How gardening gave me space

One writer reflects on how gardening gave her space and a reconnection with nature

Green-fingered isn’t what I would call myself. Having grown up in a London flat with no outdoor space, I wasn’t one of those children that was raised on the delights of cultivating seeds into plants, or plunging hands into the soil. But even though I was denied an outdoorsy upbringing, I have always found myself drawn to nature. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of afternoons in my grandfather’s sun-filled garden, helping him tend his beloved tomato plants. Even as a small child, gardening gave me space.

So, when I finally got my hands on my very own garden for the first time, I was overjoyed – and more than a little overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking Kew Gardens here. You can cross the postage stamp-sized garden in three large strides, and my flowerbeds measure only about 30cm across. But finally I had that little slice of outdoor space my soul had craved so long.

Despite not having a clue what I was doing, I set about transforming my bedraggled patch of earth. Moss was scraped from the lawn and the turf turned over, ready to be sprinkled with grass seed to revive its decidedly patchy appearance. Next, a trip to the garden centre, where I gleefully piled a trolley high with flowers. Pastel-coloured lupins! Fuchsia roses! Purple peonies! Creeping clematis! I was like a kid in a sweet shop, bedazzled by the array of scents and colours. And the sense of space that gardening gave me was incredible.

As any novice gardener will attest, I was brought back to earth with a bump as soon as I planted my beloved purchases. The seed didn’t transform our lawn into a lush, verdant carpet: it created an all-you-can-eat buffet for the birds. My Instagram-worthy lupins were decimated by ravenous slugs and snails. As for my hot pink roses, which I planted to recreate the vibrant blooms of my wedding bouquet, they quickly developed black spot, the most serious of all the diseases for roses. It seemed my green-fingered ambitions were not to be.

Yet I knew I couldn’t give up – the bucolic haven of my dreams was worth fighting for. So I went back to the drawing board and started reading up on plants that would flourish in my garden. Which are perennials and which are annuals? Which need sun and which need shade? Which are hardiest and the least delicious to creepy crawlies? Slowly but surely, I filled pots and borders with plants that not only survived, they thrived.

It’s no secret that gardening is good for your physical, social and mental health. Thirty brisk minutes of gardening can burn the same calories as badminton, volleyball or yoga, and people living near green spaces report less mental distress. Meanwhile, in 2021, the RHS revealed those who garden every day have wellbeing scores 6.6 per cent higher and stress levels 4.2 per cent lower than people who don’t garden at all.

I’ve certainly felt these benefits for myself. Gardening has given me space and allowed me to reconnect with nature in so mant ways. And now I reap the rewards of my labour every day when I sit outside in my little patch of green and listen to birdsong in the trees or watch bees buzz around my lavender. My garden is an oasis of calm in my hectic life – and I genuinely don’t think I could live without it.

Next: Why I love wild swimming

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