BISWEILEN is about my enthusiasm for gardens.

Large parts of my childhood I spent with my plant-loving grandmother in our spacious garden not far from Düsseldorf. What seemed unremarkable to me at the time was, in fact, the beginning of my love of 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 crocodiles and capybaras, 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 is as passionate about plants as I am. Our favourite pastime is visiting gardens in the British Isles or wherever else in the world we happen to be. Last year, 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. With a group of friends I also garden in an unusual allotment near the Rhine. 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 am currently studying for the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture.  

BISWEILEN is an art project.

In my artistic work I examine the happiness found at the margins of everyday life and its potential for individual and social change (see nolden.com).

To me gardening, spending time in gardens or even just looking at plants feels deeply positive. In the series ‘My own garden‘ I record my gardening experiences and memories.

I am equally interested in the role of gardens for the individual expression and happiness of others. In the series ‘People with plants‘ I portray people who are interested in gardens. Their gardens do not have to be large or grand. They don’t even need to have a garden in the traditional sense at all. It’s about the passion of the individual gardener. I am interested in why people garden and how different their approaches are.

For me it is a pleasure to visit gardens, especially those with great design. The series ‘Gardens of note‘ is a collection of my garden visits, mostly in England but also in Japan and elsewhere. In addition to the personal experience of each garden, I am interested in the underlying design ideas and concepts.

Inspired by visits to historical gardens, I began to read about the history of gardening and found surprising parallels with wider cultural developments. Does this mean that gardens can be testing grounds for social change? In the series ‘Further garden thoughts‘ I deal with this question.

I notice human interaction with plants everywhere, even where it is unspectacular and anonymous: along motorways, on pavements, in forests and elsewhere. Gardens are situated at the intersection between nature and culture, but these ‘Plants in passing‘ raise the question: What exactly is a garden?

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.

BISWEILEN is also (hopefully) entertaining and inspiring.

Ulla Nolden