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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

'Grow Your Own' Embraced By Trend-Conscious Middle Classes

In recent years, many people have chosen to devote some of their garden space to the growing of food crops.

Initially, such amateur production was exclusively directed towards vegetables and fruit. Increasing numbers of hobby gardeners, however, are now experimenting with cereal crops.

Since Kate Moss revealed in Hello Magazine that she grew wheat in the garden of her small London home, this crop has become something of a fashion statement amongst the young, affluent, trend-conscious middle classes.

Sophie Harrison-Smythe, a designer and mother of two from Hampstead, London, has allocated all the available garden space adjoining her basement flat to wheat production. ‘We've about ten square yards of land,’ she told the gardening correspondent of The Times. ‘Although we can only make three loaves each year from the flour produced, I feel it’s so important that the children, Lucinda and Justin, have this locally grown, low carbon footprint product. I supplement the yield,’ she added, ‘by growing wheat in pots in the flat, instead of houseplants. I’ve even given pet names to some of them,’ she confessed. ‘Our family is passionate about its agriculture.’

Ever pushing the boundaries of fashion to impress and out-compete their peers at dinner parties, some middle class trend-setters have progressed from domestic wheat production to the cultivation of rice.

‘Wheat has become a little passť this season,’ opined Debora Fortescue-Watson, an illustrator and mother of two from Twickenham, London. ‘Instead,’ she told Gardeners’ World Magazine, ‘my partner, Jeremy, and I commissioned a paddy field in the garden. It’s by the same designer who did a swimming pool for David Tennant. Of course,' she added, 'we insist upon authentic, traditional Chinese agricultural methods. I have a man who comes in to plough with water buffalo.’

Despite this current fashion trend, rice cultivation is difficult in Southern England - in particular the requirement for the crop to be grown underwater. Many rice gardeners in the South of England were devastated by the recent hosepipe ban. ‘However,’ said a spokesperson for Southern Water, ‘we believe that the rising number of domestic paddy fields in the South has been a major factor in the drawdown of reservoirs to emergency levels.’

Recreational rice growing has also created other problems. ‘Many properties have experienced flooding as DIY mud banks containing garden rice fields have collapsed,’ noted a spokesperson for the National Association of Insurers. ‘Cars and property have also been damaged during water buffalo stampedes. Sadly,’ she noted, ‘this has increased household insurance premiums in the South.’

The complications of growing cereal crops, together with traditional vegetables and fruit having become unfashionable, has led some hobby gardeners to turn to forestry. Giant redwoods have proven particularly popular.

‘They can grow upwards as much as six feet in one year,’ confirmed Sarah Frobisher-Jones, a lifestyle consultant and mother of two from Chelsea, London. ‘However,’ she told Forestry Today, ‘they can take fifty years to reach five feet in diameter, so it’s possible to contain one within the area of a small patio such as ours. Apparently,’ she added, ‘you only need planning permission and aircraft warning lights when they get over one hundred and fifty feet tall.’

Fashion-conscious gardeners wait with eager anticipation for hints of what might be the next big domestic agricultural trend. This is currently unclear, although the suburban cultivation of sea kelp is believed to be gaining popularity.