May 26, 2016
A recent article from The Times, a British daily newspaper, deplores the state of the English garden. It seems that younger generations have never learned the joy of weeding and planting. Their gardens, if a patio or barbeque pit hasn’t replaced them, are neglected. A spokesperson for the Royal Horticultural Society is quite concerned about the situation, as well she should be.
English gardens have a long and illustrious tradition. Landscape gardens, designed to represent an idyllic pastoral environment, date back to the early eighteenth century. They incorporate rolling hills, green grass, possibly a lake, and a scattering of classic structures, such as bridges and sculpture.
Cottage gardens, hosting vegetables and herbs, as well as flowers and perhaps a beehive and some livestock, originated even earlier, dating from Elizabethan times. Over the centuries they became more decorative than practical, informal rather than structured, and populated the countryside. Roses tied to wooden trellises were a common sight. Honeysuckle added its sweet scent to the mix.
Why are English gardens dying out? One explanation is that renters, rather than owners, don’t invest in the property where they reside, and there are a lot of renters these days. Another explanation put forth in the article from The Times lays the blame squarely on baby boomers for their failure to teach their children, now in their twenties, thirties, and forties, to nurture nature. “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade,” wrote Rudyard Kipling.
Still, why blame baby boomers, if a drive in the country isn’t what it used to be? I maintain that each generation, shaped by the social, cultural, and political events that occur in its lifetime. is different from every other generation. We shouldn’t forget what made us who we are, but the past shouldn’t dictate who we become.
© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved