A book by author Barney Bardsley tells her story, a year gardening to overcome the stress and grief of dealing with a husband dying of cancer and the loss of her Mum. Inspired by her mother’s gardening, Barney experienced a sense of freedom and soothing as she worked to turn a neglected allotment into her special place. The mix of fresh air, wildlife, exercise and observing nature’s cycles of growth and decay all provided solace.
Stan Hissey too talks about the discovery of gardening as a route through his depression that came on after suffering a stroke. Stan uses gardening as horticultural therapy to address his mental wellbeing in a way the NHS weren’t able to, “I feel fulfilled again” he said. He was helped to discover gardening for health through the national charity Thrive that aims to transform the lives of people through horticulture.
Gardeners World magazine undertook a survey of gardeners in the UK and discovered that 80% of gardeners felt satisfied with their lives compared to just 67% of non-gardeners in the general population.
What more evidence do we need that becoming a gardener is good for you?
Having been to and fro into London a few times in the last month, I was aware of the Olympic legacy Queen Elizabeth gardens being opened to the public. One of the members of the design team was Piet Oudolf who has become famous over the last twenty years or so for being a leader of the “New Perennials Movement”. Born in the Netherlands in 1944, Oudolf has spent many years living and working in Britain as well as the United States. Oudolf has been credited with the introduction of loose, naturalistic and impressionistic planting designs inspired by prairie landscapes and “layered” effects producing gardens dressed in waves of colour, form, texture and movement throughout the year. Oudolf’s philosophy is to think about design aesthetic through the seasons and use seed heads and plant decay as much part of the garden design as spring flowers and summer foliage. Some of the form Oudolf loves comes from structural foliage plants such as grasses, and grassland flowers including Rudbeckia, Echinacea, and Monarda all of which he has made popular. His design ideas have altered the plants on offer in garden centres as well as influencing contemporary garden designers to consider the ecology of their planting schemes. His own enthusiasm, curiosity and desire to experiment led to his innovative designs of the Lurie garden in Chicago, and the High Line roof garden in New York. Although we probably recognise his style, many of us may not know the name of this humble but incredibly inspirational and influential gardener.