From Hygge to Lagom: New trends & ideas July 20, 2017 00:00

Lessons in Lagom for gardenersMove over Hygge. There is a new kid in town. Lagom, the Swedish ethos of living life in a balanced, moderate way, is currently hitting headlines as well as bookshelves with a host of new books due for publication in the coming weeks and months.

And for me, it's an interesting one. Lagom has been a long held cultural mainstay of Swedish values of moderation, balance; not too much, not too little. It promotes simplicity, but doesn't forbid the odd indulgence. Critics (mainly Swedes, who understand the far reaching nuances of the term far more than I do) argue that Lagom favours uniformity and the middle ground over individuality and creativity. But for me, as a gardener and nature lover, (and probably thanks to a more 'loose' interpretation) it has a real appeal. And, rather than push Hygge aside, I reckon the two combined in the garden are the perfect mix.

I have lots of friends that find gardening a huge chore. The idea of having a flower beds and borders is simply unappealing to them. And yet, to my mind, that is because the balance is off kilter. A well thought out garden gives as much receives. It takes time but get the mix right, and nature will look after it for you. You'll find yourself happily demoted from chief groundsman, workhorse and dogs body, to simple custodian... who just happens to be nifty with a pair of secateurs when the need arises.

So, what does a balanced garden look like? And how does it take out the work? For me, there are a couple of aspects. Firstly, you have to change your view of your garden or outdoor space and stop thinking about it in 2D. Gardens differ from any other living space you inhabit. They move, change and develop constantly. Your job is to firstly slow down and take this all in. Where would you like to have that first cup of tea in the morning? Where does the sun fall in the garden throughout the day? How does this change with the seasons? Where are the damp, shady areas? What's happening at eye level, or further up? What would you like to remove from your gaze with a nice shrub or tree? What's looking a little worse for wear - either in the wrong soil or space? These kind of questions give you the lay of the land. It also tells you a bit about what the garden needs from you in terms of attention and care e.g. - that area needs sun loving plants, that bit needs something with a bit of height to draw the eye. Over there is tough enough to cope with the kids and a football etc... 

Now, time to get indulgent. What would you LOVE your space to look like? What kind of colours, plants, veggies, flowers etc... When you imagine your garden, how does it change with the seasons? When are the first flowers in bloom? What's still going until the first frost?  

Ok, now time to reign it in, get that balance back in check and think about what all of this needs to be self supporting, allowing nature to do the heavy lifting. For example, if Hostas are on your wishlist, slugs will be your nemesis. Which is fine, because you are forewarned. So, rather than put all those horrible blue pellets around, which to me is the total opposite of balance and moderation, either put your Hostas in pots, opt for the bigger varieties, that tend to be a bit tougher at dealing with slugs, or plant a few Sedums around your Hostas (this works for me! The rubbery texture seems to put them off.) Failing that, introduce some chickens. They'll make mincemeat of those slugs in no time. 

Alternatively, if you fancy growing your own, go for it, but introduce companion plants such as marigolds, rosemary, chives and nasturtiums around your crops. Not only will your veggie plot look like a pastoral paradise, you'll also save yourself time and angst fighting pests. You get to take crops from the earth while putting back in terms of bee and pollinator friendly blooms. Without ever having reached for the spray gun. Balance. Not too much, not too little.

While all of this might take time, trial and error and a little sweat as you plant your plot, long term, you're reducing the workload significantly. Working with nature and your environment rather than fighting it will have it looking and producing abundantly in no time. 

Lastly, back to Hygge. If you accept the interpretation that Lagom in a garden is about the balance between nature and nurture, Hygge is the reward. A chance to sit back and take in all that the garden has to offer. While the garden works, you rest, wrapped in a blanket, fire pit after dark, candles alight. Wonderful stuff. And, less focused on a short lived, much shouted about trend. Instead, a slower paced pursuit of a sustainable, enriching way of life. Just the way nature intended.