An Englishman Gardening in Norway
My name is Christopher James Collyer. Originally from the South-East of England I have lived and gardened in Norway since 1999. Although a physiotherapist by profession I am an enthusiastic hobby gardener with a life-long passion for gardening. A member of the Norwegian Horticultural Society (Det Norske Hageselskapet), I am also a supporter of my local gardening club, Hageselskapet Fana. In recent years I have been invited to give talks to many gardening clubs in the Norwegian county of Hordaland as well as opening my own small garden to visitors by appointment.
I’m a self taught gardener. I have no formal qualifications in either horticulture or garden design and therefore have absolutely no authority on these subjects!
I was very fortunate to spend much of my happy childhood exploring and playing in many beautiful English gardens and landscapes that made an everlasting impression on me. These gardens were not always the celebrated gardens of the National Trust, the RHS or the Stately homes that we so often read about in glossy magazines today. More influential perhaps, were the less grandiose but delightful gardens of my own family and my childhood friends and neighbors. None of them contained a huge blue trampoline. None of them were covered by acres of wooden decking. There were no outdoor kitchens or gigantic gas BBQS. None-the-less they were beautiful places and they were alive! They were alive with games, laughter, and wildlife. They were alive with beautiful trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Perhaps though, it was the gardeners themselves as much as their gardens that led me to realise that there was so much more to gardening than simply the end result. Behind each of the beautiful gardens I visited was a wonderful, creative person from who I learned something.
In particular, it is with great fondness I remember my grandparents garden in Oxford. A large town garden, it was quintessentially English with a bowling green lawn, sweeping mixed borders and hidden paths, pergolas and climbing trees. I remember my Granny’s constant dead-heading and her love of roses.
From my grandfather I remember learning about border design, weeding and composting. He loved games and reassured my brother and I that there was no plant or flower more valuable than a ball game! His passion for lawns certainly rubbed off on me and I recall with great fondness him showing me how to use his Ransomes greens mower. I still use his old edging shears today.
My parent’s garden was also a great school of horticultural learning and I was always encouraged to help out with gardening jobs. My childhood fascination with anything that grew meant that I paid extra attention to my fathers’ preference to using the botanical names of plants and from an early age I had my own ‘corner’of the garden for plants and vegetables. I remember planting rhubarb from my grandmother next to a conker from a neighbours horse chestnut tree and both doing remarkably well!
As well as these wonderful childhood experiences I have always had a love of great design and a constant desire to be creative. This coupled with my absolute inability to sit still has meant that gardens have been the ideal canvases for expressing my creativity.
I began this website in 2009 in order to share my gardening trials and tribulations with friends and family members who were unable to visit the garden regularly. It has also provided me with a useful means of extending our otherwise short gardening season through the long, dark and cold Norwegian winter. engelskhage is simply Norwegian for English garden.
I hope engelskhage.com will be of interest to other gardeners gardening on small and challenging plots or in difficult climates. For me it’s gardening that is important, not simply the garden. I’m not a fan of minimalistic, low maintenance or sterile garden solutions. As a gardener and a physiotherapist, I want to encourage other people to be active, to become gardeners themselves and not simply garden owners. The physical and mental benefits of a gardening lifestyle are well documented.