Sunday 21 January 2018

'Not enough gardens' says Monty Don

Gardening guru Monty Don believes young people are being put of gardening by a lack of green spaces
Gardening guru Monty Don believes young people are being put of gardening by a lack of green spaces

TV gardener Monty Don has warned that young people are being turned off gardening because they can no longer afford homes with green spaces.

The Royal Horticultural Society has reported a surge in interest in the young.

But the presenter, 59, criticised councils for building on allotments and said that spiralling property prices meant that younger generations did not have the opportunity to get green-fingered.

"My generation grew up expecting some sort of ownership and access to gardens. I had my first home aged 26 and started growing things then," Don told Radio Times magazine.

"My three kids are in their 20s and none of them rent or own homes with gardens. A generation is growing up with no access to green space.

"There's an increased remoteness about it all. Gardens can reach into life in a way that's beyond horticulture. It's about how we choose to live our lives and how younger people engage with them."

He added: "We've lost so many of our allotments and it's a tragedy. They're increasingly important as young people have less access to gardens.

"They're part of our way of life and we can't keep building on them. Councils are selling them off and say they'll find allotment space somewhere else but this is missing the point.

"Allotments are supposed to be in the centre of things. They unite people of different ages, diverse backgrounds. They're about community, communication, producing food and doing it alongside each other. They're a paradigm of a successful society. We should treasure them."

Don, who returns to co-host this year's Chelsea Flower Show this year, wants to see a set "percentage of new housing" have access to allotments.

"We need to make new ones. I think people have a concept that they're now out of fashion and were a response to the World Wars.

"But after World War Two there was a policy to reduce the amount of allotments as we'd never have to dig for victory in the same way in the future. But it was a crazy policy because we need resources and we do need to grow our own food," he said.

The Gardeners' World presenter criticised politicians for not making ecology a priority.

"There's a mental and social factor to be taken into account when urban people have no access to gardens. No politician mentions anything about ecology these days," he said.

"They assume it isn't interesting and that the average person is disconnected. But we need not be removed from it. This isn't what young people want. They'd rather dig the ground than vote, that's their way of changing the world."

Don admitted that his own grown-up children found the show gardens at Chelsea "a bit dull".

"The RHS and all of us really should not be about pulling people into our world but for us to go towards them, to experience a pull towards this youthful energy and get away from the dull conservative Rotary Club view of the world," he said.

"Shows such as Chelsea do have a part to play. It's the pinnacle of the horticulture mountain and you do see more excellence there than anywhere else. It is part of the social season and while some may find that alienating, it's better to be able to change that from the inside."

He added: "Chelsea, for me, follows the zeitgeist - it reflects general feelings of recession and wealth. It tends to follow what's happening rather than set the trend."

Press Association

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