Adapting Gardens, Changing Lives, Defying Disability
Blog post & photos by Debi Holland
I run my own gardening business and work with many people who have physical or mental difficulties. I am constantly thinking about how I can make gardening easier for people, which plants can be chosen to give maximum joy but require minimum maintenance and how can I help keep people enjoying gardening independently at their home rather than feeling overwhelmed with jobs.
Daily life stresses, bereavement, ailments and disabilities all bring their own challenges but whatever your situation an hour or two spent outside can work wonders for morale, reduce anxiety and lift spirits. Green therapy. Seeing a job through to completion is immensely satisfying and evokes a sense of pride.
Soil contains Mycobacterium vaccae, which releases natural anti-depressants serotonin and dopamine so getting our hands dirty can genuinely improve our mental health and make us feel more positive.
Gardening offers a great distraction from everyday life, a few hours spent outdoors can work wonders. It allows us a little breathing space away from issues that may be troubling us, focuses the mind and gives purpose and hope for the future from the anticipation of what will grow.
Try and keep gardening fun and not a chore. If certain elements of the garden begin to stress you out then change them. Gardens are forever evolving and need to develop to meet your needs.
For example cut down on the number of pots you have or consolidate small pots into larger as this stops the soil drying out so fast. Small pots are rather needy for food and water.
Watering can feel an arduous task so make life easy for yourself, choose drought tolerant plants like pelargoniums, sempervivum, sedums or cactus for in a conservatory or windowsill. These independent plants thrive on neglect. You can enjoy their foliage or blooms with minimum input.
But if you love sowing seeds and potting on then plant at a height you can work at. If you have back trouble or cannot kneel then resist planting at soil level where you would have to bend down; try waist height raised beds. It’s your garden so ensure you can access it.
Direct sow seed where you wish them to grow. This cuts down on the time consuming task of nurturing seedlings through each stage till they are finally transplanted out. Try Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), calendula, cosmos, cornflowers, marigold, nigella (Love-in-a-mist), Phacelia tanacetifolia (Purple Tansy) Digitalis (foxgloves), poppies or antirrhinums (snapdragons).
Cut down on weeding, use groundcover such as hardy geraniums, vinca or hardy herbs to cover bare soil and smother weeds.
Lasagne plant bulbs at different depths in pots to get a successional display of blooms from winter through to summer. Try crocus, muscari, fritillaria, narcissus, tulips and alliums. All super easy to grow and provides months of colour.
If you are feeling lonely or isolated then ring a friend, get them round for a cuppa and a gardening session!
Join a local gardening club. Meet up with like-minded people and discuss what is going on in your garden. If you are physically unable to garden yourself then go to the gardening talks. Get inspired by the professionals and learn about plants. You can always hire a gardener to come and help implement your new ideas.
Little did I know when I start out on my horticultural path that an over riding factor of gardening would be friendship. Over the years I have become great friends with the people I work for. And it is a two-way street, putting the world to rights whilst pulling weeds can be incredibly therapeutic. It can provide the platform to express how we feel whereas we may not be able to find the words whilst stuck within four walls.
Gardens are so personal and bring such joy. They are an extension of our personalities and provide respite from the stresses and toils of modern life. So get outdoors and inhale all the scent, sights and sounds of nature and get gardening!
Find regular gardening advice and articles at my website: www.debihollandgardening.com
I also write for Richard Jackson’s Garden website: