Will our newfound love of gardening remain after lockdown?

Colin Ainsworth, newly established President of The Caley - the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society - said the organisation is keen to keep flying the flag for Scottish gardening beyond lockdown.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 7:00 am
President of The Caley, Colin Ainsworth, says the organisation will be working hard to ensure the country's love of gardening remains after lockdown

Data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) last year revealed that while many in Scotland were blessed with larger private gardens of their own to dig up and unearth as much as they liked, those in urban communities and cities were tasked with bringing the outside into crowded tenements and high-rises.

Areas in Leith like Great Junction Street, and Easter Road to Hawkhill Avenue, see 36% and 34% of dwellings without a private or shared garden. While homes and flats in the southside of Edinburgh might present easy access to large, green spaces like the Meadows and Holyrood Park, 61% of dwellings in Canongate, Southside and Dumbiedykes have no private or shared garden.

In contrast, just 4% of homes in Corstorphine, on the other side of Edinburgh, are without a private or shared garden.

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The figures shone a harsh light on the inequalities in housing and living across Scottish society during the pandemic, as those lucky enough to have access to their own private or shared gardens became the envy of those reliant on local parks and green spaces when homes became creches, schools, offices and even restaurants.

“I think gardening has been a lifeline for a lot of people to be quite honest,” said Ainsworth. “I'm very lucky because I have a garden and access to an allotment, but if you’re stuck in a flat 14 floors up with kids climbing the walls, I can imagine it would be a completely different story. So I think that plants actually can offer some solace – not just by looking at them but doing things with them too.”

Earlier this year, the Gaia Foundation found that sales of ecological seeds rose by 600% during Britain’s lockdowns as demand for growing at home, indoors and in gardens soared to new heights. Likewise, community gardens boomed in popularity across Scotland as increasing food poverty during the pandemic led many to reclaim derelict land and attempt to grow their own produce.

“I actually think whether you're gardening indoors or outdoors, it's great to be doing something physical that's also very useful. It's not just running with Peloton, or going out running just for the hell of it, you're actually getting some exercise, you're outside and you're actually doing something that you're going to benefit from in some way – whether it be vegetables or the production of some flowers.

“You can enjoy the therapeutic quality of seeing a sunflower or plant grow, you know, it can be as simple as that.”

The Caley is on a mission to keep a new, blooming generation of gardeners digging to ensure that our renewed appreciation for the outdoors will outlive lockdown.

Ainsworth added: “As an organisation, we're looking to carry this on and make sure that these huge spikes of rabid enthusiasm don't tail off. So when we come out the other end of this, we'll be starting to organise things at Saughton Park and online. What we're wanting to do is supply people with information so that they can carry on and involve as many people as we possibly can.”