Why gardening isn’t, and shouldn’t be, ‘cool’

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I came across an article recently called ‘How the Rich Brothers are trying to make gardening ‘cool’ again’ which frankly made be rather irritated. It’s an ill thought through claim. Gardening could certainly be more ‘fun’, I’ve always believed that (tweeting TV dogs, humour etc.), but it absolutely cannot be ‘cool’. Was horticulture ever cool?

Gardening is an unavoidably slow process. Weeding, mulching, sowing, waiting, waiting some more, success and… disappointment. Lashings of disappointment. You need patience to be a gardener and that is what makes it such a good choice of therapy for issues of stress and poor mental health. Mindfulness and gardening go together like physical fitness and cycling. Similarly gardening is largely about the journey and much less about the destination.

At Hay Festival recently, Monty Don described beautifully how the Japanese look at a garden and appreciate all the wisdom and skill that has gone into the process of creation, from the many hours spent pruning pine needles and plucking grass blades to the materials used to make supporting ropes and struts. Of course we’re not quite so obsessed with man-made perfection in British gardens and certainly do look forward to the reward of flowers or fruit. But those are a tiny part of the overall gardening process. They’re the icing on the cake.

Japanese Gardens

What is Cool?

Do you know what ‘cool’ is these days? I’m told it’s cute fluffy kittens and the James Charles colour palette (no, me neither, absolutely no idea). Mainly it’s instant gratification and no failures. Netflix – instant film and TV, binge on a box set, no waiting. Instagram – look at me enjoying my destination, isn’t it great, aren’t I amazing? Spotify – instant music, again and again no hunting. TikTok – mime to a song with strangers. Gaming – get online, dress as a huge walking banana, shoot people from around the world, die and repeat. Need a taxi? Uber. Need a take-away? Just Eat. Need a one night stand? Tinder.

It’s quite clear that gardening does not fit into this bracket of instant cool. Journeys take time and that time is being rapidly filled with a myriad of instant solutions. Consequently young people have little patience for anything as laborious as gardening. In sales and marketing the two main benefits we typically convey in advertising are saved time or saved money. Gardening definitely does neither. You’ll spend six months growing three of the most expensive tomatoes in the world. They’ll taste amazing, but it wasn’t about the tomatoes, it was the journey and your sanity. Not that all horticultural companies understand this of course, some are pushing the fluffy kittens and instant cool message on TV whilst simultaneously ruining your garden (and arguably health) with chemicals:

Because you need your garden moments protected at the expensive of your health…

It’s a huge struggle to restrict my children’s instant screen time because they want to be cool. There are arguments, but bike rides ensue and the boy is at least making an effort to grow a few crops in a raised bed at my allotment. They don’t understand it of course – why we force them to visit gardens, draw or go on walks. They have a worryingly low tolerance for failure, which is unhealthy. Gardening teaches failure – not cool. Gardening is slow – not cool. But we shall continue being uncool parents.

On a final note, the Rich Brothers also think the concept of ‘gardening’ could be the main issue of ‘uncoolness’:

‘Perhaps the word ‘gardening’ has become a bit old-fashioned – instead call it ‘creating an outdoor space’.

Yes, of course, because ‘cooking’ has had to be renamed ‘creating a bowl of energy’…

Gardening will never be cool. That’s why we like it. Leave it alone.


Reference

How the Rich Brothers are trying to make gardening ‘cool’ again

US jury awards $2bn damages in Roundup weedkiller cancer claim

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About Author

Matt Peskett is GrowLikeGrandad (if you want to know why read 'About the Editor). He has a 'heavy clay' allotment and is a member of the Dorking Allotment Holders Association (DAHA). Matt also has a medium sized 'sandy soil' hillside garden (Italian terrace designed) and enjoys photography - especially nature. Matt takes inspiration from gardens like Hidcote, Great Dixter and Sissinghurst and enjoys watching anything on TV with Monty Don in it.

4 Comments

  1. Enjoyed your thoughts about this. Personally I think the never ending round of RHS shows – Chelsea – Chatsworth et al are contributing for me to the incorrect assumption that gardening is instantaneous and style is more important than substance. How sustainable is it to be carting around the country fully grown trees, acres of plants and hard landscaping for a couple of days of instant gratification. If you want to see a Yorkshire garden go to Yorkshire not Chelsea

    • I hadn’t really thought about the flower show angle Alan. I think the designers and builders would probably wish it was more instant than it is but I know what you mean, either way it does pander to the instant generation. From a sustainability perspective I know a lot of the plants are the same and come back again and again, for example the trees on the RHS Bridgewater garden at Chelsea were the same exact trees from the year before. Not sure what their mileage footprint is though. What I like about designing my own garden areas is that I make a succession planting plan, I wait 12 months to see the garden go through its phases, I make mistakes (or nature defies me), I see opportunities to improve my original plan and eventually after a number of years I have a nice garden.

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