Ulla Molin was a journalist, an editor, an author, and a landscape architect. She is a key figure within Swedish landscape architecture.
Ulla Molin was born in 1909 in the small Scanian village of Kattarp near Helsingborg. Her father was a farmer and her mother was a teacher. Ulla Molin’s childhood garden made a lasting impression on her. It was enclosed by hedges, with climbing ivy on timber frames, gnarled fruit trees, gentle gravelled roads and broad perennial flower beds sown by her mother, who took inspiration from the nearby Sofiero. Ulla Molin studied at the Apelryd agricultural school near Båstad. This was the first master-gardening programme for women in the North and was run by Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet (association). After her studies she interned at the Stockholm city perennial plant school and worked at the Nylöf landscape architect office in Djursholm.
Ulla Molin met the man she went on to marry, an engineer called K G Molin, in 1930. Her father-in-law to be, Adrian Molin, was the man behind the Nationalförening mot emigrationen (national society against emigration) and its organ Hem i Sverige, in which Ulla Molin began to publish some articles on a variety of gardening matters. Ulla Molin married K G Molin in 1932 and a few years later their children, Ingela and Anders, were born. Following a stint as editor of Hemträdgården – Svensk trädgårdskalender from 1939–1940, she published her first pamphlet, Min balkong in 1941. The next year she released Trädgårdsrecept, a presentation of her ideas on how to design private gardens. In 1942 she became the official editor of the journal Hem i Sverige which put her in contact with leading personalities in gardening, architecture, interior decorating, and craftsmanship at the time, such as Ralph Erskine, who designed the Molin family home on Lidingö in 1947. One of Ulla Molin’s main goals was to strengthen collaboration between the different branches of the profession and she took great inspiration from Danish gardening, the leading figures of which were Gudmund Nyeland Brandt and C.Th. Sørensen. Ulla Molin introduced Danish gardening concepts in Hem i Sverige, visited Danish gardens, and also attended the Nordic gathering called Den historiske havekunst held in Denmark in 1949. She met the illustrator Lisa Bauer in 1945. Their connection proved to be a significant event as Lisa Bauer became her close collaborator both in terms of the journal and in her future books.
An important element of her editorial work involved announcing competitions and setting up exhibitions. One of Ulla Molin’s most important contributions was the Utby exhibition in Gothenburg in 1958, as well as the Uterummet exhibition in the gardens of Norrviken in 1961 in which Sven-Ingvar Andersson – later professor at Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi in Copenhagen – was involved. Ulla Molin gave up her role as editor of Hem i Sverige in 1966 and the following year she moved to her summer cottage in Ingelsträde, Scania. That same year she opened Gröna Gården, an advice bureau and inspirational studio on three levels at Norra Strandgatan in Helsingborg, and she began to work with the designer Signe Persson-Melin. Gröna Gården attracted a large audience, not least from Denmark, but was not financially viable. During the 1970s Ulla Molin was given several commissions to design gardens, mostly in Scania. Her most well-known gardens are the Atrium garden in Landskrona konsthall and the Östberg family garden in Lund.
It is mainly through Ulla Molin’s 1986 book Leva med trädgård and her own garden at Tallgatan 6 in Höganäs that her views on gardening have survived. Ulla Molin’s fundamental outlook evolved from the British Arts and Crafts movement, of which William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll were leading figures. She was also inspired by Sven Hermelin, Walter and Lisa Bauer, Sven-Ingvar Andersson, Per Friberg, and Gunnar Martinsson. She was further influenced by her trips to Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst Castle garden, to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Arizona, and trips to Japan.
Over the course of time the subtle nature of Japanese gardening became increasingly important to her. Her own garden was gradually simplified and became more uniform, as did those she designed.
Ulla Molin died in Höganäs in 1997. When her daughter died in 2006 Höganäs municipality took on her mother’s book collection, garden designs, and newspaper clippings. In 2010 Ulla Molin’s garden at Tallgatan 6 in Högänas was awarded national heritage status so that the most important landscape architectural elements, the structure, and spatial relationships would be safeguarded for posterity.