Third and last day started in bright sunshine with a visit to the University of Helsinki Botanic Gardens. As we waited for the main glasshouse to open, we were greeted with a fine specimen of what I now believe is C. mandschurica. Following this, we stopped at the Sibelius Park and Monument. The original monument was the arrangement of vertical pipes, both attractive and quite unusual, though even better, I believe, in bright sunlight. I got the impression that the bust of Sibelius, commissioned and placed fairly close to the original sculpture some years after it was erected, was a bit of an afterthought. Personally I would have been quite happy just with the pipes.
But there was no time to loose as we headed off again for Sofianlehto Garden Centre, owned by Börje Fri, president of the Finnish Clematis Club. The sun was now out as we wandered around the nursery. It was the first opportunity we had had to purchase plants, and many left clutching bags sprouting foliage. Although towards the end of the season, there were many clematis for sale, as well as other plants. There were also one or two display pots and I particularly liked the combination of C. 'Pamela' with C. 'Arabella'.
This was also our lunch break and, with 60 delegates to feed, seating was at a premium. But that didn't deter us, we perched on stacks of sacks of potting compost, against pallets of sand or gravel, wherever there was a flat surface. Some even found a small area of countryside, on the opposite side of the road to the nursery, for their picnic!
I know from various mailshots we have received in the past that Finland is keen to encourage visits by conference groups, but hadn't realized how important we were until the TV camera crew and interviewer appeared, shortly after lunch. They spent some time interviewing our president, Szczepan Marczyñski and our secretary, Fiona Woolfenden about the Society, why they liked clematis and what they liked about Finland. Unfortunately I think the background noise levels at the nursery must have been a little too high for broadcast since that evening, watching the local 10:00 news, we were all surprised to see not the interview at the nursery but instead, footage taken at there our next venue, the Kumpula allotment gardens, and in particular a short interview featuring myself.
The Kumpula allotment gardens are the Finnish answer to city living. They provide a garden oasis for people living in apartments in Helsinki and their owners certainly make the most of them. Everyone is unique but they all generally provide one thinga place to create a small garden and then relax and enjoy it. Most of them have some sort of summer house, some more elaborate than others, more like small houses rather than garden sheds. Some have fruit and vegetable plots but many just provide beautiful floral surroundings for their owners. But the one thing they all have in common, their owners must be very proud of them as they are immaculately kept, neat and tidy with barely a blade of grass out of place.
And even here clematis were in evidence, especially C.viticella, often trained over the garden gate.
Our final visit in Finland was the large seaside garden of Brita Nyberg, set in a beautiful valley running down to the coast. Here we were also to have a barbecue dinner, and for those brave enough, the opportunity for a saunain true Finnish style with the sauna house set next to the sea for a cold plunge after the warmth of the sauna.
The weather, for the first time during our stay, was grey and threatening when we arrived, but that didn't deter us from investigating this large, still quite young but well planted garden. The land used to be the family farm, and this means the soil is very fertile, as you can see by the way the clematis, although none are more than three years old, are flourishing.
We were made most welcome by Brita, her family and friends who followed us around with trays of drinks and then cooked our dinner on the numerous barbecues set up around the garden. Unfortunately it was at this moment that the rain started. For about half an hour it fell from the skies. Most people managed to find some shelter, though some of the umbrellas proved not quite as waterproof as they first looked. But it stopped as suddenly as it started and we were able to continue to enjoy the evening.
And so our evening drew to a close, we thanks our hosts and boarded the coaches to return to Helsinki. Tomorrow we would say goodbye to Finland as we took the fast ferry to Tallinn for Part 2 - Estonia.
Our thanks go to Veijo Miettinen, Mariitta Arminen and Marjaana Hyvärinen for all their hard work in planning and organizing this event, and to Veijo, Timo Löfgren and Börje Fri for their help ensuring smooth running. But finally we must thank Charlotta Fri, the daughter of Börje, who acted as our guide on Monday and Tuesday and played this role with confidence, personality and finesse. She coped with all situations, including unplanned changes to the programme and/or timing, like a true professional.
Please follow these links to go back to Day One or Day Two, or go to Part 2 - Estonia, Day One, Day Two or Day Three
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