It’s that time of year again when I head off with my camera to take pictures of projects from recent years. Some summer it takes ages waiting for the right weather and the right light. The best weather is slightly cloudy, just enough to soften the shadows but not enough to darken the mood. Sometimes you just have to go for it and hope the weather gods turn things in your favour, maybe just for a few minutes. I got lucky in this yard situated in the outskirts of Reykjavik. It is one of the projects that has been close to my heart and in development for almost a decade. When I started the design with my clients the main concern was retaining some of the wild characteristics of the landscape and enough interest that both young and old could explore and find endless little surprises. We still have a while to go and the big rocks with the proposed waterfalls will be finished in the next few years. That said there is so much to explore, so let me take you on a little journey!

Iceland wild flower garden design

If you have ever heard of elves, and if you are lucky enough to see them, this is the place to look. Before the house was built there was a little mound in the front of the plot characteristic for the dwelling of ancient nordic elves. There were also alpine flowers in the front yard next to the elven mound. The wild flowers were put under local protection by the client and his landscape designer (yours truly) and a pact made with the elves. So far there have been no strange happenings that could be attributed to elven pranks and the alpine flowers are in colourful bloom.


Of course no back yard is complete without chickens according to my cheerful client. These colourful hens of the Icelandic settlement variety rome freely and greet guests with a low cackle. Apart from being utterly charming the eggs they lay are totally delicious.


The stylish chicken sheds have traditional gras roofs remnant of old Icelandic farmhouses. The overlapping outside paneling is also a traditional detail. Adjacent to the chicken sheds is a perfectly formed cairn made from cut lavastones. These cairns were life-saving for travellers going across moors and mountain passes. Of course this insures that you will never get lost in this yard.


The awning in the front yard creates a wonderful little space which the early morning eastern sun warms up. I sometimes say that with the Icelandic windy and rainy weather a space such as this should compulsory outside every Icelandic dwelling.


In the backyard the most prominent structure is the new “potting shed” which early in the spring doubles as a winter sun room. Next to it, surrounded by basalt columns, is a small vegetable garden full of potatoes. The large evergreens in the background create a shelter from the cold northern winds, which are prevailing on sunny days in Reykjavik.


On top of an old anchor they rest, the little stone-elves which can be found all over the garden. They warn intruders not to sulk and bring joy to the residents.

Garden design vegatables

And of course, last but not least the small kitchen garden with it’s herbs and vegetables grown in planters to make the job of tending them easier. I hope you have enjoyed the pictures from this garden which is full of life and full of surprises.

Björn Jóhannsson, landscape architect

July 24th 2015