The Danes boast that their country is one of the happiest nations in the world..... and it looks like it’s ‘hygge’ that plays a big part in this. So what is ‘hygge’ and how do we get some in Britain?
We don’t seem to actually have an equivalent word for ‘hygge’ in the English language, but maybe we should. Perhaps our closest translation is simply ‘cosy’ or the phrase ‘life’s simple pleasures’. Pronounced ‘hue-gah’, it essentially means the pursuit of everyday happiness, taking pleasure from small things, encouraging relaxation, cosiness and togetherness, all in the search of a better quality of life.
So how can we translate ‘hygge’ living to our gardens? There are plenty of ways to create hygge in your garden.
Nothing beats a hearty meal than one cooked with the fruits of your labour, or maybe the vegetables! The satisfaction derived from growing your own really is one of life’s simple pleasures. Even if you don’t have a large garden, own an allotment or have lots of spare time, you can try growing some windowsill herbs to add to your cooking. Or why not grow a colourful chili pepper plant in the conservatory?
The same applies to cut flowers. Dahlias for example, produce amazing blooms in autumn and just happen to make the perfect cut flower for the home. Plant dahlia tubers in March/April for up to 6 months of flowering.
Getting cosy in front of an open fire definitely ticks the box where ‘hygge’ is concerned, but few of us have the luxury of an open fire at home. With a firepit you can take the cosiness outside. Wrap up warm and invite some friends over to share warming hot chocolate or you can toast marshmallows and make s’mores over your firepit or brazier. On warmer summer evenings keep warm outside way after the sun has set.
In the middle of winter, it’s not always easy to get outside. A little preparation in autumn though can create highlights of colour in the garden to enjoy from the inside. Plant up a bowl of violas or pots of pansies or primulas, or you could add a colourful highlight to your border with a shrub like Cornus 'Winter Flame'. Plant up bulbs in autumn for an early blast of colour next spring instead of looking out to dull, soggy borders. Treat your borders to the first glimmer of spring by planting snowdrops and daffodil bulbs in autumn.
Plant shrubs in your garden that will produce beneficial berries during the cold winter months. Not only will the berries brighten your borders, they will be a welcome sight and a free food supply for birds. If you’re a bird lover, then keep your bird bath topped up with fresh water and your feeders filled with seed and sit back and enjoy watching the wildlife flock to your garden.
It’s not as easy through the winter months to find a space to be at peace with the outside. An investment into a structure in your garden such as a log cabin or a summer house allows you to embrace your garden with a few home comforts (and most importantly warmth) still around you. Consider the location of the sun in the winter months when deciding on a position for your garden building to maximise warmth, although conversely, consider the sun position in your garden in the summer. Make things cosy and ‘hygge’ inside with a comfortable sofa and a blanket or two, snuggle up and watch the stars.
Lower light levels and less sunlight can have an effect on our sense of wellbeing through the winter. Make time to sit and have a drink for 10 mins in the sunshine whenever you can, even if that’s next to the window inside. Make a note of where the sun shines in your garden during the winter months and treat yourself to a comfortable garden chair, bench or to create the ultimate relaxing moments, a hammock.
Just imagine on those crisp, clear winter days walking through your garden and being greeted by a sweet floral fragrance. Fragrance isn’t just for the summer garden, it can be achieved through winter too with the right shrubs. Plant Sarcococca confusa, Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna, Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'or Honeysuckle 'Winter Beauty' for superb fragrant flowers in the depths of winter or for a delicious honey-like fragrance, plant Chimonanthus praecox.