The annual Blóm í Bæ festival (“Flowers in Town,” in English) is happening for the eighth time this weekend in Hveragerði, a town near Reykjavík that’s well-known for its geothermally active location, streets lined with leafy trees, and a gently pastoral atmosphere. On the descent from the Hellisheiði mountain pass, large plumes of steam roll into the air from the mountains lining the valley, and white clouds even rise from the centre of the town itself. Long lines of greenhouses stand out amongst the quiet residential streets, glowing with naturally-powered lamps to produce a year-round harvest of fresh fruit, vegetables, plants and flowers.
Blóm í Bæ celebrates Hveragerði’s farming culture with a programme of exhibitions, markets, activities, displays, outdoor arts and music performances, and we dropped by yesterday to see what was going on.
Walking in Eden
Rolling into town from Reykjavík, it was clear that the event is a hit with locals. Families meandered slowly the streets, children screamed and leapt around on bouncy castles, the cafés and shops were popping, the roadsides were lined with flower arrangements, and several of the towns greenhouses had been opened up to the public.
One busy greenhouse, christened “Eden” for the occasion of Blóm í Bæ, had become the centre of the festival, with a display of bees making honey, a stand with exotic chillies to try—from a tasty and mild purple chilli to a fiery miniature bonsai breed—and stands with impressively cultivated flowers, fresh vegetables and verdant houseplants for sale. People chatted in the warm, light and airy space, opening up the oftentimes hermetic culture of the town’s farmers and growers.
Nearby, the ever-interesting Listasafn Árnesinga art museum mounted an environmentally-minded exhibition for the occasion. Alongside a large-scale show of historical paintings and a look at artworks about local mythology, the café area was showing the results of a design contest, staged in collaboration with the Umhverfis Suðurland environmental practices organisation, called “Úrgangur í Auðlind,” or “Waste into Worth.” The challenge at hand was to use environmentally friendly, reclaimed and biodegradable materials in fresh and ingenious ways.
Entrants had risen to the challenge, and the projects on show were diverse and interesting. The winner was a project that recycled waste paper into planters for young trees, replacing the plastic pots often used to stabilise and protect saplings with a sturdy biodegradable support. Other celebrated projects ranged from landscaping barren land in the southern countryside to better support flora and birdlife; using swatches of sample materials and old clothing labels to make bags and blankets; and using found objects and unwanted ephemera to make jewellery and art. It was an inspiring look at how green thinking can happen from the ground up, and how innovation can blossom from people in small communities.
Blóm í Bæ offered an enjoyable and engaging glimpse into the life, work and community of Hveragerði, and a heartening glimpse into grassroots environmental practices that city-based folk could do well to heed.
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