I can’t explain the deep satisfaction you feel when watching something you’ve made from a bare garden plot, grow and mature, becoming more beautiful, interesting and intense with each passing year. This is what I was looking forward to when we moved into our new build home five years ago, our first garden that me and Malc owned.
A Bare Plot
New build gardens or plots are known for being quite small, but we did manage to get one with an extended front garden which wraps around the side of the house and a good size back garden (approximately 13m by 4.5m). Now what to do with it! We both had lots of ideas of what we wanted from the space; a lawn (Malc’s idea of course), a seating area (there was already a small patio by the back door, but nothing big enough to put a chair on, let alone a table) and of course lots of colourful, interesting and tropical plants.
When we first started creating the garden, Malc got his wish of a large lawn, grown from seed. The planting was limited to 5 small triangular shapes. This was mainly as a result of having no spare money, having just spent it all on buying the house (also; Malc really wanted his lawn). It was not ideal, but it was our first proper garden, so it didn’t matter.
Many Paths to Paradise
After constant “discussions” on how we could create something more tropical on a limited budget, I was surprised one morning to come downstairs to Malc digging a large hole in the garden. At first I was worried as to what this might be for (had I really annoyed him that much!), but he soon explained this was for our new water feature, inspired by many years of watching Ground Force. This was the beginning of what would be a complete transformation of a relatively small space, into something magical and ever changing. Gone was the freshly grown lawn (sorry Malc), here came our little tropical paradise, inspired by the lush green landscapes of Mauritius.
The creation of our garden has been a constant project, with no end. A quick visit to a garden nursery or a gardening programme on TV and you come away with more ideas and hopefully more new plants to fit within the space. Often Malc asks; “do we have room for more plants”; my answer quite simply; “yes, there’s always room for more plants “. That’s the great thing about gardening. It’s never finished and there are always things that can be added to, improved, or changed.
Just as I have previously talked about with managing my mental health, you have to find what’s right for you. Not everything will take, but you keep trying. New challenges will crop up, so you look for solutions, one problem at a time. I see my garden project as I do my mental health; it will never be perfect and it will have its ups and downs, but it’s my garden and I have to find what works and what doesn’t.
Each year I can’t wait for Spring, so that I can get started on the garden, cutting back the old, ready for the new, wondering what will pop up this year. Did everything survive the cold dark winter, as we all struggle to come through it. Watching as it grows, then, by Summer, taking as many moments as I can to sit and enjoy the space. Time to take it all in, the blue sky, the sound of water trickling in the pond and leaves moving in the wind. It’s my place to practice mindfulness, somewhere I can be in the moment with my thoughts and take in my surroundings, one petal at a time.
Spending this time outside really lifts my mood, I feel calmer, less stressed and less anxious. At times this has been my escape from it all. When times are tough and sometimes help is difficult to come by, given the pressures faced by the NHS and mental health support in general; the garden has been a great form of therapy. There is now lots of research talking about the benefits of gardening for mental health and wellbeing and for me personally, it has certainly helped. It might not be for everyone and can by no means replace expert advice and health services so often needed; but if it does help and if only for a short while, why not give it a try. You don’t need a huge space, or even garden; a small houseplant cared for as it grows, can bring just as much enjoyment.
I’ll be introducing you to my houseplant collection in a future blog and as you may have already guessed, I have slightly more than one houseplant. The day I run out of space for plants, will be the day Malc has to move out, to make room for the plants!