Victoria Skoglund is slightly different
When I first get in contact with Victoria Skoglund, owner of Zetas gardens, to ask her for an interview her she says, “I have a long relationship with the Lydmar and I often host my afternoon meetings there. It’s a great place to get together – it’s like being in someone’s home.” Otherwise, Victoria doesn’t have that much time to hang out at hotels. Her job takes up all her time – even though she herself says that it might be time to slow down a bit and travel a little more – now that she’s turning 50. Her dream destination is the south of France, where she finds inspiration in all the beautiful gardens she’s seen and read about. Even if I wouldn’t be able to use everything straight off, I’d like to take colours and forms from these places and apply them here at home in Sweden.”
When we get together a few weeks later, Victoria has just been awarded the 2018 “Inspirer of the Year” award by the magazine ELLE Decoration. She says she was very surprised by the accolade but was
naturally happy and honoured to receive it. “I’ve always felt that I’m surrounded by inspirers but never thought of myself as one. However, with around 100 000 followers on Instagram and a jampacked blog, it’s not only Elle Decoration’s jury members who think that Victoria is a major inspiration in her industry as head gardener. The jury’s reasoning not only highlights her creativity but also emphasises the sustainability in her way of working with Zetas gardens and the other commercial gardens that she has developed into lifestyle concepts. “I think that the fact that I really love my work shines through – both in my social media channels and in my shop. It’s modern yet authentic and feels real. That’s important. Zetas gardens is a family run company that she took over from her parents. “From the very start, our business has been based on honest marketing. My dad used to put minus signs in front of certain plants in our catalogue to show that he couldn’t recommend them – but which had to be included due to popular demand. That’s something we still do. Another thing, we avoid recommending certain plants to certain customers if we feel it will be too difficult for them to take care of. There’s no value in selling something to someone if it won’t survive. I call it honest marketing and I believe, and hope, that is one of the reasons that people like visiting and shopping at our gardens. That the authenticity shines through. The same goes for my social media channels. I don’t do any collabs with fashion labels or such. I practice what I preach”.
Gardening is a hobby that is really trending nowadays – and getting more and more coverage in glossy magazines. It’s no longer something that your grandmother used to do. Nowadays, you can read tips everywhere about sprouting seedlings, balcony gardening and flower arrangements. Gardening has become hip. “I absolutely believe that this is connected to the major food and health trends that have been ongoing for a while. What’s more, people are more aware of what they put in their mouths these days. And when it comes to organic and locally grown – when you grow things yourself, you can be absolutely sure that isn’t sprayed with anything or hasn’t travelled across half of Europe to get here. And then there’s the aspect that we all want to be out there, keeping active, in order to stay in shape. Gardening is physically demanding, not something you can do while lounging in your hammock. Another reason why gardening and plants are so popular is thanks to social media and blogs. Images of flowers and gardens are incredibly beautiful and we draw inspiration from all the photos that are circulating in social media.” On a number of occasions, Victoria has tried to move the gardening trend from social media channels to TV – but it hasn’t caught on – not yet anyhow. “Unfortunately, production companies aren’t ready to fully invest in this niche yet. It’s a real pity -because I really feel that there’s a hole to fill in TV programming. But maybe this will change – as gardeners, our status is rising all the time. In Sweden, we’re still far behind the UK, where the status of gardeners is higher than that of doctors and lawyers. But then again, the UK is in a league of its own when it comes to gardens and gardening.”
So, what are your options when you want that beautiful, inspiring garden but are so caught up in family, career, fashion and interior décor, that adding a perfect garden to your list would send you over the edge? Because there’s no denying that gardening is demanding – both physically and in terms of time. “When it comes to gardening, I think it’s important to focus on one or two things and stick to those. Don´t overdo it. Often, the problem I see with the people who come to Zetas is that they want to plant an entire garden all at once. That’s a very difficult thing to do and nothing that I would recommend. Instead, pick one area – for example outside your front door or around the terrace – and focus on that first. No one wants to fail but there’s a definite risk if you try to do the whole garden at once. Once your entrance or terrace is in order, then you can start on another part of the garden. That’s how you build up a sustainable garden.”
Another key tip from Victoria is to use quality soil. “Good soil is a must! Best of all is if you have your own compost, through which you can become part of the carbon cycle and give back to the Earth. Using good soil is always important, regardless if you’re planting a garden or a single flower on the balcony. When it comes to balconies, a common mistake made by many is that the flower pots they use are far too small. Plants need room. And nutrients! Don’t forget that. When the flower pots are too small – the plants dry out quickly – and you’ll need to water everyday in hot weather. With such a setup, even going away for a weekend is a problem – and if you forget them even once they can wilt and die.” Yes – the combination of travelling and plants – is a problem that many people can identify with. You buy plants, plant them and everything looks great – but then comes the summer holidays and you’re away for two weeks. Relying on rain is not a failproof solution. One option is to ask your neighbour to help out. But even so, there’s no guarantee that your garden will survive. “Last summer I built a greenhouse. They we we
nt to the Swedish island of Öland on vacation. My neighbour was going to help water and tend to the plants. After two weeks, she took a photo of the inside of the greenhouse – which made me pack up and return home immediately. I completely missed how different the growing climate is in a greenhouse compared to outside. Nothing had died, on the contrary it had grown like a jungle. As I said, I returned home, pruned the cucumbers and tomatoes and other stuff, later returning to Öland. So even those of us who work professionally with gardening learn new things all the time. That’s also part of the charm of working with plants.”
We get back to the topic of Victoria’s dream vacation to the gardens of the south of France. Some years ago, she visited Italy, which is also a country she would like to return to for inspiration. I ask her if there are any restaurants or hotels her in Sweden that in her mind stand out when it comes to plants and flowers. “I haven’t really gone around looking, but I visit your neighbour, the Grand Hôtel, every month to meet my mentor. I think they’re really good at that. Svenskt Tenn stands out too. And when it comes to hotels, there are two in Majorca with really beautiful gardens, Cas Xorc and La Residencia. Both are fantastic hotels that are worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity and are interested in gardens.”
All this talk about plants makes the longing for spring more intense. I start dreaming about the spring opening of the Patio and the Terrace at Lydmar. Victoria talks about how she enjoyed a lovely long lunch at The Terrace with a colleague, involving a tad too much Champagne. It sounded like the perfect
afternoon – one that they should make a tradition. Victoria has to run, there’s a lot going on at Zetas, their latest investments being an online store for plants and two new Swedish plant nurseries. “It’s important that we don’t just bring in plants from abroad. Instead we should encourage Swedish nurseries and help them survive. They offer plants that work well in the Swedish climate, which is another aspect of the sustainability mindset and work that I think is very important.” While Victoria packs up, I make a mental note to book a meeting with our own florist and head gardener to plan this year’s landscaping for The Patio and The Terrace, after our super inspiring meeting.
Need some inspiration? Follow Victoria Skoglund on Instagram. Two other garden-related Instagram accounts that Victoria likes and is inspired by are Charlottegardenflow and trip2garden.