Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?
Salad days: singer Taylor Swift and model Karlie Kloss tend to their window box splash
Forget Mulberry rucksacks and iPads; the latest must-have accessory for 25- to 35-year-olds is a watering can and a trowel.
According to a new report by Alfresia, the outdoor furniture company, gardening came fifth in a list of leisure activities among the age group, ranking higher than going to the cinema and visiting family (but obviously not as high as eating out and boozing, which came first and second respectively).
They are also happy to open their wallets for their bushes, patches and beds. Respondents who were in a relationship said that their average spend on their garden this summer was about £518, almost twice the amount of the previous year (£273).
Couples also indicated that they whiled away between 12 and 15 hours a month gardening. It would seem that green really is the new black.
“More and more young people are choosing to invest in their gardens to provide a place where friends and family can spend quality time together,” says Craig Corbett, product director at Alfresia. “Young people are increasingly eager to cultivate their own creative and social space.”
And as with most trends, celebrities are leading – or should that be paving? – the way. Actresses such as Zooey Deschanel and Mindy Kaling regularly use Instagram to show off their horticultural efforts (check out Deschanel’s impressive marrows). Kaling even tweeted the rather cute quip: “Gardening is so fun, it is fashion for your dirt patches.” And this summer Taylor Swift was spotted tending to her window boxes in New York with her supermodel pal Karlie Kloss.
So why are young professionals trying to recreate The Good Life all of a sudden? Hugo Bugg, who at 27 years old is the youngest person to be awarded a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show for 20 years, suggests that we are going back to more homely activities as a way of fighting against our fast-paced, modern society. “So many people’s jobs are really stressful and so they find it nice to spend some of their downtime outside,” says Bugg. “Gardening is going back to nature and getting away from technology and those sorts of things. Hectic lifestyles have pushed people to appreciate the outdoors; they want to be close to nature again.”
Cultivating vegetables and herbs at home is also just an extension of the modern foodie culture, in which visiting farmers’ markets, home-brewing, and splurging £4.50 on a loaf of artisanal bread is increasingly the norm among urban-dwelling twenty- and thirtysomethings.
“Growing your own vegetables is now seen as quite cool, there’s a charm to it,” says Harry Rich, 26, who along with his brother David runs a landscape architect company and exhibited at Chelsea this year. “It’s great to be able to sustain yourself. It’s also an inexpensive way to be creative.”
For those young people who lack, well, an actual garden, there are always window boxes, herb trays and tomato plants to experiment with.
And while allotments are great for the gardenless, good luck trying to nab one. The waiting list for allotments in my London borough, Hackney, has been closed since 2008. As a result of this, community gardening projects have seen a rise of young volunteers, according to the new survey.
The success of television shows such as the BBC’s The Allotment Challenge and ITV’s Love Your Garden will have also encouraged people to head outdoors. Just one question: where’s the next generation’s Alan Titchmarsh or Charlie Dimmock?
No doubt the TV stations are currently searching for a suitably fresh-faced, shrub-mad personality to reflect the young’s newly acquired green fingers.
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