I have always enjoyed pottering around the garden, planting up bedding plants and generally prettifying. I know a weed from a pedigree plant (although wasn't it AA Milne who said a weed is just a flower before you get to know it, or some such?). But before March 2020, that was about as adventurous and intrepid as it got.
My dad was always very proud of his garden – I kid you not when I tell you that he would trim the edges of his lawn with a pair of scissors. He always said that the edges were never quite right otherwise. I actually nearly ran him over once when I pulled into the driveway in my car and he was lying out along it, happily trimming away. That would have taken some explaining. In his later years he became Stalinesque over the gravel on the driveway - woe betide anyone who kicked some on to the lawn. I
In fact, he and my mum loved their garden so much that when she died he decided that he would scatter half her ashes there. (the other half to be saved for a local beauty spot). It was an impromptu decision – and, before we knew it ,he was striding into the back garden, arm elbow deep in the urn. Don’t believe these wistful dramas that show a gentle scattering of ashes into the breeze. After he was done he came back into the house brushing the remains of my mum from the front of his sweater and down his arm, as my sister in law and I looked on, in more than slight horror. And my daughter cried as she felt it would be inappropriate to ‘do cartwheels on grandma’.
When my husband and I first bought a house together it had a back yard, so presented little opportunity for full scale horticulture. Even when we moved into our current home almost 20 years ago – and which boasted a much larger garden, we mainly maintained what we had inherited, adding bits here and there but nothing much more than that. My one addition was the purchase of a summer house, which appears to be standing the tests of time (and British weather) pretty well.
However, the garden really came into its own when lockdown came into effect last March. Suddenly, saved from a lengthy commute by working from home, the ability to have lunch outside and blessed with fabulous weather, I fell in love properly with my garden for probably the first time. I’d never grown vegetables or flowers from seeds, but here I was, boasting an array of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, all harvested from my own garden, sunflowers that were literally 9 feet tall and a splendid new patio and pathway that we built ourselves from left over slabs given to us by a friend.
But the thing I really discovered was that not only is eating tomatoes you’ve grown yourself or displaying flowers you’ve propagated from seed a thrill that can’t help but put a smile on your face, the effect that those small achievements have on your mental wellbeing is massive.
And the best thing is that you don’t need acres of garden to enjoy those things, to experience that thrill of having created something so beautiful or tasty. A window box or a couple of pots can achieve just the same thing. There’s just something about the feel of earth in your hands and the excitement of planting seeds, of watching them grow and thrive.
Whilst we have a decent sized garden, it’s hardly Chatsworth and a greenhouse was neither affordable or something for which we had space. However, we did buy a small cold frame from Aldi and that is still going strong – and remains my husband’s pride and joy. You’d have thought he was Percy Thrower (showing my age now) when he asked you to come and see his tomatoes (no, that’s not a euphemism), he was so proud of our little offering.It’s because of this that when I set up The Calming Room, and started to source products to aid wellness and a sense of achievement and calm, I was determined to include something that would bring this joy to all, irrespective of the size of space available. Watch this space!