On Tuesday, May 29th, I had the good fortune to be part of the group that toured Flor og Fjære. It is the only palm-tree island in the North Sea….. and it is beyond imagination. I know – you are wondering what I’ve been sniffing – right? Norway is COLD!
Well, it’s all about micro-climates, and the ability of plants to survive in hostile environments with just a bit of protection and careful placement. But on the north end of an island? It still is hard to believe.
We caught the ferry at the Stavanger Havn. It was billed to be a sunny day, but there were clouds, and a cold wind. Many of us stayed on the open deck anyway – the sun did peek out once in a while, and you must not waste Norwegian sun.
Flor of Fjære is a family operation. The founder was a greenhouse owner and operator in Stavanger area, and wanted a place to get away from it, so he bought 4 acres on the northern tip of an island. The farm had been owned and run by a widow who barely made ends meet to feed her children, and burned every tree on the property to stay warm. It wasn’t long before he decided a few trees for a wind break would be a good idea……. and from there it grew. I think he just couldn’t sit there and not start playing in the soil.
The trees are a major player in making the micro-climate that allows this miracle to flourish. They use tall, skinny trees, or prune lower branches so that they maximize the sunshine while providing protection from the winds blowing in off the North Sea. Some more tender specimen, like the citrus trees, are wintered inside as well.
We were treated to a tour of the estate, now grown from the original 4 acres to 20, and encompassing several ponds and falls, and many different garden areas, each with its own theme and colour scheme. We went down a hill toward the sea past a natural stand of birches and towards the cloister garden where the herbs used in the restaurant are grown. The top of the table there is what is left of the roof stone for the cave the original owner used as cold storage. It was much larger – but the story is that sailors would shelter in the cave when seas got too rough, and the neighbor didn’t like it, so he broke it into pieces.
After our tour, we were treated to a wonderful meal – creamy fish soup, and an array of salads, fish and vegetable dishes. Dessert was a tasty treat as well. Sorry – I never think of taking photos of my food – I should have. The chef came and talked to us – he is a wonderfully droll Dutchman who hated boats and cold – and has been working there for 15 years.
We had a few minutes after lunch to wander in the gardens, take photos, and enjoy the shelter and the sunshine. then we were off again toward Stavanger. Paradise really can be on a cold island in the North Sea, after all.