I’ve been thinking a lot about the typical British garden recently, and how its function has changed throughout the past few generations.

At the beginning of the 1900s, gardens were essential to a functioning kitchen, as well as to the household economy. My 83 year-old drinking buddy was taught how to grow crops as a little boy because otherwise, there simply wouldn’t have been enough food. Wartime compounded the need for private land to work and rationing meant that any alternative sources of edibles was in high demand.Companion gardening was also necessary, due to the lack of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, giving bees a great honey crop from the herbal flowers and plentiful fruit bushes.

As wartime children grew up and moved into houses of their own, they set aside a portion of land for food, as they had been taught to, but also installed areas simply meant for enjoyment. They set about creating beautiful borders and lawns for ball games. Think about it – whenever you see an immaculately laid out flowerbed, spread with a colourful patchwork of pansies and roses, you automatically presume that an ‘old lady’ lives there, don’t you? That someone who grew up during the bleak years of the war has made this joyous, life-affirming thing.

The next generation, having grown up with large grassy patches in which play, turned an increasing amount of their land over to lawns. The working area of the traditional garden continued to earn its keep, but as a space to park the family car, and light the summer barbeques. Gardens suddenly meant suburbia, which meant success and something of a Yuppie ‘lifestyle’. But as with all things, we shun the life our parents aspired to – 40 is the new 30 afterall, and we no longer want a peaceful life away from the city. We want 24 hour supermarkets, nightclubs, and a cinema within walking distance.

And so comes my sorry generation, ready to leave our mark on the British garden. 100 years on, at the start of this new century, we set to tarring over the lawns we enjoyed so much as children to make way for our herd of cars. Grass, which would take so little to maintain, is suddenly seen as an inconvenience rather than a pleasure and so we rid ourselves of the chore of cutting it, employing our well-stored cars to visit places where other people have maintained the park-land and countryside we so desire to see. As a species we long for open spaces and greenery, yet in our homes we strive to eliminate all forms floral life.

I want to return to the way things were – not necessarily to the complete hard graft my friend grew up with, but certainly to a garden which combines productive soil and lazy grassy areas.  I am proud of ever misshapen tomato I serve, of every cup of camomile tea I drink, because I grew it myself. I fed the bees with my flowers and my soul with the greenery. The longer I stay in the countryside, the more human I feel, despite the fact I seem to be distancing myself increasingly from the popular ‘norm’.

Lights in the cities get brighter and people push back the darkness. I wonder what they’re afraid of. Perhaps if they dimmed the lights and drew the courage to look, they might see the stars and the world around them.

But forgive me, I think I’ve grown incoherent. Either it’s the sound of Crackdown 2 in the background, or the fact I’ve only had two cups of tea today, but my mind is wandering. I will take this moment of clarity to say, ‘goodnight’.

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