• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

What is it with Swedish people and gardening?

The Local · 30 Jun 2014, 09:21

Published: 30 Jun 2014 09:21 GMT+02:00

What is it with northern Swedes and gardening?

As soon as the first blade of grass up here shows the merest inclination towards growth, out pops an ear-protected Swede astride his or her lawnmowing tractor, to cut it down dead. "There, take that, you uppity piece of grass, you."

Our neighbours are very different to one another. Our neighbours to the right like their grass very orderly. As the midnight sun kicks in in mid-May and the grass really gets its skates on, they’re out on their ride-on lawnmower every couple of days or so, sometimes until 10pm.

This year they spent almost every waking hour of May and early June on a vegetable patch the size of a football penalty area. They were working when we went to bed at 10.30pm and there again at 7am when I was up preparing our twins’ breakfast. I swear at one point they were using scissors to trim the grass around the plot’s edge. I am not joking.

 To our left, an elderly couple unpacks their garden every May. You read that right – they unpack it. Every May, once the snow is gone, the husband fetches their garden fence out of their barn, unloads the soil from one greenhouse and the garden’s flowers from a second. They spend the next month shovelling in the soil, planting the flowers and rebuilding the fence.

That would be odd enough to my eyes if their garden were the size of the postage stamp affairs you see in towns. But it isn’t. It’s a good acre in area. And they are both over 80. They work extremely hard.

Our neighbours do have some common ground though - their messy, overgrown English neighbours. Last year, while we were in hospital after the birth of our twins, they asked us if they could mow our lawn. So they did - all four of them combined to tidy up our gardens.
 
Now, I’m sure there was a measure of kindness involved in this act. But I’m equally certain that they wanted to ensure that our unkempt gardens wouldn’t mess up the neat lines of their own land. We English are often caricatured as garden fanatics but we have nothing on the northern Swedes.

This gardening obsession is not uncommon up here. In the summer our local snowmobile dealership majors in ride-on lawnmowers. Locals fondle Husqvarnas the same way petrolheads caress Ferraris. Coachloads of northern Swedish townies criss-cross the countryside each summer visiting gardens.

But not stately home gardens, obviously. Regular gardens that would attract little attention in suburban England become the focus of intense interest in northern Sweden. There’s almost a competitive air to gardening. Directions for gardens pop up at the side of the road.

I think, like many unusual phenomena that occur up here, that this garden obsession is down to two things. First, and least importantly, there’s the weather. The growing season in northern Sweden is brief but spectacular. The light up here in summer has a silvery quality to it that I have seen nowhere else in the world. People like to make the most of this short season.

Story continues below…

However, the main reason is that gardening has become a signifier of, if not wealth, then at least of no longer being poor. Where we live was primarily farmland until the late 1990s. The farmers were too busy trying to scratch out a living to worry about geraniums. As people have become more cash and time-rich, gardening has become more popular.

Gardening is an unostentatious way in which to display modest wealth. You no longer farm, as you don’t need to. But you don’t want to buy a posh car – that’s far too flashy. But a top-of-the-range ride-on lawnmower to help tend your tastefully elegant garden? Well, that’s just practical. How very Swedish.

Paul Connolly

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
IN PICTURES
Fire rips through apartment block, 157 homes evacuated
The fire on Sunday night. Photo: Anna Hållams/TT

There's a risk the whole building could collapse, emergency services say.

Say 'hej hej hej' to some Swedish sunshine
Stockholmers enjoying a previous spring heatwave in 2014. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

UPDATED: Temperatures are set to top 20C in parts of Sweden this week.

'This would not have happened if I was white'
Yasri Khan. Photo: Marc Femenia/SCANPIX

Former Swedish Muslim politician explains reluctance to shake hands with women as "about my struggle to be allowed to be myself".

Teen boy in sex assault at Swedish asylum home
Silbodalshemmet, the large asylum centre in Årjäng, Värmland. Police have not yet named the centre. Photo: Google Maps

Five men have been arrested after a teenage boy was assaulted.

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden is famous for work-life balance. So what do startups do to make sure expat employees are happy with life in Stockholm?

My Swedish Career
Meet the expat who is now Sweden's youngest PhD
Stefan Buijsman. Photo: Anna-Karin Landin

Stefan Buijsman, 20, just finished a PhD in the philosophy of mathematics. He tells The Local what his work is all about, and why Stockholm was the best place to do it.

Border checks
Sweden fights for EU border controls to stay
Checks on passengers at Kastrup airport in Copenhagen, close to the border with Sweden. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

The Nordic nation is among six countries asking the European Commission to extend temporary border controls.

Swedish premier pledges 5,000 'emergency' jobs
Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, speaking in Gothenburg. Photo: TT

Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, speaking in Gothenburg, announced a initiative to create 5,000 new 'emergency' jobs for new arrivals to the country.

Sweden's king celebrates on his 70th birthday
King Carl XVI Gustaf joins in with a rendition of All You Need Is Love with the Tensta Gospel Choir and their leader Cedwin Sandanam. Photo: TT

But Norwegian royals stay at home after deadly helicopter crash.

'Disgusted' Swedish boxer retains world crown
Badou Jack (right) catches Lucian Bute with a right-hand. Photo: TT

Badou Jack drew bout but kept World Boxing Council title.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: Stockholm's secret dating scene
Features
How to be a cool Swede during a hot summer
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Gallery
People-watching: April 29th - May 1st
Analysis & Opinion
Why Sweden's fretting about Brexit
Blog updates

29 April

Editor’s blog, April 29th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Relations between Sweden and Russia went from slightly strained to full-on James Bond this…" READ »

 

18 April

A day as a guard (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Life as an Ambassador. Driven around in the Jaguar. Visits all planned so you go straight…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Kista: The best office space in Sweden?
National
INTERVIEW: Swedish police officer 'beat me up and used racial slurs'
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
Gallery
People-watching: April 27th
National
Öresund bridge border checks net record number of drink drivers
National
Swedes bid farewell to iconic Volvo
Sponsored Article
Why international researchers love to call Malmö home
Gallery
Property of the week: Enköping
Sponsored Article
‘Life in Stockholm’s suburbs is better than people realize’
Gallery
People-watching: April 22nd-24th
Politics
Could Brits in Europe stop Brexit?
Sponsored Article
'I may work at a Swedish company, but we’re global'
National
The first official picture of Sweden's new royal Prince Alexander
Sponsored Article
'A sustainable Sweden must embrace diversity'
National
Sweden's Sami reindeer still live in the shadow of Chernobyl
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 20th
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
National
Why was a Nazi flag hoisted in a Swedish town on Hitler's birthday?
Sponsored Article
Sigtunaskolan: 'The best of what Sweden has to offer'
National
How did Sweden's deputy PM get in trouble over New York comments?
Sponsored Article
'I may work at a Swedish company, but we’re global'
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 16th-17th
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: Stockholm's secret dating scene
Culture
Sweden finally axes historic dancing ban
Sponsored Article
'Swedes must realize only soft power can defeat radicalism'
International
Have you phoned Sweden yet?
Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 13th
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
National
Is booze going up in Sweden?
National
How Sweden's fake 'smombie' traffic sign is being used for real
Culture
Sweden's Tarzan drops trousers
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 9th-10th
3,230
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se