• Sweden's news in English
 

What is it with Swedish people and gardening?

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.

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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Sweden is not any closer to joining Danes in Nato'
Sweden's Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

'Sweden is not any closer to joining Danes in Nato'

Sweden’s new military co-operation agreement with Denmark should not be seen as a step closer to Nato membership, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist has told The Local. READ  

Opinion
Why can't refugees travel to Sweden legally?
Migrants rescued in the Pozzallo harbour, Sicily last month. Photo: TT

Why can't refugees travel to Sweden legally?

Refugees should not be forced to make dangerous journeys to Europe in order to seek asylum, argues Liberal Party MEP Cecilia Wikström, who also wants to see other EU states joining Sweden and Germany in taking in more people from war-torn nations. READ  

159 miners rescued from fire in central Sweden
Emergency services outside the mine on Tuesday morning. Photo: TT

159 miners rescued from fire in central Sweden

A fire broke out at a mine in Garpenberg in central Sweden at around 9am on Tuesday morning, with 159 people rescued by 10.30am. READ  

Sweden flights delayed as Norwegian row boils
A Norwegian flight grounded in Oslo on Sunday. Photo: TT

Sweden flights delayed as Norwegian row boils

Thirteen flights were delayed or cancelled by Scandinavian airline Norwegian on Tuesday, including four to or from airports in Sweden, amid fears of further chaos on Wednesday when hundreds of Swedish staff could join a strike currently being held by workers in Norway. READ  

Just four protestors at Sweden anti-Islam rally
Four anti-Islam protestors turned up at the rally. Photo: TT

Just four protestors at Sweden anti-Islam rally

UPDATED: Counter-demonstrators dramatically outnumbered anti-Islam protesters at a Pegida rally in Linköping in southern Sweden, with reports that just four people turned up to support the right wing group, while up to 400 others rallied in support of diversity. READ  

Sweden eyes fingerprint scanning to stop fraud
Some passengers are already checked at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. Photo: TT

Sweden eyes fingerprint scanning to stop fraud

Sweden needs to beef up its border security with fingerprint scanning to stop passport fraud, a government inquiry has argued as the country grapples with unprecedented levels of immigration. READ  

Sweden in for 'warmer than usual' spring
Budding Magnolia trees in Lund in southern Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Sweden in for 'warmer than usual' spring

Sweden could be just the place to soak up some sun this spring, as experts predict the country will see unusually high temperatures in March. READ  

Trouble-hit Malmö school to reopen after closure
Swedish police outside the Värner Rydén School on Monday. Drago Prvulovic/TT

Trouble-hit Malmö school to reopen after closure

UPDATED: A Malmö school that closed amid concerns of violence and criminality is set to reopen to pupils on Tuesday morning, after crisis talks were held between staff and directors on Monday. READ  

Christian Democrat party leadership race heats up
Chairwoman Chatrine Pålsson Ahlgren with Jakob Forssmed, left, and Ebba Busch Thor, right, at a press conference. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Christian Democrat party leadership race heats up

The leadership battle in Sweden’s right-wing Christian Democrat Party is heating up. On Monday the contest was narrowed down to two candidates, Ebba Busch Thor and Jakob Forssmed. READ  

Accelerated for Ice Music
Dylan guitarist makes music history in Sweden
Charlie Sexton strums an ice bango at the City of Songs Ice Music concert in Luleå on February 27th, 2015 co-founder. Photo: Luleåfotograferna

Dylan guitarist makes music history in Sweden

Bob Dylan guitarist Charlie Sexton helped write a piece of musical history in northern Sweden at the weekend with the world premiere of new compositions written expressly for ice instruments performed at the Ice Music City of Songs concerts in Luleå. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
Madonna set for first Stockholm gig
Technology
How you could soon be charging your phone from Ikea furniture
Gallery
People-watching: February 27th - March 1st
National
How could Swedes' passion for 'fika' help cut nerve disease?
National
IN PICTURES: Swedes in 'ring of peace' protest
Blog updates

27 February

Editor’s blog, February 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Our most read story this week got picked up by global media from Al Jazeera to..." READ »

 

18 February

The mysterious -s, part 2 (The Swedish Teacher) »

"-s expressing “each other” (reciprocal verbs) You have most likely used this form of the verbs..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
National
Why Copenhagen attacks led a Swedish uni to cancel artist's lecture
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
Business & Money
Ten Swedish start-ups you haven't heard of (yet)
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Super cute sloth twins charm visitors to Swedish zoo
Lifestyle
Meet Sweden's first woman chef to win a Michelin star
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: February 26th - March 5th
Accelerated for Ice Music
What is Bob Dylan's guitarist doing in northern Sweden?
Features
How well do you know Sweden's top celebrity couples?
Business & Money
Are company boards 'too white' in Sweden?
Gallery
People-watching: February 25th
Technology
Sweden is dubbed second most 'digital' nation in European Union
National
Why more Swedes want a sex change
National
The return of Sweden's Ace of Base
National
Why has Julian Assange's case been going on for so long?
National
'21' or 'IS'? Swedish police confuse birthday with Islamist extremism
National
Spring has sprung in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Ängelholm
National
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
National
Is Sweden home to the world's oldest living cat?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The life and career of Fredrik Reinfeldt
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Estelle through the years
National
Why are Swedish Jews worried?
Gallery
People-watching: February 19th-22nd
National
'Racist' bird names banned in Sweden
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Nobel prize to go under hammer
National
Swede named 'Fanny' banned from getting UK loyalty card
National
Spotlight on the Swedes that could be funding Islamists
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Gallery
People-watching: February 18th
National
Is a chocolate crime wave sweeping across Sweden?
National
What we know about the Copenhagen shootings suspect
National
Danish Ambassador: 'We'll live our lives the way we always have'
National
What does this '90s pop act have to do with a former minister?
Lifestyle
How to embrace Sweden's creamy semla bun tradition
National
Did this Swedish hotel really refuse a gay couple?
National
Why are so many escalators down on Stockholm's Metro?
Gallery
Property of the week: Kungsbacka
National
Can Zlatan's tattoo stunt help end world hunger?
Gallery
People-watching: February 14th
Sponsored Article
'Immigration is critical' for Stockholm’s future
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
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

955
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