Elsa Beata Wrede was a keen horticulturalist and the first woman in Sweden to publish a horticultural instruction guide.
Elsa Beata Wrede was born at Peippola farm in Elimäki parish, south-eastern Finland, in 1734. Her father, Fabian Wrede, was a government minister and her mother was Catharina Charlotta Sparre. Elsa Beata Wrede was the youngest of eight children born into the wealthy Wrede family. The fact that chief gardener Jonas Stöörk was already working at Peippola farm by the 1690s probably reflects the great interest in horticultural matters taken there in comparison to elsewhere in the local area.
Elsa Beata Wrede got married in 1761. Her husband was Baron Sven Bunge who was later elevated to the rank of count. Elsa Beata Wrede continued to use her own name although in several contemporary publications her name was given as Elsa Beata Bunge. Despite the fact that she was most likely the first woman in the kingdom (today the separate countries of Sweden and Finland) to publish gardening advice little is actually known of Elsa Beata Wrede’s life.
Sven Bunge purchased Beateberg farm in 1771, situated in Rö parish, 30 kilometres northeast of Stockholm. The name Beateberg is not in any way related to Elsa Beata Wrede’s middlename and today the property is known as Mylnaulle, Målnekulla, and Viraberg. It is said that Elsa Beata Wrede had an English-style park established around Beateberg farm. There is some discrepancy as to the actual size of the estate with some sources giving it as 50 hectares, whilst others state it was 70 hectares. Jonas Carl Linnerhielm gave a laudatory description of the park in 1816.
In 1774 Sven Bunge was elected into the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It was probably thanks to this that Elsa Beata Wrede became familiar with some of the academy’s significant members, including Carl von Linné and Peter Jonas Bergius.
In 1803 Elsa Beata Wrede published an instruction pamphlet on cultivating grapevines: Bref till Eglé, om sättet att med minsta kostnad plantera vinrankor, i Sverige; samt befordra dem till ymnig bördighet, tidig och fullkomlig mognad. At the end of the 52-page pamphlet there are instructions for building a grapevine cultivation box which includes a table to show how the expense of acquiring the necessary materials is already covered by the profits gained from the first harvest. Elsa Beata Wrede’s interests appear to have involved cultivating grapevines and other greenhouse plants - the Beateberg garden, in addition to magnificent grapevines, also had an orangery and a “peach room”.
Elsa Beata Wrede published a pamphlet in 1806 which described how to prune grapevines, entitled Beskrifning om vinrankors beskärande efter sjelfva naturens anvisning jämte ett nytt sätt att updraga deras grenar påfunnit af engelsmanen herr M. W. Forsyth. This 24-page pamphlet contains a single drawing portraying pruned grapevines. The reference is to William Forsyth, related to the well-known Scottish horticulturalist.
Elsa Beata Wrede’s horticultural interests were not just restricted to “finer” cultivation – in 1812 she was elected into the Royal Patriotic Society. The following year she made experimental cultivations of seed potatoes which she had received from the society. Her observations were collated in two articles which were published in 1813. Following the death of her husband, Sven Bunge, Elsa Beata Wrede seemingly moved to a smaller farm called Wijk and the main farm of Beateberg was transferred to her son Mårten Bunge.
The main building at the farm, which had been constructed by Sven Bunge, burned down in 1860 although the plants appear to have survived the fire. Elsa Beata Wrede’s orangery at Beateberg, which is currently in private ownership, has completely vanished and only ruins remain of the original greenhouse. Although the park still remains, it has grown over.
Elsa Beata Wrede died in 1819.