The rise of ‘cardening’: why people are growing plants in cars – and everywhere else
Age: New, according to social media users who have been sharing pictures of it during the pandemic, but in-depth research by the Pass notes team has found a reference dating to 2007, when a man in Minneapolis recommended cardening as a way to combat road rage.
Appearance: A garden in your car – usually a plant pot on the dashboard but anywhere you like, really. Maybe not in the engine for obvious reasons.
Didn’t Volkswagen have this idea with the flower in a vase in the Beetle? Well remembered. The vase was indeed an optional extra on Beetles in the 1950s and became standard on the new model in the late 90s. The Beetle was inextricably linked to the “flower power” generation in the 60s.
So cardening is not completely new. There is nothing new under the sun. Some of the earliest cars in the 1900s were built with vases, so drivers could use flowers to mask engine smells and the aroma of unwashed passengers on long journeys. They were the original air fresheners.
We’ve gone full circle. Sort of. The pandemic has given a boost to all kinds of gardening. We’ve got time on our hands; we’re depressed; we want to be connected to life, growth, possibility.
You’re a bit of an old hippy yourself by the sound of it. I’m just reporting what’s happening, man. Seed sales in the US reached record levels at the height of the pandemic and rose too, by 30%, in Russia. In the UK one supplier reported a sixfold rise in demand for seeds, while the Royal Horticultural Society reported substantial increases in views of its online advice pages.
Blooming heck. Delphiniums, hollyhocks and hydrangeas were in especially short supply as demand rose.
It’s a perennial problem. A rare gardening joke.
I’ve seen the fuchsia and it works. OK, don’t overdo it.
So cardening is tapping into the zeitgeist. Indeed, everywhere you look people are planting. One in eight Brits don’t have a garden, so they’re using window boxes and balconies.
Everyone’s gone potty. It doesn’t stop there. There is an initiative in Merseyside to encourage residents to create “mini-farms” at the front of their houses; Energy Garden is an organisation helping people transform London rail stations into eco-friendly landscapes; and firefighters in the capital are turning fire station yards into floral paradises. Car gardens are the logical next step in a growing trend.
What are the best plants to grow in cars? Cacti are favoured because they can withstand dramatic temperature changes, but what they might do to an airbag in the event of an accident doesn’t bear thinking about. Geraniums and lucky bamboo are also recommended. But maybe avoid Swiss cheese plants.
Not to be confused with: The Highway Code, which doesn’t exactly major on gardening advice. “Windscreens and windows MUST be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision,” it insists.
Do say: “What a lovely idea. We need to do everything possible to brighten our benighted lives.”
Don’t say: “Did you tell your insurance company your view was blocked by begonias?”