Monday, March 31, 2008

The swedish garden

I was pondering what a swedish garden really look like while I took a walk with my son today. My neighbourhood is not the right place to do a study, we have a high percentage of immigrants and the gardening style is ecclectic. We found a neat garden that in the same time was used as a storing place. Head boards, wardrobes and smaller items stood side by side, minutely worn and waiting for new use. I doubt a typical swede would do so, but since I've spent most of my life in immigrant areas I can say this is a style that fits right in here.

In another garden I noticed a fake pine branch garland decorating part of the fence, new, green plastic tiles had been put on the stones of the patio and a tobogan and a tricycle had been parked on the lawn. Since the tricycle was of the same brand as my son's I lifted him up and pointed it out. Then a roma* woman came out and glared at me. I felt... well, not ashamed since I had no way of knowing that it was a roma home when I reached out my arm, but that this was an unnecessary gesture. She didn't need more persons pointing finger.

Anyway, the swedish garden should have a pretty wellkept lawn, some trees and at least one appletree among them, a lilac bush and a hedge. Some swedes are in love with the hedge and use it as a fence, others are content with one line of bushes along a garden path or the garden border. Then there are some plants that are compulsory; rhubarb, redcurrant and potatoes (if you grow vegetables). Redcurrants and rhubarb has to be imprinted in the swedish genes; my inlaws grew them, eventhough noone in the family liked the berries and the farmsted was situated so far north that the rhubarb had to be grown against a warm wall. No, I never saw them use the rhubarbs either.

Strawberries! Don't forget the strawberries. Everyone putting in some more effort in their gardening grows them. It's a must among swedes to say that strawberries, warm from the sun and picked directly from the plant are the best.

Do note that the lawn has to be pretty wellkept. There is a silent agreement that the garden should be neat, but not a masterpiece. If anyone makes a perfect job - and this especially accounts for the lawn - it's regarded with a hint of suspicion. Masterpieces are percieved as a silent accusation that all the others are not making enough for their own gardens (or whatever - swedes are good at sending presupposed messages and misunderstand them). The level of neatness varies. The most wellkept gardens I've seen I saw in Sjöbo - a small swedish village that some years before had had an voting that cut the society in half (the subject was if the village should recieve refugees or not, which stired racism and accusations of racism). The gardens were almost neurotically neat, with crisp edges on the lawns, the short grass and the compulsory bush on the front.

Something else to note is which things people can leave outside without loosing face. Gigantic trampolines as well as splasher pools with steel support are in fashion now - you even find them in the minute gardens of terraced houses. Toys are tolerated as long as they are strewn around a sandbox or a pool. Wheelbarrows and other weather hardy tools are seldom left out, they are kept in a small shed. Families with kids builds a playhouse in wood.

The garden gnome is a sensitive subject - it's often considered cheap. A small wooden windmill or a sundial is what you can have and still not loose face. That's why those who love garden gnomes sometimes keeps gardens that bursts with stone trolls, windmills, concrete mushrooms, fake wells, painted stones and bronze eagles. I can't help frown (I would never have that in my garden) and think that it's utterly fun. Note though that terracotta pots and globes glased in blue has been in fashion lately. Everyone with a 'stylish' garden had them. Today I think the herbgarden replaced them as garden accessory.

I may be odd, keeping my garden indoors like I do, but I doubt I would have a 'real' one being much different from my neighbours'. Swedes have an odd ability to do exactly the same 'different' thing every single one at the same time. My biggest worry right now, though, is the care of my current plants; it's been neglected. As you can see in the photo my tomatoes are trying to lift the grow lights all by themselves.

*Sometimes refered to as gypsy, but I prefer to use their own word for their people.

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