal tender 2 days before this holiday!). On the note you can see a portrait of Carl Linnaeus with a drawing from his treatise 'Sponsalia planetarium' or 'The Nuptials of Flowers' of the plant Dog's Mercury which grows abundantly all around. It was this plant that he noticed has separate male and female plants, and so it confirmed the sexual nature of plants.

The study of botany at Uppsala university continued after Linnaeus's death at a much larger botanic gardens on the site of the castle gardens. Today it's a wonderful place to wander and enjoy formal gardens and modern planting schemes as well as experimental and educational planting. (The restricted summer opening hours meant we never did get to see inside the glass houses or try the cafĂ©.)

Around the city centre there are parks and plants on every corner. I loved the new planting in the new development behind the railway station. Alchemilla mollie and Alliums seem to be favourite plants throughout the city.

We noticed that many of the city flower beds and planters included vegetables, such as these huge containers right in the main square by the bus stops ... a huge abundant potager of herbs and vegetables. This is part of a scheme to get people to grow edible plants in the city in 2017 ... I wonder if it will continue after this year, I hope it does.

After all the walking and looking at gardens and plants, I think it's time for Fika ... a sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and a cake ... it's the Swedish equivalent of Hygge ... how very civilised.