The Gunillaberg estate was built in the late 17th century by Johan Printz, who named the manor house after his mother Gunilla. He went on to become the third governor of New Sweden, the Swedish colony in that is now the state of Delaware in the USA.
While driving back to Stockholm from the west coast of Sweden, I realized that we'd be passing Tage Andersen's Gunillaberg in Bottnaryd, just before the city of Jönköping. Despite the long drive home, we decided to drop by to see if we could get an early lunch at Tage's café, and of course, to see his creations "live" for the first time.
Now, there can't be many "garden people" in Sweden who don't know about Tage and his work, but for those who do not, he is a real renaissance man form Denmark. Originally trained as a pastry chef, he has diversified his artistic portfolio to include flower arrangements, furniture, sculpture and other art installations. He's even published several books about his work and thoughts, and is the proprietor of a floral boutique with a museum in Copenhagen. In Sweden, he managed the well-known gardens by Rudolph Abelin at Norrviken in Båstad for a couple of years.
Tage Andersen bought Gunillaberg in 2008, and has since transformed this late 17th century manor and its gardens into a distinctively Tage-style gesamtkunstwerk. Despite being a Renaissance man in sprit, Baroque is definitely more his style - down to the artistic, old-fashioned clothes he carries (of course I shouldn't comment on looks, but he looks a little like a mixture of Rembrandt and a mystical spirit from the forests - in the most positive way). And his artworks and installations - dramatic, twisted, voluptuous, always with a personal touch to them. While strolling through the house and gardens, it felt like everything there was touched by a magic wand, and turned into something that was "more" than it should have been - a bit magical, and definitely Tage-like. One of a kind, he really is.
While I really wanted to have a chat with Tage, he seemed a little bit stressed and was really busy with serving lunch to the unexpectedly many guests - something that the very friendly young lady at the café mentioned while doing exactly the same. So we ate our delicious white borscht-like soups and finished with coffees and Tage's specialty, "karamelkrans" (caramel covered flaky round pastry - extremely sweet and tasty), completely happy with having just added another 1.5 hours to our already long journey back to Stockholm.
One of the outbuildings, now with a shop that sells a small selection of Tage's artwork and books.
Ceramics with forms reminding of flower bulbs, surrounded by large flower containers on rusty platforms - Tage often uses rusty steel as material in his works.
Large containers with Agapanthus and Camellias on the backside of the manor house.
Tage arranges art exhibitions inside the house - and even the floor is painted in a voluptuous pattern, like Baroque gone crazy... (while it still manages to be in harmony with its surroundings!).
A huge chess set placed on ceramic tiles...
The focal point of the front garden is an art installation in rusted steel (by Tage); it is sitting in a small, round pool surrounded by flower meadow - a lovely contrast, and quite unconventional for a formal Baroque garden....
A fanciful bosquet made of rusty steel and covered with passifloras - there are two of them, the other can be seen behind the square pool. They magically transport you to the gardens of Renaissance and Baroque, while still being surrounded by the dark Swedish forests.
A lovely passiflora variety - I have no idea which one. Purple seemed to be another favorite of Tage's...
Pathways with artwork - and even the larches looked like they could come alive in the dusk of Swedish summer nights.
A large green house is used for concerts.
The scene inside the green house - what a lovely experience it would be to come here for a concert... Maybe next summer.
Even the chicken coops were fancifully artistic - and very rusty.
And one last wink before leaving - even the entrance is a lovely combination of strictly formal and wonderfully twisted.
To see more of Tage's wonderful flower arrangements and artwork, look at the "Gallery" pages on his website (which also contains opening times and a map for finding Gunillaberg): http://www.tage-andersen.com/index.html