Dømmesmoen is a beautiful gem just outside Grimstad, offering a large and well maintained park and excellent walking terrain in the woodland behind the Norwegian Museum of Horticulture. The pond by the old school building Gamlebygget and the large, hollow "Dømmesmoen Oak" are two of its key features. Dømmesmoen is visited by many interested in plants and cultural heritage, but is also a popular walking area. In winter, the floodlit trail is ideal for cross-country skiing. The park is open all year, and is easily accessible for the disabled. Exhibitions at the Norwegian Museum of Horticulture, located in Planteskolebua, an old nursery building, cover Grimstad's horticultural heritage as well as the ecological interaction between nature, bees and people.

Parken på Dømmesmoen er vakker gjennom alle årstider. Her er dammen og Gamlebygget fra 1923.
Parken på Dømmesmoen er vakker gjennom alle årstider. Her er dammen og Gamlebygget fra 1923. Foto: Simen Samuelsen.

Close to Dømmesmoen is Raet, a large terminal moraine from the last Ice Age.  Traces of early settlements are many, particularly from the Iron Age. Among these are menhirs and stone formations that may have been used in religious rituals, and over 40 burial mounds of which several have been excavated.

Dømmesmoen farm was mentioned in writing as early as the 1600s, but its more recent history started in the 1920 when it became Statens gartnerskole Dømmesmoen - a state-run horticultural college. The then new school building, today known as Gamlebygget - beautifully reflected in the pond, was completed in 1923 when the first cohort moved in and embarked on their education. A park in English Landscape style was created, and the planting of perennials, shrubs and trees has continued over the years; also after the college closed down and Grimstad Municipality acquired the property and took over the management of the park.

The pond by Gamlebygget and the large, hollow "Dømmesmoen Oak" are two of its key features. Around 500 years old, the oak has a stem circumference of over 7 m. Most children in Grimstad have crawled through the narrow gap to experience the Dømmesmoen Oak from the inside. The park has large collections of trees, shrubs, roses, climbers and perennials. Cluster roses, stem roses, climbing roses and repeat-flowering shrub roses are in bloom from July and until the end of the season. The original shrub rose varieties are in flower from late June.

Almost all the perennial types listed by Hageselskapet, the Norwegian horticultural society, are represented in the demonstration area. These are in flower from early spring until the first frost. By the perennials, you will find Ibsen's herb garden - a collection plants used in medicine in the mid-1800s when Henrik Ibsen was an apothecary's apprentice in Grimstad. This is also where the Millennium Garden is located - a collection of old garden and food plants from the many Agder municipalities.

22 ecosystems have been discovered in the Dømmesmoen forest. A 105-acre arboretum is planned, and will be created on nature's own terms. Shrubs and trees will be planted to allow visitors to explore and learn about the various ecosystems. Many of the plants at Dømmesmoen dating back to the early days of the college are today fully grown. Over the years, an interesting collection of some 700 different shrubs and trees has been developed. Together with the "Dømmesmoen Oak" and the lime-tree avenue by the museum, the plant collection is a unique starting point for a future arboretum.

2 km east of Dømmesmoen is Fjære Church - a stone church from the 1100s. In the churchyard is a Terje Vigen memorial stone, and south of the church is the rectory, a war memorial and Olavskilden - the St. Olav spring.