Euros 2021: The Gardens of Champions

Return to the Pitch

Football has been on shaky ground over the past eighteen months and it’s not hard to see why. Between the three month hiatus the Premier League took in response to COVID-19 and the recent fallout of a proposed ‘Super League’, fans have been eagerly awaiting some assurance that the great game will soon return to normal.

It seems that they have gotten their wish as, for the first time since the pandemic hit, a major tournament – The European Championship – is going ahead. Since this will be the first time many are collectively returning both to their own private terraces and those found under the stadium lights, we thought we’d honour some of the gardening traditions of a few of the qualifying nations.

Russia: Dacha Gardens

The word ‘Dacha’ means to give originally and is best known as the title of the freeholdings that were gifted from the Russian Tsars to their nobles. The advent of the Soviet Union meant that these individual parcels of land were bundled into farming collectives which still stand to this day.

Due to the prevailing belief that large scale farms and supermarket produce are subjected to high levels of agrochemicals, it’s common in rural Russia for people to grow their own food. Despite having little practical difference to a UK allotment, Dacha Gardens have a strong cultural significance as they represent one of the last surviving artefacts of a bygone time in Russia.

Scandinavia: Return to the wilderness

Due to similarities in climate, culture, and geography, there are many garden traditions that pervade the whole Scandinavian region. The prevailing theme however is a return to and trust in natural law. What does this mean?

First of all, try to create outdoor spaces wherever possible so you can be surrounded by nature in your day to day life, this might mean setting up a workbench or kitchen in the yard or even, as was an older custom, a privy!

Using sustainable design principles it is actually possible to create an outdoor toilet that feeds back to your garden in the way of compost. You can either buy one of these toilets pre-fabricated or build your own with very few materials or brainpower required.

Next, embrace the winter by creating a sheltered outdoor planting area to get you out into the garden even during the colder months. Moreover, try to blend your garden with the surrounding flora by minimising hard furnishings and artificial features and following nature’s palette of browns, greens, and whites.

Finally, accept natural law and get tough with your plants, if a plant is struggling the Scandinavian dictates that you let it perish and listen to the signals your garden is sending you. If another variety is thriving, plant more of it and accept that nature has plans for your garden that perhaps you hadn’t anticipated.

Spain: A Cultural Melting Pot

Historically, Spain has been one of the world’s great bridges between previously disparate cultures and it now enjoys the heritage of both Christian and Muslim architecture and thinking as well as the remnants of the Persian and Roman empires.

The result is that you have a smorgasbord of different gardening disciplines and sensibilities based as much on the formal gardens of Renaissance Italy as on the Riads of Pre-Industrial Morocco. Water is certainly the prevailing element due to Spain’s relatively arid landscape and hot climate, typically the water is housed in channels that run parallel to the garden’s borders and walkways. Representative of the religious trappings of the region, traditional Spanish gardens usually feature a cross-shaped walkway bisecting the planted areas of the space. 

Those areas would usually be populated by fruiting trees and the paths themselves were often enclosed within trellises and pergolas. The characteristics of a Spanish garden are considered to be moisture, shade, and colour provided by either sub-tropical plants or fruits.

Here concludes our tour through the gardens of would-be champions, we did consider talking about English gardening traditions as well but since we’re going to take the tournament anyway, we thought it good taste to give some clout to the runners up.

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