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Leave gardening

As Third Way went to press, yet more gloom was gathering around parliament as more MPs fell on swords held steady by the Daily Telegraph, and cabinet members set about plotting new post-Gordon futures. Meanwhile, the economic crisis barrelled on, with job losses reaching figures not seen since the 1980s.

So it seems like the perfect time to be talking about gardening.

This may not be quite the leap that it seems. Reports from the Chelsea Flower Show in May indicated that spending on plants and garden tools had increased significantly, with people retreating to their potting sheds and flower beds en masse. This makes some financial sense - a couple of hours in the garden costs less than a trip out - but it also signals something of a retreat from the world, hands thrown up in horror or disgust at the grand scale of human failing. Give us nature, sweet creation. Not boom and bust and sharp graphs but the long, slow drive of the earth.

'A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in' goes the ancient Greek proverb. If this be true, Britain has a sound future: families in Camden in London are now putting their young children down as applicants for allotments, some of which   have 40-year waiting lists. The developer of a large site just two minutes' walk from Oxford Street is listening to suggestions about how it could be used for growing food.

All this seems like a valuable trend, not least because it increases local production, saving food miles. And what could be more godly than a direct involvement in the natural world?

Well, pretty much anything, arguably. The God of the Bible does not seem in any way pleased when we decide to interfere with the world in such a way. Gardening labour was Adam's curse, becoming a necessary evil rather than a commendable act. Cain's offering received an Almighty snub.

We jest, perhaps, but the repercussions of not gardening are worth pondering. Our treasured backyards would be taken over by plants that we call weeds, but we might notice the local wildlife being appreciative of this new indigenous vegetation. Certainly we would use less water as we refrained from pampering plants from other climates. This process of giving up our ordered green spaces would be, in fact, to return them to nature. Not 'our' garden but God's - or, at least, a place where we would understand how limited our role in the happening of creation.

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