BENGT SCHALIN (1889–1982)

A multi-talented pioneer

Bengt Schalin, born in Ostrobothnia, qualified as a landscape architect in Germany in 1912. He was employed as the City Gardener for Helsinki in 1946–1957, responsible for designing parks and tasked with ensuring that they were beautiful, green and blooming. Schalin, who liked flowers and colours, succeeded in this capacity, as he took the view that parks should have small flowering trees and shrubs as well as beautiful autumn colouring.

The multi-talented Schalin was an enthusiastic experimenter who enriched the range of species in the city's parks with cherries (Prunus) and crab apple trees (Malus), shrub roses and azaleas (Rhododendron) from abroad. As a pioneering plant breeder he created new hybrid lilies, rhododendrons, crab apple trees, roses and viburnums, which he planted in Helsinki.

It is said that Schalin did not draw his design plans when he was the City Gardener, creating his parks in situ instead. Before going to the site, he stated which plants were to be sourced from the nursery. With his phenomenal memory, he knew each individual plant from the nursery. As a plant expert, Schalin was precise and always corrected any improper use of plant names.