2019, Gardens of the World, Uncategorized

Armchair Travellers’ Gardens: A private garden in Finland

In previous blog entries, I have largely concentrated on public gardens, but this month I would like to introduce you to a little jewel of a private garden, hidden away in the Finnish forest, just  20 minutes from Helsinki.

Harriet in front of her garden

The garden belongs to Harriet and Reijo Nurmi; Harriet is the designer, and Reijo the caretaker. They have lived in their house for about 40 years, and have created an idyllic spot that is both off the beaten track and accessible to anywhere that you want to go. Their house is completely integrated with the garden, with a Virginia Creeper  happily swarming up the side of the house, and perennials such as Peonies, Roses, Hostas, and Delphiniums filling the beds in the front. To one side of the house is a pond with a bridge and a fountain, whose sound permeates the air, complimenting the cooing of the wood pigeons. The result is a feeling of coolness and peace, and stresses evaporate immediately.

Harriet and Reijo’s shed

Harriet is one of the most welcoming people that I have ever met, and that is translated into her garden. Behind the house, through the door from her dining room, is a small sunken flagstone patio with seating for six around a table made from an old mill wheel, bought at an auction. A pot of scarlet impatiens cheerfully fill the hole in the middle. Around the perimeter of the patio are evergreen shrubs and perennials, making the patio private and cosy, and almost invisible from the field in the back. 

Behind the house, and although not strictly speaking part of the garden, is the forest, through which a narrow road leads to a lake. The forest contains many white birches, whose trunks contrast beautifully with the evergreens. Below them, the forest floor is covered with ferns, heather, lingonberries and blueberries, (you can pick handfuls as you walk, with Harriet and Reijo’s blessing) and  looks like it has been manicured. Through the trees a small lake is visible.


The garden, forest and lake home to many animals and birds; voles, rabbits, moose, deer, lynxes, swans, cranes, and ducks are common sights. Some get very near the Nurmi’s house, no doubt lured in by the smell of Harriet’s Karelian pies with egg butter! Harriet takes it all in stride. She enjoys the four seasons, despite the challenges that the weather presents to gardening, from the unpredictability of the winter (sometimes they get quite a lot of snow, yet sometimes it’s warm and snowless) to the cold and wet spring/fall weather. For Harriet, gardening in the middle of nowhere yet being close to a big city is the best of all possible worlds. Given the delightful afternoon that I was able to spend there, I couldn’t agree more.