Three answers:

BISWEILEN is an art project.

In my artistic work I examine the joy found at the margins of everyday life and its potential for individual and social change [nolden.com].

The BISWEILEN-project is a record of the joy I derive from gardening, spending time in gardens, speaking to gardeners, reading about gardens or even simply looking at plants. BISWEILEN is a quest to understand why this excites me so much and to what extent others share my enthusiasm.

I chart the history of my own gardening and consider how it has been shaped by social norms and personal experiences. Led by the question ‘Why do people garden?’, I portray people with plants and their individual approaches to gardening. Visits to influential or otherwise significant gardens of note prompt me to consider gardens as indicators of cultural practices and values. Occasionally further garden thoughts become short essays. And as a designer, I subliminally always wonder ‘What makes a garden pleasant and does it matter?’.

Ultimately my observations and recordings point to wider-ranging conclusions. Gardens are located at the intersection of culture and nature. Gardening requires knowledge and respect for the needs of plants; it requires humans to care.

Could gardens be testing sites for rethinking our relationship with nature and with each other?

BISWEILEN is an expression of my love of plants.

Large parts of my childhood I spent with my grandmother in our spacious garden not far from Düsseldorf. What seemed unremarkable to me at the time was, in fact, the beginning of my passion for plants.

As an adult I filled my initially garden-less flats with banana plants and palm trees, visited the greenhouses of botanical gardens and, as soon as I could, travelled to the Amazon jungle. While my fellow travellers stared at caimans and jaguars, I looked the other way – at plants.

Then I came to England and suddenly a new world of gardening culture opened up. The UK had a fundamentally different relationship with gardening than Germany. Gardens were omnipresent, of overwhelming variety and breathtakingly high standard. Slowly I understood that gardening can be so much more than vegetable growing and house plants.

I made my first garden behind a small terraced house in London. A little later I met an Englishman who was as passionate about plants as myself. Ever since our favourite pastime has been to visit gardens in the British Isles and elsewhere. Recently, a long-cherished dream came true and we spent several weeks exploring the gardens of Japan.

I currently live in Düsseldorf and London and garden in both places. In Düsseldorf I try to strengthen the biodiversity in my own garden in the city centre. A horticultural alternative is a small, high-maintenance garden full of exotic plants, which I design and maintain together with my Englishman in London.

To extend my horticultural and above all my botanical knowledge I have completed the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture. In addition I have completed a course on naturalistic planting taught by Noel Kingsbury and Nigel Dunnett.

BISWEILEN is a word.

‘Bisweilen’ is German for ‘at times’. With an air of elegant serenity, ‘bisweilen’ precedes the description of something special. This is the feeling I have when stepping into a garden.

Ulla Nolden

This website contains the entire BISWEILEN project. I write the text in both English [bisweilen.com] and German [bisweilen.de]. All content is free to view, however its use elsewhere is only allowed with my express permission.

This text is also available in: Deutsch (German)