• 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
Malmö police catch car arson suspect in the act
Another car blaze earlier this month. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Malmö police have arrested a man after they caught him setting a vehicle alight in the Rosengård district as the city's spate of summer car fires continued.

Swedes find out how birth control affects your sex life
Swedish birth control pills. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Swedish researchers have investigated whether or not contraceptives affect women's sex lives.

Analysis
Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Police investigators at the scene of the grenade blast in Gothenburg. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

The Local speaks to two crime experts about why an eight-year-old boy became the latest victim of gang-related conflicts in Gothenburg.

Trump accuses Ericsson of bribing Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Ohio. Photo: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

US presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke about the Swedish telecom giant at a campaign rally in Ohio.

Sorrow for boy killed in Gothenburg gang attack
The window of the Biskopsgården apartment broken by a grenade. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

The eight-year-old killed when a grenade was thrown into the window of an apartment is reported to be a resident of Birmingham, England.

Homes
In pictures: eight of Sweden's most colourful homes
Don't be afraid of colour. Photo: Wrede Fastighetsmäkleri

Tired of Scandinavian black and white design? Houzz.se's Amanda Strömberg guides you to some inspiring colourful homes in Sweden – because they do exist.

Stockholm airspace to close for Joe Biden visit
Biden and Swedish PM Stefan Löfven during a March 2015 meeting. Photo: Tomas & Monica Enqvist/TT

Along with traditional aircraft, drones, paragliders and even model airplanes will be banned from the skies while the US Vice President is in Sweden.

Why Sweden could change its pre-trial detention laws
A Swedish remand prison in Malmö. Photo: Ola Torkelsson/TT

"We have received strong international criticism over a number of years," Interior Minister Anders Ygeman commented on the much-criticised current system.

Opinion
'Integration is about more than a language and a job'
Abdulalim Alkatea. Photo: Private

Learning the local language and finding a job is not enough to become fully integrated in a society, argues Abdulalim Alkatea, a Syrian architect living in Sweden.

Boy, 8, dies in Swedish hand grenade blast
The apartment where a young boy died. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

UPDATED: Police are investigating if an explosion which killed a child in Gothenburg suburb Biskopsgården on Monday morning is a revenge attack.

Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
Blog updates

26 July

A summer of change; a summer of beauty (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"You would have had to try hard to miss the political upheavals in the UK after…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
The Local Voices
Syrian presenter: Swedish media should make more shows in Arabic
Travel
Watch the meteor shower in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Lifestyle
How to survive a crayfish party
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
IN PICS: Your Sweden summer snaps
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
National
Why are fewer foreign graduates staying in Sweden to work?
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Culture
This Swedish street artist's incredible murals will make your jaw drop
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Gallery
Property of the week: Östersund, Jämtland
The Local Voices
'Swedes have the right to decide what's best for their nation'
The Local Voices
Gabriel mastered Swedish and got accepted onto a medicine degree in just 7 months
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
3,354
jobs available