Garden Photo of the Day

A Special Property in Finland

By Kim Charles

Kathryn Schneider and her husband, take us along on a unique property and garden renovation in Southern Finland.

"My husband Pekka and I are in the process of renovating an old home
(Rintamiestalo)in southern Finland.  We've documented our home
improvement journey through our blog site  We
welcome you to visit our home renovation & gardening projects.

Our climate zone in Finland is I-II, which translates to approximately a
6a-6b US hardiness range. The site of our home is approx. 3,000
sq.meters (+3/4acre) and we're located about 60km west of Helsinki.

When we acquired the home it was in original 1952 condition – sans
indoor plumbing. The yard was overgrown and gout weed (Aegopodium
Podagraria) had taken over nearly everywhere. There were numerous old
apple trees & plum trees which were growing willy-nilly everywhere. Also
massive red, black & white currant bushes were growing in long rows,
which we learned had provided the former owner with a steady revenue at
harvest time years ago. 🙂

In 4 years we've almost completed the renovation of the house. Last year
we seriously began a concentrated effort on landscaping our property. We
moved a select number of berry bushes to another location, thus freeing
up the prime gardening areas nearer the house and began a massive
landscape project. All work was and is done ourselves, although I think
powered machinery would have really made our lives so much easier!

Last spring we brought in 100 hydrangea (Annabelle & Limelight), 75
assorted evergreen (Negishii, Picea Pungens Glauca, Thuja Smaragd, Picea
Glauca Conica, Juniperus Virginiana Blue Arrow, Picea Abies Pendula,
etc) as well as a number of decidious trees (Magnolia Kobus, Acer
Nugundo Flamingo, Acer Griseum, Acer platanoides'Faassen's Black', etc)
We have attempted to provide a landscape scheme on our bog site that
provides a detailed rendering of what and where…

I realize many readers already have long-established gardens. I hope
everyone can still relate to what it was like when you first started
your garden schemes. Maybe our new gardens will remind you of your own
back-breaking early days and you can appreciate your gardens even more
for all their lushness. We of course hope our gardening projects develop
over time to reward us with years of enjoyment.

There's still much to do here. I'm looking forward taking delivery of 20
new David Austin Roses this spring to add to my DA rose garden

Thanks and best wishes. Happy New Year and happy gardening!"

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View Comments


  1. user-7008377 03/01/2017

    What a gorgeous plot of land!

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Beth. We are fortunate to live in such a wonderful area, and we're trying to make the most of it!

  2. frankgreenhalgh 03/01/2017

    Hello there Kathryn & Pekka - Great to see your post from Finland today. I haven't had time to check your blog site yet, but your pics here show how much you have achieved in only a year. You should be very proud of your hard work and landscaping outcomes to date. When it is all finished it will be very rewarding indeed. My view is that doing it by yourself without help of machinery provides a lot of satisfaction etc., and if the heavy stuff is going to cause any injuries you should bring in some mechanical help. The trick is being able to make that judgement. Keep up the good work. Cheers from Australia
    PS. Love the photo of you in the garden, Kathryn

    1. deannalchurch 03/01/2017

      I agree, you should be very proud of what you have already accomplished. When I read '100 hydrangea and 75 evergreens' I felt overwhelmed. lol

      1. User avater
        vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

        Thank you Deanna. Yes, it's a lot of plant material. Last year was a massive planting endeavor. But my husband Pekka would like to also mention that even though that was a lot of plants, we also brought in 30cubic meters of mulch (loaded and unloaded by us), and 50 cubic meters of additional soil. He carted almost all that dirt himself, although I do what I can. As for the mulch, I was wheel-barrow to wheel-barrow with him! :)
        It might help to mention that Pekka is 187cm while I'm only 165. hahah
        We are already enjoying the rewards of the hard work. The blooms last year on the hydrangea where incredible. We lost 1 plant only!!

        1. deannalchurch 03/01/2017

          Just imagining carting that much dirt and mulch makes me ache all over. I've done a lot of 'wheelbarrowing' myself but not in such huge quantities. I applaud you and Pekka. Just be sure to take care of your backs though. :)

    2. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Hello and thank you Frank. I know Finland doesn't make the GPOD very often, we are especially honored to have our garden projects mentioned. We are excited to see how well everything adjusted and what survived (or didn't) the winter. A few more months of winter here I'm afraid. We're typically 1.5-2 months behind the Eastern US. Our gardening friends from OZ seemed more on par with us, but OZ is a vast place. :) I take almost all the photos for the house blog, so I'm never actually in them. The photo with me in it, has to be 1 out of a 1000. ;)
      Since we aren't smart enough to stop, we'll be bringing in more dirt, more plant material, and erecting new structures in the coming season! I can't wait!!

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/01/2017

    Sigh, the energy and industriousness of youth...and, trust me, however old you are, based on your picture, you are young to me! I think it is wonderful that you are totally hands on in your property transformation. It will give you so much satisfaction as your plants mature and your visions become reality. I have a case of serious soil envy as I gazed upon the beautiful, dark and nutritious looking dirt in which you are planting. It sounds like you are going to have a wonderful balance of evergreens, deciduous trees and flowering bushes. Now I'm off to peruse your blog.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you! Even though we might be younger, we still get tired and sometimes frustrated when things don't go as we planned. The house has been more of that for me (Kathryn) and the garden is where I can incorporate ideas and be creative. My husband Pekka never really was much into gardening, but he has the 'bug' now and gardening has become something we enjoy doing together. As for the great soil, you are absolutely correct. We are fortunate to have a really great soil and sun exposure situation. We have it all just about. Not too far from the front of the house is bedrock from the ice ages. Finland has exposed boulders and bed rock which I think make the landscape here so unique.

  4. greengenes 03/01/2017

    Good morning Kathryn! Thank you for sharing what you and your husband Pekka have created! It sure does bring back memories of all the work we have done here on our property. Great choices of plants and design! It will become so wonderfully full and beautiful! It truely is a labor of love and an artistic way to bring to your lives such fullfillment!

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Jeanne. I fretted with my pad and pencil most of last winter trying to get the design figured out. It was intimidating trying to plan for that large of a garden scheme. There are incorporated 'zones' which I hope will eventually become more discernable as the plants mature. I studied many other wonderful gardens and tried to incorporate their great examples of color, texture and variety of plant material. We have a lot of space still, so it seems our gardening projects won't be ending any time soon!

  5. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

    Thank you Diane. We have really taken on a big job transforming the property. The house was one thing, the yard & gardens is something else altogether. I sometimes get quite envious of the superior plant material selections the US offers, but Finland is getting there. Since our project began, we of course have found many more nurseries & garden sources. Most of them are importing from the Netherlands and other places in the EU. There were 12-15 apple trees when we started out - all about 25yrs old. There are 9 remaining of the original lot. We've added one, which makes 10. Plums are still in a few places. And we have cherry...!
    Finnish houses are smaller on the whole than homes in the US. Rintamiestalo are a type of house built by returning WWII soldiers. Ours is typical of the basic design. No power tools used during original construction either!

  6. grannieannie1 03/01/2017

    It was very inspiring to see what you two have created in such a short time both inside and outside. And it is always interesting to see gardening in other parts of the world which we'll never get to visit, especially when we share the same Climate Zone as you (although, according to your blog site, your August temperatures seem more like fall weather here!) Your long boardwalk was a great idea. Thank you for taking the time to post these pictures and blog site, and please follow with more as your wonderful flowing free-form gardens mature.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Annie. Finland isn't really very far away, but I know not many venture here because it is out of the way. It's too bad. Finland has so much to offer. Our seasons are a lot like many in the US, just a bit shorter during the warm months. Finns celebrate like crazy at every opportunity, and one of the largest is Midsummer. August is typically the hottest, but nothing like the scorching heat some of the US gets. Finland enjoys mild climate and most Finns enjoy mild flavors over spicy stuff. I especially love the boardwalk - before that it was trekking through the mud. :( Now that the boardwalk is completed, the landscaping of that area is one on the to-do list this gardening season. :)

  7. NCYarden 03/01/2017

    Wow, what a project. I celebrate your enthusiasm and determination to do it yourself. Quite the reward regardless of the aches and pains - we all share those with you. It does take me back to the early days of my own garden development (still very much in process as well). Those plant numbers sound intimidating, despite the excitement. I will need to check out your blog after work, but what I see here is amazing. The extended views of your property are fantastic too. I look forward to future posts of the development. Thanks for sharing.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you! There were many aches & pains! Between house remodeling and the garden, I'll take garden aches any day. You aren't the only one that thinks it sounds like too much. My husband didn't really have a true clue of the full intent of the plan even though we went over it and over it for months all last winter. Things progressed actually rather quickly and that helped us not only keep on track, but also to be able to see the process out. Luckily, most of what we planted isn't 'high maintenance' but I'm vigilant anyway keeping an eye on everything just in case. The scenery in Finland is unique and we are fortunate to have almost undisturbed views throughout our property. 5km from town, but tucked into a country atmosphere. Lots of wildlife, birds and trees. I love it. :)

  8. user-4691082 03/01/2017

    Wow! What a massive undertaking. You have done a marvelous job of plant choice and design. You must be around 25 years old to do all of that work! Keep us updated on your progress. It just gets more and more fun over time!

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Rhonda. It has been very rewarding and fun. Neither I or Pekka are 25! haha. Though we are both fortunate to be healthy and enjoy what we're doing. Many of the items we planted last year will take years to mature, some other items only a few. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out. :)

    2. user-7007498 03/01/2017

      Welcome back, Rhonda. Hope you enjoyed your time in Cancun.
      Less than 2 weeks to the Flower Show!!!

  9. User avater
    treasuresmom 03/01/2017

    Wow Kathryn. I love seeing what others have done in foreign lands ;). I bookmarked your website so I can go back and peruse it. Love your pics and all you have done and are doing.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you! Our undertaking is a big departure from the traditional Finnish garden scheme. There are many people in our area who have come by to see what we're doing as it's so much different to what everyone here is used to seeing. :) Thank you for taking a look at the website - I've never written one before. Hopefully it isn't too boring! :)

  10. Sunshine111 03/01/2017

    Beautiful and inspiring! Thank you for sharing your lovely property with us all.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Lily. I'm glad you enjoyed it, we sure are. :)

  11. tennisluv 03/01/2017

    Wow, Kathryn & Pekka. You have done so much in so little time. The shear quantity of plants, soil, and mulch you installed in one year is mind-boggling! And all your hard work has paid off. For a new landscape, it is amazing. Can't wait to watch it grow and change. Keep sharing your adventure!

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Sonya. I'm excited of course to see how everything did once winter clears out. Still a waiting game as it will likely be a couple months more wait! It seems like we were working night and day there for a while. But then once it was all in and planted we didn't have anything to do! Sitting on the patio admiring the garden after sauna has become our summer enjoyment. Springtime means apple tree pruning and getting new beds established. Ive got a bundle of new roses arriving in April, there's not much 'down-time' in the early season. Just like everyone else! :)

  12. user-7008382 03/01/2017

    how did you get rid of the aegopodium???

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Hi Joe, I found the best method to be the simplest method. constantly cutting it down with the mower has all but erradicated it. The only places it still pops up from time to time are some areas I can't reach with the mower or don't trim often enough. There were a couple places in the shady areas of the yard that were especially problematic, more so because we really didn't have anything viable growing there except sparse grass. Once we started landscaping beds and moving dirt around, I was better able to get those areas cut down too. Now gout weed is nearly a thing of the past. If I could show you the photos of it growing everywhere, you just wouldn't even believe it's the same place, then as now.
      I am not a fan of glyphosulphate(?) so using roundup was out of the question. Nothing as far as weed killer damaged the gout weed at all. Even hand pulling in some areas was useless. Cutting it down over and over has been the only thing I've found that's worked over time.

  13. cynthiamccain 03/01/2017

    New garden or not, it already is beautiful, Kathryn. Your mixture of evergreens and deciduous shrubs is very exciting. Being a fan of David Austin's English roses, I really hope you share photos of them soon. Happy gardening!

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Cynthia. I'm amazed at our progress and delight in how well everything settled in last year. Hoping for a good season this year also. My grandmother was a very talented gardener and with her 100+ roses my grandparents home was often the yard of the month & year. I'm grateful to have a green thumb. My forray into roses was something I've wanted to do for a long time. Just didn't have the space. David Austin is the creme de la creme and my expectations were surrpassed. Last years blooms on the spring planted bare root roses were stunning. In the EU, DA Desdemona has been available for some time, I think it's a new offering to the US this spring. It's spectacular. Another favorite is The Lark Ascending. Just love it! Happy gardening to you as well!

  14. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 03/01/2017

    What an incredible amount of work you have done! The layout looks great and the plant selection is wonderful. You've really moved full speed ahead. My garden came about much more slowly. I believe yours will be much more cohesive and joy as you continue your labor! Keep sharing your progress, please.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Tim. Yes, a lot already done & so much more yet to do. We have a pretty large property so that plant list on our blog page might seem overly inclusive, but somehow things are working :) Trying to get proper spacing and allow for maturation so they won't get too crowded has been a primary focus while planting. With so many choices availabe, even here, being selective hopefully will reward us with smooth development & cohesion. ;)

  15. thevioletfern 03/01/2017

    Wow, you two have it going on! I know that it's difficult, intensive hard work but I also know that at the end of the day when you're all sore and bruised and ready for sleep that you have a deep satisfaction in your soul. I remember the start of my garden as if it were yesterday and believe me when I tell you, it doesn't take long for it to grow up and even out of control! You have a wonderful, beautifully laid out "backbone" of a garden you have started. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Kathy. I've seen quite a few gardens that have become over-run. Our property was once loved years ago by the original owner. Sadly the extended family had let things go here. The gout weed was a real contender but I think we've managed to overcome it. Hopefully the spacing and type of items we've chosen will mature well together. Time will tell! :)

  16. OregonGardenGal 03/01/2017

    That is a lot of planting you have done! I can see the beginnings of some wonderful borders and garden rooms. I remember seeing some post war houses when we traveled from Helsinki to Turku on the train a few years ago. Yours looks great!

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Nancy! These old homes are still plentiful although in the farther reaches the communities there are dwindling and many of the old homes are lying vacant. We have a real gem. Very-well constructed, sturdy and should last another lifetime. Our changes have been significant to the interior but they suit our needs and lifestyle. There are whole FB and other online groups devoted solely to these post war homes. Finns really appreciate a good thing ;)

  17. sheila_schultz 03/01/2017

    Kathryn and Pekka, I am truly in awe of what you have accomplished in only a year. For most of us it would take either several years or a team of workers to create the garden beds you have so kindly shared with GPOD! I'm especially enjoying the diversity of plants you are bringing together. Even in their infancy, your gardens are already visually interesting and show the potential of being magnificent as they mature. Gardening is very much like watching a child grow... it's a labor of love, a lot of hard work and worth all the sweat and tears! I'm eager to watch the progression of your dreams! Thanks!

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Sheila! I had lots of time to plan! And as with almost everything I do there is sometimes a bit of anxiety about choice, especially when considering what Pekka would also enjoy - in the end, I can be very decisive. I have tried to choose wisely and to incorpate items that will compliment other specimens and together make the whole, a much more interesting and delightful display. :)

      1. sheila_schultz 03/02/2017

        Designing a garden is a very personal experience. From my experience, I try to please others with my plans and ideas, but in the end the plants I choose are the ones that make me smile. We all edit our selections... over and over and over. As the plants mature, so does our vision of beauty.

        1. User avater
          vanhatalosuomi 03/02/2017

          Yes, I agree with you 100% I've seen many great gardens and then some that left me wondering what might have gone wrong somewhere down the line. I understand the edit process. In order to save some of the established plants that came with the property, as well as some we brought with us I had to locate them in an area that wouldn't be harmed by the backhoe digger when we were doing construction on the house. Needless to say, all those random items thrown together were not a vision of loveliness! It's taken quite a long time to get those items resituated and incorporated. Last year, we also focused on our woodland garden with had all the elements typical of a Finnish garden. Unfortunately, it just wasn't working anymore - if it ever did. Years of neglect weren't helping. We moved what we could to another area of the property and started over from scratch. It's an area we pass multiple times a day, see on a regular basis from the house and is now one of our loveliest areas. I cannot wait to see how it develops over time - with all the new choices we made! :)

  18. Doxnmomx2 03/01/2017

    Step away from the "Order" button! You're making my back ache. Oh my! I'm so impressed. So much work! It's wonderful to see the young yard and I look forward to future photos as it ages. Thank you for sharing! How long is your growing season? The long days must make the growth explosive in summer.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Peggy. We actually don't order often. Usually I have everything all planned out for the coming season and make 1 purchase. ;) Our growing season starts about 1.5-2 months after the Eastern US. Our trees are still leafing out sometimes many weeks after the US. During the summer and extended daylight, things grow very well, but it never gets really hot or for very long. Growing tomatos for instance was rather disappointing. Just about the time we get rippened matters, the season is over. Pekka built a greenhouse last autumn so we can capture some of that summer weather for just a bit longer. It should make all the difference! ;)

      1. Doxnmomx2 03/01/2017

        You sound very organized and hard-working. It must be fun to put together a big order and certainly a necessity with a short growing season. Please keep sending photos throughout the year!

        1. User avater
          vanhatalosuomi 03/02/2017

          I try to be well-organized and usually things work out pretty well. Sometimes no matter how hard I've thought it through, in the end there's something that just isn't working -we can all relate to that I think ;) Thank you again.

  19. wittyone 03/01/2017

    It looks as though all your hard work is paying off big time. Four years is a long time to wade through a renovation but is worth the wait. Your landscaping is looking so good and I am sure with your tender loving care will continue to grow and flower.

    I can imagine how happy your old house is now that it has handy, capable caretakers making it livable once again.

    Finland who knew it could be so green? My image of Finland is of a snow covered barren landscape. I'm a non traveler as you can probably tell. Even more surprising to me is that here in southern Indiana we are in the same hardiness range. It's so interesting to see parts of the world so far away from the U.S. I'm so glad you posted.

    I've saved the URL of your web site and will begin at the beginning to see how all your work has unfolded over time.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Vwitte! Four years is too long to be wading through a renovation!!! yes. my thoughts exactly! :D The garden was my escape from constant indoor construction. I could achieve so much more in half the time. Finland is actually very lush. The boreal forests are wonderful and we hike a lot. The terrain is both hilly and flat. The ice age did a wonder to the landscape. Some times we hike to see places of the bronze age, or of ice age kettles. It's amazing. Of course there is also lots of agricultural land. The Swedes had great farms from ancient times. Finland is a bi-lingual country - sharing both the Finnish language and Swedish.

  20. Chris_N 03/01/2017

    You have certainly put in a lot of hard work and it shows. Very impressive for the time you've been working on it. Somehow, planting 100 hydrangea, 75 evergreens and various and assorted other trees and shrubs, all in one year, wears me out just thinking about it. The design thought you have put into it also shows. It looks good now. In a few years it will look amazing.

    I noticed the fence you have. Is it to keep out deer? Or do moose also get down by you?

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Chris. It was a lot of labor, but everyone who follows GPOD has put their time in! ;) Yes, you are correct, the fence is to deter white-tail deer that are frequent visitors ..or should I say used to be! They had the run of the place until we purchased it and I think they are lamenting it most of all in the autumn when the apples are ripening. We do throw quite a few over the fence just to make sure they stay on that side! :D I've only seen a young moose since being here 5 yrs. There are bear, wolf mink, badger and fox all in our region (Uusimaa) although we only see the fox from time to time. ;)

  21. bsavage 03/01/2017

    Wow, you've already accomplished so much! That is going to be so beautiful as it continues to grow... congratulations!

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Brenda. It is a big accomplishment. With teamwork my husband and I have really gotten the ball rolling. We truly love it, and the rewards are the cherry.

  22. LaurelEm 03/01/2017

    I love seeing a European garden. Your choice of plants is wonderful. I can certainly identify with the amount of work you are putting into your garden. Please keep us updated as your garden grows.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Laurie. I would love to have another chance to show our gardens in the future. Until then we will be making new beds and incorporating more and more areas of the property into some cohesive gardening spaces.

  23. schatzi 03/01/2017

    What a gargantuan undertaking! And it is paying off wonderfully already. I admire your ambition and energy, and your attention to design and planning. It is already beautiful and will only grow more so. Please continue to share your progress with us.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Shirely. The growth last year was amazing and all the items settled in nicely throughout the summer and autumn. I cannot imagine the views in years to come, but I hope they only improve with time. Some of the trees will definitely change the look and feel and that's what makes it all so fun and interesting!

  24. user-7007498 03/01/2017

    Good afternoon, Kathryn. One of the things I love about GPOD is seeing gardens around the world and reading the stories about those gardens. Despite the hard work, gardening is so good for our bodies and souls. Reading over your plant list, you have done a great job incorporating beautiful and reliable plants into your landscape. Limelight is on of my favorite panicle hydrangeas. Acer griseum is such a stunning small tree.

    I love your property. Fabulous borrowed views to work with. Your garden is coming together so nicely. Great job. I will check out your blog when I have time this weekend.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you Kevin. There are of course so many items one could choose to include, it is difficult at times to say no. But, it's necessary. ;) The hydrangeas performed exceptionally well and I was amazed at their progress in such a short time. Everyone thinks they're my favorite since we have so many. Actually I'm partial to roses and peony. :D

  25. user-7007940 03/01/2017

    Thanks for sharing. Please send us updates. Love to see how it all comes together as the plants mature. Finland is a country I have always wanted to visit.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/01/2017

      Thank you! Finland is wonderful and you should definitely make it a point to come and see for yourself. I love it here. I hope everything comes together... it's a waiting game ;)

  26. sheila_schultz 03/02/2017

    I've never said this before in a GPOD post,... Kathryn your comments have been enchanting, and your words to all of us have made your passions come to life. I'm a traveler and I adore seeing new parts of our large world, and now Finland is on my list. Thank you for so generously sharing your love for your gardens and your life in your country. Please keep posting about your gardens and your home.

    1. User avater
      vanhatalosuomi 03/02/2017

      It's an honor Sheila and a real delight to be the recipient of kind words from people who share the same love and passion as I do. Thank you sincrerely. <3

  27. Maggieat11 03/04/2017

    Wonderful project to share... and with great results! Looking forward to more photos as your progress with your landscaping! Thanks for sharing!

  28. user-6536305 01/02/2018

    You two are hard workers and the results are obvious. Love your story and your landscape. Huge achievement in such short period of time! Thanks for sharing! Update us on your progress.

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