GARDENING IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE - Norway



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High up on the north coast of Norway and 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle is the worlds most northerly botanic garden. It sits on the small, low lying island of Tromso, a rugged piece of land that is covered in snow for much of the year. It is also highly remote as its only connection to mainland Norway is a single bridge.

The botanic garden found here is not only relatively new – only opening in 1994, it is also relatively small. Excluding a large area or natural woodlands it covers no more than 5 acres of cultivated ground. Luckily, the cold, moist climate of Tromso is moderated by a branch of the Gulf Stream and this makes for relatively mild winters (the January average is -4.4 Degrees Celsius) and cool summers (the July average temperature 11.7 Degrees Celsius), otherwise nothing would grow!

Unlike most other botanic gardens, tromso is essentially a large rock garden containing nigh on 560 different plants within its collection – many of which have been sourced from the gardens of local islanders.

Plants need both light and warmth to survive so in a land where it can remain in daylight – or darkness - for months at a time, maintaining a botanic garden here creates huge challenges. Of course this is not a problem unique to Arctic gardeners. In days gone by the islanders had to develop ingenious way of keeping their culinary plants alive over the long and dark winter periods. This meant storing living plants in animal bladders and stomachs to help see them through the winter.

For the Tromso botanic garden to be both manageable and successful it is key to have plants that will tolerate the extremes of this harsh environment. With the additional pressure of winters lasting up to 7 months it is down to a wide selection of alpine plants to bring the majority of form and colour to this stunning environment. In truthfulness, despite the long cold winters these specialist mountain plants do well here as they get a chance to rest before next season’s growth.

Tromso is on the same latitude as Greenland which - without the benefit of the Gulf stream – is too cold to allow anything to grow. But during the relative warmth of an Arctic summer, plants more commonly found in the south of England - such as the Dog rose, lilacs and cow parsley - are able to flourish and bloom.

Part woodland, part alpine meadow, Tromso is clearly a living work of art that is constantly on the move, forced on by the relentless Arctic seasons. So long as you can visit when the sun is guaranteed to be up you can be sure of a unique and spectacular show.

For related articles click onto the following link:
GARDENING IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
GARDENING IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE - Greenland
HOW TO GROW HELXINE SOLEIROLII

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