Allocations are required. Anyone who wants one will end up in a long waiting list. Meanwhile, a battle of trends is taking place over the complexes themselves. Can you relax or work hard in the garden? “The rules must be applied.”
Nico van der los is happy. He, 82, has owned a dedicated garden in the Toepad complex of the Association of Amateur Gardeners in Rotterdam for the past four years. This contains 82 gardens, all hidden in the greenery next to the Van Brienenoord Bridge. Four years ago, Van der Loos paid €6000 for the house and rent for the modest plot of land. Since then, he has also paid several hundred euros in membership fees. And he thinks there’s not much money left for the holiday feeling that doesn’t stop since then.
“It wasn’t much of a home when I bought it,” he says. “But look now.” He asserts that van der Loos has rolled up his sleeves himself. He is proud of that. Once my son helped me lay a sewer. Other than that, I do everything myself.” It is hard to sit down. “I like to have fun.”
The enthusiasm for this Rotterdam complex, just like the complexes in the rest of the Netherlands, is immense. The history of the Toepad Amateur Garden Association dates back to 1969. Anyone who wants a garden will have to wait a long time. These types of complexes were introduced in all kinds of places in the 1930s in order to provide citizens of the lower social classes with space, green spaces, and relaxation. Over the years, more and more beautiful houses are built in the gardens, where people often sleep all summer. Gardens like these have long since disappeared for the sake of low incomes alone: the phenomenon of ornamental gardens has faded into the background, and new residents are coming in for peace of mind.
Since the outbreak of Covid, getting your place green is more common than ever: in many pools, you can no longer be put on a waiting list. Nowadays, gardens are inhabited by all kinds of different groups of users, who sometimes look at each other with suspicion. Do-it-yourselfer Van der Loos, for example, is the type who cheerfully maintains his own garden. “I think it is a shame that some people do so little for their garden. There were even two here who almost got away. Fortunately, they are now also starting a little maintenance. But I won’t say anything about it.”
“They think: Oh my God, it’s good to sit!”
Not everyone remains silent. Allotment park veteran Adri Braber, 81, is the type to take a critical look at this latest development and show it. “I see a different kind of people coming in,” says this former firefighter in the driveway in front of his yard. “It changes a lot. And do you know what it is? The way we see gardening, they don’t see it that way. They think: ‘Oh my God, it’s good to sit! But these guys should really go to camp.'”
He adds that while this has always been one of the most beautiful complexes in Rotterdam and the surrounding area. “Now look. There are rules, but you have to enforce them. Otherwise, it will be a mess.” He thinks everything could be a little tougher. “I see it flattening.” But he says, “My generation is disappearing here. We are giving up slowly but surely.”
As interest group AVNN, the general association of gardeners’ associations in the Netherlands, has also noted that allotment pools are changing. “Allocations are very popular right now because vegetable growing has become popular in recent years and families from cities have started looking for green space for the kids,” says Chairman Rod Grundale. But the old generation of the population sometimes says: These new people just want clover jackets. People sometimes look at each other’s gardens with disdain. But the great thing is that these kinds of associations are small democracies, where people decide things together.” This is, says Grundel, unique. “You can still find real cohesion here.”
Everyone mandatory gardening
One newcomer, fanatical mountaineer Chantal Lindsen (37), is rolling up his sleeves meanwhile at the Rotterdam compound. She does not like ornamental gardens and garden statues, she works on a rather wild-looking oasis in green. ‘I don’t have a green thumb either, but I learn fast. There is already a great deal of social control in a complex like this, where residents keep a close eye on each other. Recently I’ve been sitting in the garden with a friend, in the evening and with candles – for lighting only.’ Someone passed : “Oh, how romantic!” But at the same time, I also get all kinds of useful advice from the same people. Thanks to one of these tips, for example, the cherry tree in my garden began to bloom this spring.
The veterans here loved her for her hard work. As her daughter Ross (4 years) rummages through the garden, Lindsen pours a cup of sifted water through freshly cut flowers, she explains what she pleads about a dilapidated log house in a garden that can only be tamed with hard work. “I live within cycling distance, but my apartment is only small. Here I find space and peace. This is also very beautiful for Ross. I see her enjoying it here.”
She actually put obligatory gardening on the agenda, though she had to negotiate: Saturdays work elsewhere. “I can now do it on my own time.” This is appropriate. “We want to stay here all summer.”
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Rain or Shine: What can you do to help bees, bumblebees, butterflies, and other insects? Don’t make your garden too tidy! Or read one of Loethe Olthuis’ other garden columns.
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