There is a lot going on in the world these days that is either dreadful, ghastly or downright horrible. And there is only so much our souls can take of that side of life without a bit of respite. Sometimes we have to find a place where we reconnect with the goodness and loveliness that is also still in and around us. That place where we can sit back and take in the good. For me, that place is a garden.
Fortunately, my husband is a keen gardener and our city garden is always filled with life, and gives us many moments of joy. The cups of tea we share together on our garden swing enable us to reconnect and positively enjoy our time together. Watching the bulbs stretch up from the earth as they make their way into fully formed flowers is part of their, and our, journey.
The beech tree at the bottom of the garden tantalizes us for months with its closed buds, waiting, waiting for that perfect moment when the first leaf bursts forth. I sit and watch and then become as excited as a schoolgirl when one day I scour the branches and there it is! Within about a week or two, the entire tree will be covered with millions of leaves. Our beech, like trees up and down the country, replaces its skeletal wintery look with a canopy of magnificence at this time of the year.
Just like the bulbs that have been sleeping, trees can become a visible form of hope. Our beech has stood in the same spot for over one hundred and eighty years. Gardens can help us as we put the world, and our lives, into perspective.
They are good for us on so many levels! The scientists, as ever, have a thing or two to say about gardens and how they affect us. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that gardens, as well as gardening, really are good for us! In a BMJ article about the effect of gardens on people, Dr. Michelle Howarth tells us her findings demonstrate that “there are links between gardens and improved mental well-being”. Gardens help us to reduce stress.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have an in-house gardener, or the sort of garden that beckons you into it on a daily basis, but not having a garden of your own, doesn’t mean you have to be deprived of one of the splendours in the world!
Many towns and cities across the country have Botanical Gardens complete with glasshouses and plants from around the world. An American study by the Horticultural scientific journal tells us that “Botanic gardens offer a unique experience that (positively) impacts the individual well-being of visitors.”
For those of you in Bristol, or planning a trip here soon, I can highly recommend the Bristol Botanical Gardens. There are plants from places as far away as New Zealand and China, along with those from closer to home. They also have a great cafe where you sit amongst the plants sipping your favourite cuppa. If you are nowhere near Bristol, have a quick look at where your nearest Botanic Garden is located.
The National Trust welcomes us all to the many gardens they maintain throughout the country, many of which are just waking up for the season.
If you’re stuck indoors, don’t despair. Virtual gardens that we can tap into on our computers are also worth a visit. In a study on the effect of virtual nature, researchers found that while experiencing nature on our computers, our positive emotions increase while some signs of anxiety decrease. Even a virtual garden will give us some respite from the stresses in the world. While a virtual garden doesn’t have all of the benefits of the real thing, it might do in a pinch. (Remember Covid lockdowns?)
If you can’t get into a garden, by all means, stare at mine for a while!
Do you have a favourite garden you like to visit? Share your reflections and garden memories with Kathy and the rest of the members in the comments below.
And if Kathy’s garden has inspired you, join our expert Katie for a live Spring Gardening session on Friday 29 April at 10.00am.