A copy of the 16th century statue of Mercury (Hermes) by Giambologna, looking at the sea over the cliffs of Källskär.
I sometimes get the question of which garden that I have visited I have liked the most and I always have found this a very difficult question to answer; an old-fashioned cottage garden can just as wonderful, even if in a different way, as a magnificent palace garden, an avant garde modern garden or a spiritual Japanese one... It all depends on the feelings the garden is able to awake. But yesterday, while shuffling some old photo albums on the bookshelves, I randomly opened one of them and flipped through the holiday photos in it dating from 1994, from a sailing trip with my parents in the archipelago of Åland in South-Western Finland. Looking at them, I think I found the answer to this puzzling question; for despite having visited so many beautiful, serene, bountiful and/or impressing gardens, the garden in Källskär near Kökar represents for me the garden as an ultimate haven; a perfect escape, a shelter from storms and an improbable dream that became true.
The little island of Källskär is mostly known for its natural beauty, the special stone formations and flowing cliffs shaved smooth by the ice age and the sea. Particularly well-known is a stone pillar called "Källskärskannan", "the pot or jug of Källskär", named after its rounded form. The natural meadows were used as summer pasture for sheep until 1958, when Baron Göran Åkerhielm from Sweden sailed in and fell in love with the island. During the following years, he built a low log house between the huge cliffs, and started to build a garden with the help of sheltering stone walls. The people from the surrounding islands like Kökar, always called him "the Count" and helped him to carry soil to the barren island, and for several years, the young people were employed by him to help with the garden. He used sculpture as a contrast and complement to the wild surroundings of the garden, and he loved especially Rhododendrons and roses, getting them to thrive in this harsh and remote environment. In 1983, "The Count" donated his summer residence and garden to the county of Åland, and since then it has been used as a retreat for guest artists and cultural persons, one of the most famous of whom was Tove Jansson, the author of the Moomin books.
A stone path to the log house.
The main house of "The Count", who's real name and title was Baron Göran Åkerhielm.
Källskär is open to the public but visiting it is quite an adventure; the sea around is shallow and full of stones. My father has always loved sailing, and has taken us to most islands in the Archipelago of Turku and Åland, but if you are not an experienced sailor or/and boatman, it is best to travel there with a fishing boat from Kökar that traffics the island daily between June 25 and August 7.
Unfortunately, my holiday pictures were not of a very good quality and when I took them, I was still at the stage where somebody has to be standing in the middle of the picture, smiling. So the only picture here that is taken by me is the first one with the statue of Mercury, which I scanned in. Fortunately, I found some wonderful photos at FlickR taken by Daniel Frigo and Megan and Murray McMillan. Copyright is theirs, even if I have loaned their pictures here; please visit the links above for more beautiful pictures from Källskär and Kökar.