Hewson On ... Homes are not the only route to gardening

Gardeners' World recently featured a lovely lady (Margaret) celebrating her 100th birthday in her more than splendid garden. The story showcased the pleasure of plants and value of gardening, irrespective of age.

It was beautifully shot and rather moving. Margaret has had her share of life's difficulties but through it all her garden has been a welcome distraction and safe refuge.

I mention this amid recently reported concerns that the £5bn-ayear garden market could lose millions during the next decade as fewer young people can afford to buy homes. There has also been a fall in homeownership among under-35s (35-65 is the "core gardening" age group). Those who can afford to buy have smaller gardens - and a worrying habit of paving over them. Many urbanised areas have no gardens at all. Sad but true.

We are also told that those who choose or have to rent rather than buy usually spend less time, and so money, in and on their gardens. In case you hadn't heard, first-time buyers now require a £30,000 deposit on average. Indeed, as house price inflation reaches record levels, the National Housing Federation warns that "a generation may miss out on homeownership". Scary stuff.

But is it? Lots of folk rent, love gardening and buy plants. For many, social housing, community gardening and allotment societies are where it all is. Why are we so obsessed with homeownership and under-35s? Abroad, they rent apartments, share living space and live to tell the tale.

And what about the Margarets of this world? Still rocking aged 100 and buying shed-loads of plants. I guess Margaret owns her garden but does it and should it ever matter? Of course it doesn't, and it shouldn't.

Homeownership is overrated and it's nonsense to suggest that we'll implode if the young pack up gardening because they can't buy houses.

Clearly, we would rather that they buy houses and spend their gym memberships on plants, but it is not the end of the world if they can't or don't.

Andrew Hewson is a freelance writer and columnist

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