Oslo's garden colonies are now fully in bloom. Did you know that you can walk through them to enjoy the colours, fragrances and pleasant tranquillity?
Published: 27 July 2017
It is like walking into a secret garden. Even though the gate into Rodeløkkens Garden Colony at Carl Berners plass is wide open and everyone is welcome to visit during the day.
"Welcome," says Astrid Saksen, one of the residents, before she shows the way to the cottage she has owned since 1996.
On both sides of the flagstone path, there are a total of 151 small gardens, which are full of flowers, ornamental shrubs and fruit trees. Each one is special in its own way. In the middle of each garden is a small cottage painted in red, yellow, green, white, or blue. One has carvings under the roof ridge while another has floor to ceiling windows.
In one garden, a hammock is suspended between a pair of apple trees, and there is a swing in another. People are busy tending and tidying up in some gardens whereas residents in others are content to sit in their small oases and simply enjoy the nice weather.
A group of allotments within a restricted area in peri-urban areas
They are either municipal or privately owned
The allotments have cottages where it is possible to stay during the summer season
Each garden colony is operated as a community of tenants, and each allotment is operated and tended by the individual resident
The first were created over 100 years ago for working families living in small apartments
Oslo has the following garden colonies: Rodeløkkens, Etterstad, Hjemmets, Sogn and Solvang
In addition, there are garden colonies in cities such as Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, Drammen, Kristiansand, Tønsberg, Haugesund and Skien
The garden colony at Rodeløkka is one of nine such facilities in Oslo. Established in 1907, it is the capital's oldest and has been in operation for 110 years.
The intention was to provide working families with many children who lived in the city's cramped and garden-less apartment buildings with a break from the daily grind in green surroundings as well as a place they could cultivate fruit and vegetables.
"Here you get to work the soil even if you live in an apartment," says Astrid as she opens the gate to a garden that is a feast for the eyes.
There are flower beds full of lilies, carnations, pansies and countless other flowers. She also has berry shrubs and fruit trees. And tomatoes, squash and Jerusalem artichoke are growing here as well. Some small, pink roses are climbing up a trellis on the yellow cottage wall.
"There will be some colour clashes here and there, but that's not a big deal," she says.
Astrid and her live-in partner live seven minutes away in an apartment building that is situated on the other side of the garden colony.
"We therefore commute here every day during the summer," says Astrid.
Their two adopted cats don't do the daily commute with them. The cats live at the garden colony cottage during the warmer months, and as soon as Astrid enters the garden on this July morning, they creep out from within all that green.
"Hey there, Go'pus (i.e. kitty-cat)," says Astrid.
While Go'pus and Litago' (i.e. cutie pie) are waiting for breakfast, they stretch out on the flagstone slabs where the morning sun has begun to warm things up.
One of the cats drinks from a brimming watering can.
Nearby there are some bees partaking of the water in Astrid's birdbath, which is made of a large rhubarb leaf. Afterwards, they take nectar back to their hives on the other side of the garden colony's little hill.
In fact, the bees live in this garden colony, and word has it that it is all the flowers here that make their honey so good.
"We have two of the five hives located here in the garden colony," says Andreas Hindal Grimsæth.
He and Tuva Bugge are standing on the little hill in the middle of the garden colony, which is a common area with a grass lawn and a small clubhouse where they make waffles on Sundays. Both are dressed in white bee-keeper outfits with mesh in front of their faces.
"Last year we got 16 kilograms of honey. That sounds like a lot, but we gave some away as Christmas gifts for friends, and suddenly it was gone. Hopefully, there will be more eventually so that we can start selling a little," says Tuva.
They walk down to the bee hives as Andreas shares some insights about the bees' way of life, as well as their physical characteristics and working conditions. After lifting the lids off the hives, they use smoke-blowers to blow smoke into where the bees are.
"This makes the bees think there is a forest fire, and it causes them to fill their stomachs with honey so they will have enough energy to escape. This in turns makes them heavy and calm, rather than light and in attack mode," explains Andreas.
"Coming here to look around and relaxing among all the greenery, this is a break that includes more than what one gets in a typical park," says Kari-Anne Stenberg, chairman of the garden colony.
Encircling the area, you will see tall buildings full of apartments where some lucky few have small balconies. Although the area is not as densely populated per square meter as previously, allotments in the city's garden colonies are very sought after. In fact, some people have been on the waiting list for 10 years.
"My neighbour actually waited for 13 years," says Kari-Anne and points across the path before she closes the gate leading into her own allotment.
"The reason for the long waiting time is the fact that people get so old here. One of the cottage owners is 95 or 96 years old, and she has remained active on our community work days up until recently. I think it's healthy to be here and spend time both relaxing and tending the garden," she says.
A raspberry shrub with ripe berries is climbing up a fence. Near the breakfast patio at the rear of the cottage, she has sweet cherries and peaches.
"The peaches mature suddenly, and they are very sweet and good. This means they must be eaten quickly. Even if I make a fair amount of fruit drink, sometimes there is fruit left over," says Kari-Anne.
In the autumn, she tends to hang a basket of apples or pears from her garden on the fence, so that neighbours and passers-by can help themselves.