Scandinavian Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide to Embracing Hygge in Your Outdoor Space
I adore Scandinavian gardening. In our fast-paced world, this is a quick and easy way to transform your garden into an oasis of calm.
As I sit here on this crisp September morning sipping my coffee and looking out over my Hygge-inspired Scandinavian garden, I can’t help but feel a sense of calm wash over me. The contrast of the deep emerald greens against the weathered grey stone pathways instantly transports me to the forests and countryside of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
Sounds good? Let’s dive into it. While the principles of Hygge (that feeling of coziness and contentment) are often applied to interior design, bringing these elements into your outdoor space can be just as rewarding. If you’re looking to create a Scandinavian-style garden that evokes feelings of comfort and joy, this beginner’s guide will help you get started.
Focus on Natural Materials is a Key to Scandinavian Gardening
The Scandinavian design aesthetic tends to favor natural, organic textures and materials. Incorporating elements like wood, stone, wicker, cotton, wool and linen can help create that rustic charm. Some specific ways to work these materials into your garden include:
- Gravel or stone pathways
- Wooden raised garden beds
- Wicker or rattan patio furniture
- Linen cushions and pillows
- Ceramic, concrete or stone planters
- Wood pergolas, trellises and arbors
- Wool rugs and throws
During my last trip to Copenhagen, I was amazed by all of the cobblestone streets and rugged stone architecture. I knew I had to bring a touch of that earthy texture into my own green space. That’s when my husband and I decided to rip up our old concrete sidewalk and replace it with gravel pathways winding through the garden.
Incorporate Foraged Elements
Foraging for materials in the woods or in nature is a hallmark of Scandinavian design. Look for opportunities to incorporate native plants or found objects from the outdoors.
Some ideas include:
- Displaying collected rocks, sticks, pinecones or seashells on shelves or in glass jars
- Creating miniature terrariums in bottles or jars with moss, pebbles and sticks
- Making accent walls or vertical gardens using collected birch logs or reclaimed wood
- Planting wildflowers, bushes and trees native to your region
- Using grass, twigs or eucalyptus in vases for natural, textured bouquet arrangements
I’ll never forget the day my son came running up to me with a handful of smoothed, polished stones he had gathered from a nearby creek. I knew they would be the perfect finishing touch placed sparingly around my garden. It’s little foraged finds like these that make the space so special.
Incorporate Neutral Tones for Scandi Garden
The Scandinavian color palette tends to be simple and muted. Stick to light, neutral shades of white, cream, gray, black and brown. Then add pops of color thoughtfully with plants, flowers and accessories.
Some ideas for working neutral tones into your garden:
- White-painted fences, trellises, shed or furniture
- Gravel walkways
- Stone planters or furniture
- Concrete or wood structures in natural gray and brown hues
- Black accents like obelisks, arbors or planting containers
- Green lush plants and colorful flowers provide bright pops against the neutral backdrop
I opted to paint my little garden shed a creamy white and added gray stone planters along the front. The neutral canvas lets the vibrant purple and yellow lupines really stand out when they bloom in spring.
Focus on Functionality
Scandinavian design embodies simplicity and minimalism. Make sure your garden is carefully curated without feeling cluttered. Every piece should serve a purpose.
Some ways to incorporate functional elements:
- Raised garden beds for ease of planting and drainage
- A potting table for gardening tasks and repotting plants
- A cozy bistro set for an intimate breakfast nook or coffee spot
- Pieces with built-in storage like benches with lift-up seats or a potting shed
- Strategically placed arbors, trellises and obelisks to support climbing plants
- Pathways and stones to designate walking areas and hide hose pipes
One of my favorite pandemic projects was building a cedar potting table, complete with storage underneath for all my gardening tools and gloves. Having this dedicated space has made gardening tasks so much easier to stay organized!
The minimalist Scandinavian design approach often utilizes the power of repetition for visual impact. Repeat elements like shapes, materials, structures or plant varieties throughout your garden.
- Planting the same flower or plant variety in a row or cluster
- Alternating different heights of ornamental grasses
- Creating a focal point display of identical planters or pots
- Repeating trellises, arbors or other garden structures
- Lining pathway borders with uniform stones or pavers
- Mirroring elements on both sides of the garden for symmetry
Last year I planted a border of ‘Red Riding Hood’ dianthus along my front walkway. Seeing that vibrant pop of red repeated down the pathway draws your eye and makes a bold statement.
Provide Seating Areas
Having multiple seating areas creates an inviting space to relax, entertain or simply enjoy the garden. Include a mix of intimate and larger gathering spaces.
Some seating ideas:
- Wooden garden benches or chairs
- Cozy patio sofa paired with a coffee table
- Hanging chair or hammock suspended from trees
- Built-in bench storage boxes doubling as seats
- Gravel or stone seating circles around a fire pit
- An oversized daybed for napping in the sun
- Rustic dining table with farmhouse-style chairs
My favorite spot is a little wooden bench nestled under the oak tree that offers both shade and a gorgeous view of my garden. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy my morning meditation, listening to the birds with a cup of tea in hand.
Add Personal Touches
While Scandinavian style prizes simplicity, you can infuse personality into your garden with artisan decor and personal mementos.
|Decor Idea||My Personal Touch|
|Handmade ceramics or pottery for the garden||Displaying my mom’s homemade clay birdbath and windchimes|
|Family heirloom furniture or tools||Using my grandmother’s antique watering can to tend the roses she gifted me|
|Sentimental garden art or sculptures||A metal butterfly sculpture my husband bought me on our first trip to Stockholm|
|Hand-painted planters or signs||Stoneware boxes decorated with my children’s tiny handprints|
|Frames displaying favorite art or poetry||Scattered verses of Mary Oliver poems along the garden pathways|
By tucking little reminders of my loved ones into the garden, I’ve created a space that feels distinctly personal. It reflects the people and moments most precious to me.
Enjoy the Little Moments
Above all, a Scandinavian garden should be a sanctuary—a place to pause and find peace in nature’s simple gifts. Take time to enjoy:
- The warmth of the sun on your skin
- The scent of flowers in bloom
- The taste of herbs and vegetables harvested from your own garden
- The joy of birdsong or buzzing bees
- The zen of raking patterns in the gravel or turning over soil
- Moonlit nights on the patio wrapped in a cozy blanket
My Scandinavian garden has become my refuge, a place where I can reset and appreciate life’s quiet moments. As I finish my coffee now, I feel ready to seize this beautiful day. The berries need picking, a new shipment of bulbs has arrived, and my kids are excited to help plant for fall. Time to get my hands dirty!
Q: What are some simple ideas for achieving the perfect Scandinavian garden?
A: Some simple ideas for achieving the perfect Scandinavian garden include choosing a sunny spot, incorporating natural elements, creating cozy seating areas, repurposing a shed into a Scandinavian retreat, upcycling old furniture for a shabby-chic look, enhancing ambience with lighting, incorporating natural textures and materials, transforming your balcony into a Nordic haven, emphasizing wooden furniture and outdoor dining, and creating a controlled natural setting.
Q: How important is sunlight in a Scandinavian garden?
A: Sunlight is crucial in a Scandinavian garden as it helps plants thrive and contributes to the overall brightness and inviting atmosphere of the space. Choosing a spot outside that catches the sun is one of the first steps to creating a perfect Scandinavian garden.
Q: What types of plants are commonly found in Scandinavian landscapes?
A: Common plants found in Scandinavian landscapes include birch trees, conifers, grasses, ferns, perennials such as lupines and delphiniums, and a variety of hardy flowers like heather and daisies. These plants are chosen for their ability to withstand the harsh Nordic climate.
Q: How can I create a cozy seating area in my Scandinavian garden?
A: To create a cozy seating area in your Scandinavian garden, you can use cushions, warm throws, fairy lights, garden hammocks, or lanterns. These elements will help create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere for you and your guests to enjoy.
Q: How can I transform my shed into a Scandinavian retreat?
A: To transform your shed into a Scandinavian retreat, you can start by cleaning it and painting the walls in a light natural color. Then, you can add decorative elements such as bunting, fairy lights, cushions, blankets, and throws to create a cozy and welcoming space.
Q: How can I achieve a shabby-chic Scandi look in my garden?
A: You can achieve a shabby-chic Scandi look in your garden by upcycling old furniture. Repaint and repurpose items like wooden crates, lanterns, and rugs to create a unique and rustic aesthetic. This will add character to your garden and give it a distinct Scandinavian charm.
Q: What are some ideas for enhancing ambience with lighting in a Scandinavian garden?
A: Some ideas for enhancing ambience with lighting in a Scandinavian garden include hanging fairy lights or festoon lighting around your seating area, using candles and solar-powered fairy lights for ambient lighting in the evenings, and strategically placing lanterns or other decorative light fixtures throughout the space.
Q: How can I incorporate natural textures and materials into my Scandinavian garden design?
A: You can incorporate natural textures and materials into your Scandinavian garden design by using elements like rattan and wicker furniture, cotton, stone, leather, linen, and faux-fur throws. These materials will add a sense of warmth and authenticity to your garden, reflecting the natural beauty of the Nordic landscape.
Q: How can I transform my balcony into a Nordic haven?
A: To transform your balcony into a Nordic haven, you can use fairy lights, a small bistro table, plants, and soft cushions. You can also utilize an old step ladder as shelving for plants and grow culinary herbs in zinc pots. These small touches will help create a cozy and inviting space.
Q: How can I emphasize wooden furniture and create an outdoor dining area in my Scandinavian garden?
A: To emphasize wooden furniture and create an outdoor dining area in your Scandinavian garden, you can choose wooden dining sets and surround them with potted plants. This will create a natural and organic feel that is characteristic of Scandinavian design.
Q: How can I create a controlled natural setting in my Scandinavian garden?
A: To create a controlled natural setting in your Scandinavian garden, you can incorporate water bodies, pebbles, and greenery strategically. This will help create a balanced and serene environment that reflects the beauty of the Nordic landscape.