Reconnecting with Nature | Urban Gardening
Gardening has been an important part of shaping who I am. The familiarity of tending plants, caring for an outside space and visiting garden centres is deeply engrained from my childhood. The garden at my parents home is packed with beautiful plants that create such an inviting space. Growing up with a bedroom that looked out over the garden played a role in my love of nature and the seasons. The care and attention shown by my Mum and Dad with their garden has inspired me to cultivate my own space and now just over 4 years in our home our garden is beginning to take shape. For me gardening and the time spent is an investment in my mental health and my wellbeing. It has become close to my heart and the purposeful work I want to contribute in my life too.
About 10 years ago I started gardening in a courtyard garden, a shady cool space with a few pockets of sunlight. We had window boxes and a few containers to grow in and we experimented growing vegetables following a Rocket Gardens gift. During that time I sought sanctuary in our courtyard garden. I discovered that gardening was a way to build myself back up from a challenging time with my mental health, it was my therapy.
I struggled with anxiety and low mood during my 20s, hidden behind a beaming smile, an energetic and happy exterior, masked the low feelings I had about myself that spent years bubbling away. At times of change, during unsettling situations and times when I felt overwhelmed, the anxiousness engulfed who I was and I shifted into a space I called my ‘black cloud’ where I felt incredibly low. During my twenties I was seen as a ‘yes’ person, and in a few moments where there were demands from friends, and I was in situations that I felt uncomfortable in, I chose to say no. Making the decision to stand my ground, to speak from the heart, and have the courage to not say yes felt instinctive and expressed how I truly authentically felt. The response from friends to the no I gave in response to what they were asking of me, across a handful of what were life changing conversations, led to the loss of these close friendships. Their own response to my choice to say no wasn’t positive, it didn’t match how they were expecting me to respond, it didn’t match their own beliefs or their own model of the world.
Overnight my mental health shifted into a very low space having experienced their reaction to my no. I doubted my own opinion, beliefs and how I expressed myself. I experienced a deep crushing grief losing the friendships I had, they had been nurtured for years during university and were friends I thought I’d have for life. Unable to feel comfortable communicating my own opinion or being able to be around the group of friends due to the anxiety triggers I had, meant that I shifted into an introverted space. The way I responded to that grief and loss led to me being stuck in a very low mood, experiencing insomnia, panic attacks and deepening the anxiety I had. I knew in my heart that this wasn’t me and that I needed to heal.
At that time mental health issues weren’t really talked about and were seen as a weakness in the workplace I was in. I decided to not seek medical help as I was concerned I could be signed off work. I decided to find ways to heal myself naturally and in my own time. I discovered that being in nature, gardening, connecting to my creativity, journaling, walking, reading personal development books, taking Bach flower remedies, working on adjusting my mindset through visualisation and positive self talk, were the ways I coped and eventually healed.
Gardening became a key part of that process and the way I chose to spend my free time. I knew that I wanted something that would be a positive activity to focus on. Gardening became my therapy for my heart and my mind. It enabled me to heal, to be in the fresh air and observe nature. Gardening started to mend a gaping hole left by the loss of close friendships, it became a way to process things and move on. During the time spent with my hands in the soil, whilst nurturing seeds, tending to plants, and capturing images of plants in my camera, my mind went elsewhere, opening up to the world again. With an open head and an open heart I processed all that had happened. I began to trust that my instinct and gut reactions were from the heart and an expression of who I was, and gradually I felt it was ok to have my own opinion and express my beliefs. Gardening enabled me to have the space to learn to trust my intuition, appreciate that my intuition was my guiding light, and to be at peace with the experiences I had had.
Gardening became a way to connect to the earth and the seasons and the therapeutic effects of nature have benefited my wellbeing and mental health. Gardening and being in nature brought me home to me. Overtime it has connected me to my purpose and my passion for living seasonably, sustainably, and to increase the preservation of our environment. Gardening, horticultural therapy and nature bathing / forest bathing are aspects I spend considerable time researching and are likely to form part of my portfolio career I’m cultivating.
With all personal passion projects I think it is great to have outcomes to aim for. I hope to have a walled garden space to tend and learn in. A garden that surrounds our home on all four sides, with a cut flower garden, vegetable plot, herb garden, a space for a small meadow of wildflowers, and a collection fruit trees and chickens. Within the garden I’d love a studio space to coach from, spaces for people to retreat to and a therapeutic garden to share with others.
For now tending our own urban garden, trying to grow new things, and reading about nature and gardening tops up that passion. Seeing the results of the work I put into our garden enables me to thrive and flourish. It’s also the continual learning and experimenting that I love and the unexpected and unknown elements too. Gardening remains my favourite way to relax and a way to escape for a few moments in the day. I love the planning and organisation that goes into deciding what to grow, the search for information about plants, choosing seeds and plants online and the visits to my local garden centre.
I feed my imagination with an obsession with walled gardens and reading about gardening in magazines. I love visiting National Trust properties where there seem to be an abundance of walled gardens and glasshouses to see. Luckily we are close by to Tyntesfield which has a wonderful garden space and the most amazing glasshouses and orangery. A short drive from us is The Ethicurean, a beautiful space to eat seasonal food from the walled garden and food that is foraged locally. We have visited many times for a variety of occasions over the past 8 years. It is a special place for me and why I chose to hold my bridal shower meal there too, to connect to my passion for seasonal home grown food and beautiful garden spaces.
Having been in a much happier space for so many years has enabled me to see the benefits of gardening, being in nature and has in turn shaped who I am and what I do. It’s the reason why I choose to use metaphors in nature when I write, and why my words of the year link to nature. It’s the connection I make to nature when I’m photographing close up parts of nature and plants. It has shaped the direction of my seasonal coaching practice, and my purpose to enable myself and others to cultivate and live a creative and wholesome life through the seasons.
The photo above is the beautiful and simple herb, Rosemary, a herb of remembrance…Without the challenges I faced with my mental health, and experiencing the loss of close friendships, I wouldn’t have journeyed along the route I am on now. I feel I have been given the gift of experience to discover something so powerful healer for me and I know can have a powerful effect on others. Gardening and being outside in nature healed my heart and mind, it let me make space to process and to have a pocket of my time where I felt I could connect to the earth and the seasons. It all started with with two window boxes and a few blue glazed pots to lift my spirits…
I’m deeply passionate about being in and reading about nature. This year I will share with you more about my passion for the planet, seasonal living, being a geographer, my passion for close up nature photography and my connection to trees and forests. These are the passions that shape who I am, how I live, and what I have chosen to cultivate in my life and work as a seasonal coach.