The Guardian tries to call off the gardening

reaction

07:00

One writer claims that the term carries cultural baggage

through Peter Frankline

An urban farmer

From time to time, The guard Surpasses Himself – published a random satire on himself. No section of paper (or observer Sunday incarnation) is immune. Not even the garden side.

Which brings me to that gem, a hand wrestling pillar by James Wong. Though he’s a respected gardening expert — let alone a trained botanist — he has a problem with the very word “gardening.”

At the heart of his concerns is a real problem – namely that ‘few young people are interested in horticulture’. He warns that “with garden societies closing, vacancies on courses and nurseries closing, things are getting pretty urgent.”

That’s not to say that young and trendy gardeners don’t exist; but according to Wong, they prefer not to use the g-word to describe themselves. Alternative terms are “Urban Farmer” and “Plant Daddy”.

Wong argues that “gardening” as a term is “laden with cultural baggage.” So much so that it can “suggest an incredibly narrow path to gardening and an even narrower idea of ​​who gets to participate.” So we need to either make the word more “inclusive” or drop it altogether.

It’s true that the etymology from “garden” derives from a root word meaning an enclosed space – from which we get other words like “court” and “court” (and also the “-grad” at the end of Slavic place names like Leningrad). One might conclude from this that anything with a sense of isolation must be exclusionary.

It’s just not how gardening works in the modern world. As a hobby, it is extraordinarily open and generous. As an untalented amateur, complete strangers would come along and say nice things about my green-fingered endeavors—and offer me plants from their own gardens.

You can wander around almost every neighborhood in this country and see an amazing variety of garden styles and plants. The notion that we are somehow subject to an “incredibly narrow path to gardening” is demonstrably false. Even on a professional level, events like the Chelsea Flower Show and attractions like the Royal Parks burst with creativity.

However, gardening is not the ideal activity for those who crave it immediate Satisfaction. As a pastime, it requires patience and tolerance for setbacks. It also ties you to a certain spot on earth. Because it’s literally rooted, it’s inescapably conservative. So if anything puts off the restless youngsters, it’s the nature of growing plants. What he cannot be accused of, however, is a snobbish insider culture.

The irony of Wong’s argument is that there are few things more culturally exclusive than taking a common word or concept and problematizing it. So an everyday idea—even one as basic as gardening—becomes yet another battlefield in a culture clash most people never demanded.

Maybe I’m overreacting here. The likelihood of such an uncontroversial word becoming contested territory seems slim. On the other hand, maybe ten years ago we would have said the same thing about “woman”.

If the hipster botany geeks of north London prefer to call themselves ‘plant fathers’ or even ‘foliar disruptors’ then that’s fine with them. But I will continue to call myself a gardener – albeit an extremely bad one.

About Rachael Garcia

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