Arboretets primstav: utskjæring av årstidsmarkører

Det syvende blogginnlegget tilknyttet Scott Bremers feltarbeid i Universitetshagene omhandler en primstav-workshop med gartnere og forskere fra Arboretet i november 2022.

Pencil drawings of foliage and mushrooms in black on white paper
Arboretets gartnere og forskere skisserte symboler de ønsker å skjære ut i sin primstav.
Berit Gherke


Blogginnlegget er på engelsk:

Bergen Arboretet’s gardeners and scientists sat together in a workshop in November 2022 to settle on a set of shared seasonal reference points that they use to orient and coordinate their activities in the gardens, which they will carve into a modern-day "primstav."

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from working at the Arboretet, it’s that no one seasonal calendar captures the diverse cycles moving the gardens around the year. I have seen each gardener and scientist working to their own unique seasonal patterns - defined by their focus - and the way that these patterns overlay each other; sometimes synchronising, other times clashing. For example, the beginning of the spring is signalled by as many different markers as people I talk to; from the flowering crocus, to increasing daylight, the passage of the grey geese, or the task at hand.

Notwithstanding this diversity, I was interested to see if the Arboretet team shared any common coordinates or reference points that they kept in focus in considering and organising their year and coordinating their activities. With CALENDARS project colleague Elisabeth Schøyen Jensen, we organised a workshop at Litteraturhuset with eleven members of the Arboretet team in November, with the goal of making a modern-day primstav calendar tailored to the specific seasonal markers at the gardens.

The primstav is a traditional Norwegian plank calendar used around the 15th to 19th centuries, symbolising important dates in the Christian calendar and some pre-Christian dates. With time, these traditional calendars came to be appropriated by agricultural communities and symbols tailored to act as markers for timing agrarian communities activities over the year (for more on the primstav, see here.) Building on this tradition, CALENDARS has been developing methods for revising primstavs for today’s seasonal experience.

The workshop began primstav-building by splitting into two groups to fill out circular calendar templates with points and periods of the year of shared importance. Afterwards, when the two groups discussed what they wrote down, we were surprised that there was quite some congruence. Sitting together, and going month by month, we distilled reference points - or symbols - that we agreed were most important for orienting the Arboretet team over the seasonal year (see below). We also agreed on the form and organisation of the primstav, adhering to the traditional rectangular templat and traditional days for the start of summer (14 April) and winter (14 October).

The workshop raised 25 reference points of different types, from natural signs such as the flowering of certain species or the lengthening daylight hours, to social markers of events like Arboretet Day or tasks such as pruning or weeding. Most markers were internal to Arboretet operations, but some wider societal rhythms also made it onto their calendar, such as school summer holidays and kids snow sledging in the winter months. Some markers were fixed, for example Mushroom Day on the first Sunday of September, while other markers varied from year to year, like the flowering of the crocus.

Month Symbol
JanuaryChainsaw, snow sledging
FebruaryFlowering snowbells, ash tree winter buds
MarchFlowering crocus, spring heather
AprilPruning, taking plants out of the glass house
MayRhododenron flowering, Arboretum Day
JunePeak visitors, visitors swimming
JulySchool holidays, rose flowering
AugustBlueberries, flowers in the Blondehus garden, cutting of the grass
SeptemberMushrooms, seed collection
OctoberBringing plants into the glass house, autumn colours
NovemberCutting up wood, raking leaves
DecemberChristmas displays, Christmas tree

The next steps, over winter, will be to settle on some icons that represent these symbols and to find some wood from which to cut the primstavs. We will try and mill some wood sourced from the Arboretet and aim to cut out the primstavs at a collaborating art atelier in the first quarter of 2023.