Ruth Brandberg was a landscape gardener who was active during the early decades of the 20th century.
Ruth Brandberg was born and raised in Landskrona, where her father, Josef August Brandberg, served as the town’s chief physician. During her first year at school Ruth Brandberg formed a connection that she retained for life, namely with Selma Lagerlöf. Lagerlöf was her first teacher at school from 1885 to 1895 and was friendly with Ruth Brandberg’s parents Josef August and Anna Maria Brandberg. After her father died in 1900 she and her family moved to Stockholm. That year Ruth Brandberg began studying at Kungliga Högre lärarinneseminariet (royal advanced teacher training programme). She had to give up her studies due to illness, but then worked for a time as a private tutor. She subsequently decided to train as a landscape gardener. As with most of the women who were professionally active within this sphere in the early 20th century she went abroad for her training, namely to the Horticultural College for Women in Swanley, Kent in Great Britain, where she studied from 1907 to 1909. She then became one of the first Swedish women to work as a professional landscape gardener.
Ruth Brandberg’s first position upon completing her training was as a gardener for Selma Lagerlöf at Mårbacka from 1909 to 1911. There she was able to put her talents into practise whilst also gaining the experience of being in charge of a large number of men. The work at Mårbacka partly involved renovating an old garden and partly involved creating an entirely new garden. Ruth Brandberg also began to take on her first independent design commissions. In 1911 she and her good friend Gertrude Bråkenhielm moved into a farmstead at Perstorp near Tungelsta in Södermanland, where they tried to run a commercial garden. In 1916 she moved to Lidingö with her sister, Märta Brandberg, and worked as a consultant landscape gardener on projects mainly in Dalarna and within the Stockholm area. Several of her commissioners were related to each other, such as Lilly Wilhelmina Crafoord and her brother Axel Wallenberg, the envoy, for whom Ruth Brandberg worked on his garden at Vilan on Drottningholm.
Around 1920 Ruth Brandberg undertook further training in both practical and theoretical subjects by taking courses on tree surgery on Experimentalfältet and on perspective drawing at Tekniska skolan in Stockholm, as well as working with indoor plants at Adelsnäs in Östergötland. Her most thorough further training was her time spent as a student of the landscape gardener I.P. Anderson in Copenhagen from 1919 to 1921, along with the practical official works and study trips she also undertook in Denmark. I.P. Andersen, who was one of the leading landscape gardeners in Denmark, had for several years been working on new garden areas for Krapperup in Scania, which just happened to be one of Ruth Brandberg’s destinations during a study trip.
Having gained further expertise and experience Ruth Brandberg set out on the next phase of her career: she set up her own office as a landscape gardener, which she ran out of her home in Lidingö. Initially she carried on with the private commissions which she had worked with throughout the 1910s. The Ruth Brandberg collection in the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design (ArkDes), contains a large number of drawings for private gardens which were carried out until around 1940. From the early 1920s the projects which became her particular specialism emerge: gardens and parks near hospitals, sanatoria, and similar care institutions. Her first major commission was a refurbishment and new design near Uppsala’s Akademiska hospital in the mid-1920s, which arose in conjunction with the renovation and expansion of said hospital under the leadership of architect Ernst Stenhammar. The design has only partially survived but originally comprised several distinct gardens which were specifically designed for on the one hand nurses and doctors, and on the other hand male and female patients.
Following this Ruth Brandberg became involved in several projects where she worked in partnership with the architect Gustaf Birch-Lindgren, who for many years was Sweden’s leading hospital architect. These works included the new garden additions at the Seraphim hospital in Stockholm, 1928-1933, including a flower garden on the roof of the utility housing as well as a rockery park; a garden and shed at Sandträsk sanatorium, 1930-1931; Apelvik kustsanatorium in Varberg, 1931-1933, with groves, hedges, and flower beds which in classical style befit the many sanatorium buildings; the Uppsala nurses’ home, ca. 1935; Uppsala county Centralsanatorium, 1937-1938; and Ulleråker hospital 1937. Through her multiple hospital garden additions Ruth Brandberg displayed not just a concern for both old and young patients by giving them opportunities to be outdoors, but also for the built-in hierarchies within the care-environment, which not only separated patients from employees but also separated nurses from doctors by creating distinct gardens for them. One of her largest commissioners was Svenska Tobaksmonopolet (Swedish Tobacco Monopoly) for whom she completed a garden at the Rockesholm holiday home in Bergslagen, 1937-1940. Another major private commission was the modernisation of Lennartsnäs in Uppland for Alfhild af Ugglas, 1936-1937. She collaborated with the landscape gardener Helfrid Löfquist, who also completed several of her commissions.
Ruth Brandberg died in Stockholm in 1944. She is buried in Landskrona cemetery.