• Sweden edition
 
Northern Dispatches
What is it with Swedish people and gardening?
Gardening. Photo: Shutterstock

What is it with Swedish people and gardening?

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

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 stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Motorists in sticky drama after jam spill

Motorists in sticky drama after jam spill

Drivers in western Sweden were forced to jam on the brakes after a van shed its load of preserves and juices which led to major traffic problems. READ  

Property of the Week
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

Why settle for owning a house when you can own part of the island it is located on? This week's property allows you to get your money's worth of solitude while spending some time with your closest neighbour - the sea. READ  

Saab buys Swedish submarine shipyard
File photo: TT

Saab buys Swedish submarine shipyard

Swedish defence and aeronautics group Saab said Tuesday it had completed the acquisition of German heavy industry giant ThyssenKrupp's submarine shipyard in southern Sweden. READ  

Opinion
'The Danish narrative on Sweden is based on a lie'
File photo: Shutterstock

'The Danish narrative on Sweden is based on a lie'

There is a popular narrative that in Sweden people bite their tongues while in Denmark they speak their minds; political commentator Brian Esbensen debunks this, arguing that Danes simply find it easier to criticize others. READ  

Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'

Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'

After reports that wandering elks were scaring the public, police on the island of Frösön have decided not to open fire on the animals, but have urged locals to exercise caution instead. READ  

Swedish funds to tackle female genital mutilation
Sweden's Minister of International Development Cooperation Hillevi Engström with Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. File photo: TT

Swedish funds to tackle female genital mutilation

Sweden has earmarked 48 million kronor ($7 million) of its development aid budget to a United Nations programme to tackle female genital mutilation. READ  

Swedish leaders speak out on Gaza crisis
Photo: TT

Swedish leaders speak out on Gaza crisis

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt believes Israel is interested in negotiating a ceasefire with Hamas while Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven has stood by his comment about the Israelis having a right to defend itself. READ  

New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
File photo: Systembolaget

New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries

Swedish micro-breweries have reacted with concern to new distribution regulations being imposed by the state controlled alcohol monopoly Systembolaget, which they fear may put them out of business. READ  

ABB and Volvo in electric buses tie-up
Volvo hybrid bus. Photo: Volvo Buses

ABB and Volvo in electric buses tie-up

Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB and Volvo Buses of Sweden have announced a joint project to develop a system for electric buses to recharge their batteries fast when at bus stops. READ  

'First ever' heat warning issued for Sweden
Photo: TT

'First ever' heat warning issued for Sweden

Swedish weather agency SMHI has issued its first ever warning for high temperatures with the many areas set to bask in plus 30C heat. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Blog updates

22 July

PROTECTING GIRLS FROM ABUSE OF THEIR RIGHTS (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Today (22 July) my Prime Minister, David Cameron, and UNICEF, are hosting the world’s first #GirlSummit in London. The Summit’s aim is to mobilise domestic and international efforts to end the appalling practices of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child Early Forced Marriage (CEFM). This is a high priority for the UK government and the Prime..." READ »

 

18 July

Starting over (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

" I’ve now been off the water for almost 14 days. At first I was totally gutted being forced into a rest period, I had Stockholm in my sights and apart from the pain and discomfort in my shoulder, spirits were high and I was starting to gain some momentum. The news hit me fairly hard and..." READ »

 
 
 
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Gallery
People-watching July 11-13
National
Malmö mayor slams Danish beggar ban
National
Swedish anti-abortion midwife sues county
National
Swede's salary chopped for Facebook use
National
Northern Sweden warmest in 90 years
Gallery
'Victoria Day': Crown Princess Victoria turns 37
Politics
Mona Sahlin to fight extremism in Sweden
National
EU tells Sweden to cover up snus flavours
Society
Swede snags assassin role in Tom Cruise film
Lifestyle
Top ten ways to spend a few days in Malmö
Gallery
Swedish summer tourism highlights
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

699
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
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:
http://psdmedia.se