Posts Tagged ‘stress’
October 22nd, 2010
Slow gardening, like slow food, is taking the time to savour, it is the process, not the sudden transformation that matters. When you build a little, dig a bit, plant a little, move slowly and most importantly, don’t try to do it all at once, nature works with you. Gardening is something you do, not something you buy. You don’t have to spend money to have a great garden.
If you can find the right plant for the right place your hardest job is done. The plants do the rest! Don’t aim for a tropical garden if you live somewhere cold. Life has enough pressures without bringing them into the garden. Make compost and leaf piles and let nature look after your waste. Relax a little, then do a bit more. Soon you find yourself slowing down and enjoying the process of gardening.
Whatever you end up creating and growing in your garden, it is good to find your own way of doing it, and enjoy the process. The garden is the one place we do not need to rush. It is a place to slow down and take it all in! Everyone can grow something. It can be anything, and when you grow something you become a gardener.
July 10th, 2010
There is an art to pottering in the garden. When you master this gentle art you will find that pottering can be very therapeutic! Time slows down. You slow down. It can be very relaxing. The first rule of pottering is that there is no rules at all. No lists of work to be done. In fact the very best sort of pottering happens when you just go outside and wander about, doing whatever comes to hand. There should be no timetables, no particular project to complete.
I usually start a day of pottering with what I call ‘the garden walk’. This is different from walking to get somewhere, or the early morning exercise walk. This walk is more of a wander really. You just wander about, and maybe sit down, if a seat is at hand and let your mind drift. You will notice little things that need your attention. Some little job that you might like to do. A weed may need to be pulled out. A rose cut back. Before you know it your garden gloves are on and you are away.
The hours pass and you might find you have got quite a lot done, but it doesn’t matter if you have or not. A day spent pottering is not about ‘getting things done’ it is about time being spent pleasantly. It is about listening to the birds and maybe sitting down and watching them for a while. It is about not just smelling the roses but taking the time to touch their petals. It is about slowing down.
March 25th, 2010
Why do we all love to have and tend our gardens? I believe it is the love of growing things. It is the excitement of watching the wonders of Nature unfold before our eyes. To watch those first green sprouts of the bulbs we planted months ago and almost forgot about! To see the fascinating results of a tiny seed yielding its beauty. To feel the earth under our hands and get down and dirty!
In Wind in the Willows Ratty enjoyed mucking about in the river, on the river and in a very similar way I enjoy mucking about in the garden in amongst the weeds and plants. Digging amongst the rosemary enjoying the heady fragrance as I work! Feeling the earth – feeling connected.
Rest for a while in your garden and let your thoughts wander at random to ponder on its beauty. You will be surprised at how relaxed you will feel after a short time. Think of all the creatures we find in our gardens – the beauty of the butterfly, the swift flight of the birds, the joy of hearing them chatter and sing, the minute insects under stones and plants, our hardworking friend the earthworm.
My garden is not an award winning one, but it is a garden made with Love, with a capital ‘L’ – sometimes the ‘L’ stands for Learner! I am always learning – the garden can teach you many things, and not just about plants! A garden can teach you patience, it shows you how to look carefully and notice small things. It is alway full of surprises and little joys. If you allow it, you will learn how to slow down to the pace of life as it should be lived, one season at a time.
February 15th, 2010
The Gardenia must be my favourite plant in February! When the gardenia begins to unfurl its perfect, thick white petals and send out its delicious sweet scent you know summer is here for sure! One of the many joys of gardening is the scent that each season introduces. The scent of the Gardenia is summer, and a hot summer is something that Gardenias love!
As well as the warmth of summer days they need plenty of water and feeding. But they reward you for all the work you put in with beautiful blooms which are pure white in full bloom, darkening to a creamy-yellow as they age. I keep my Gardenia in a pot, on my balcony, so that on warm summer evenings it can send out its fragrance in waves of pure joy! A lovely addition to a perfect cool summer evening!
Keeping my gardenia in a pot is also good for over wintering because I can keep it where the Old Man Frost cannot put his cold hands upon it. Something that no self respecting Gardenia would enjoy! No Gardenia will tolerate frost! The Gardenias are native to Africa and Asia, and enjoy warm situations. They do not care to get too cold. This year my dear little gardenia decided to tease me a little, as they do, by covering itself with buds – how exciting, and then only opening one flower at a time. The little tease! Still, I do love the gardenia, well, I do this month!
January 22nd, 2010
I like to think that most people who grow plants, even if only one pot plant has talked to it or them (the plants, that is) at some time or another. I certainly do. I feel that there is a certain affinity we humans have with plants – an affinity that cannot be explained rationally. But then, I have been caught by my next door neighbour explaining to some local kookaburras that I did not have any more meat to give them. I had my hands out, to show that they were empty, and I spoke very slowly. ‘No more, see?’ ‘I don’t think they speak English,’ said my neighbour, with a chuckle. Well, they are learning, I explained. But, I am certain that whether or not other people talk to their plants, most people would experience a similar experience of obtaining comfort, solace or just relaxation just from being around plants or natural areas. There is something sensory about the way plants affect us.
This is hardly surprising, for most of the things that happen in the world are beyond the ability of the human senses to detect anyway. We see a minute fraction of the available range of wavelengths of light; our ears hear only a small portion of the known ‘sounds'; our ability to detect chemicals via taste and smell is far inferior to that of other animals; and there are myriad of other forms of senses that other organisms possess but we do not, such as radar and magnetic sense. And even the stimuli we do perceive are interpreted through the filters of our own beliefs and upbringing.
Everyone, even the most hardened cynic, have experienced moments of heightened awareness and sensitivity. At these times we touch the mystic, non-rational side of ourselves – the side that is normally buried beneath the thick, rational skin of our exterior workaday selves.
I find that these types of experiences commonly happen to me when I spend a lot of time around plants and nature. I find that working with my garden, working with nature helps me to become attunened with the earth in a very special way. The process of attunement is one of the most powerful tools available to the gardener, for it enables you to tune in to plants, the soil, the weather and so on and in this way to take actions that will be in harmony with your garden. Attunement is beyond a rational understanding; it cannot be understood in the normal way we understand things. It can only be validated by experience, by feeling it. Neither is attunement a conscious process, for it involves a ‘letting go’.
There are no hard and fast rules about attunement; it is a very individual experience. For me it begins with quieting my internal dialogue. To achieve such a quiet mind is no mean feat, and it does require more effort than one would think. But, after I have succeded in switching off my interal dialogue, the rest comes by itself. Suddenly I will get a clear picture of where a particular tree should be planted or of some change that is needed and this knowledge comes with a great certainty, usually without any explanatory reasoning. You just know.
One way I have found helpful in developing this extra sense of attunement is to walk around the garden. Not for any particular reason, but just to feel a part of it, to feel the earth beneath your feet so to speak. Attunement is a practical skill that can be acquired by anyone. It is the skill of developing a feel for your garden – a feel for your plants – they do talk to you, you just have to stop and listen.
January 17th, 2010
A garden, any garden is surely one of life’s happy places. Just being in a garden provides joy and tending your very own garden, be it a pot plant or a back yard provides a creative outlet. In life it is the simplest of things that make us happiest. Standing in your garden – no matter how small – in the soft, early morning light on a hot summer morning is a perfect pleasure. Bringing out that early morning coffee to enjoy under the shade of a Chestnut tree and listening to birds and the sound of a little creek is relaxing and helps put any troubles into perspective.
I used to think that no season could surpass spring for anticipation and the joy of watching the garden come to life. But just this morning, while sitting with my early Sunday morning coffee the pure scent of gardenia washed over me and I noticed all the buds that had been ready to come out had bloomed and the perfume was amazing. The roses and lavenders are all full and lush and I have now decided that summer must be the most voluptuous season of the entire year! Mind you the true test of any garden or gardener is just around the corner – the hot dry February to come.
The creation of beautiful surroundings enhances quality of life in countless ways. The mental health value of gardening is well known to those who practise garden-making. Anyone who has worked or walked in a garden, watched plants grow or spent hours dreaming of creating a cool, calming oasis of beauty will attest to the emotional benefits of gardening. Time seems to slow when you are outside working with plants, and you slow down and relax also. I love working in my garden trying to create an enchanting retreat, a happy place, with plants.
January 4th, 2010
There are fairies at the bottom of everyone’s garden. They add a magical quality and work with the bees, ants, ladybirds, lizards, frogs and worms to improve the soil and add magic to any and every garden. Yours as well as mine. You just have to believe! Look at the flat, splay-leaved dendelions. Theiryellow flowers follow the sun and close up at night because that is where the fairies sleep in their cosy yellow bedrooms. Of course the dandelion puffballs of gossamer are acturally baby fairies, you can watch them fly off on the first puff of wind or help them on their way by gently blowing on a warm summer day.
If you get time this summer to wander into the bush or into a ferny glade in the less civilised pockets of your local suburban parks or gardens, take some time out to search for the fairy places. It all happens down near your toes! Tiny star-like flowers are hidden in the grass. The early morning dewdrops that sparkle like precious gems are surely fairies! They have secret plots, gardens everywhere!
If you are lucky enough to find a green praying mantis, coax it onto your finger. Now, move your hand slowly. With great politeness, the mantis will always keep turning its pretty little head to face you. This is why it is also know as ‘the lady’s companion’.
Take some time out to wander in some lovely green place and let your imagination take you by the hand. Play he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not with a daisy on a blanket by some pretty river. Just take some time off to discover and delight in all the magic in nature’s garden.
December 27th, 2009
When you think about the pleasure you get from a garden, or being in a garden, one of the most important elements is undoubtedly scent. Scent is perhaps the most powerfully evocative of all sensory stimuli. The average person can distinguish around ten thousand different smells. For professional ‘noses’ the total is even higher. Our ability to taste depends about 85 per cent on our sense of smell, which is why wine experts judge a wine primarily by smelling it.
Scent offers a very pleasurable experience. That is why people throught history have paid large amounts of money for perfumes. A perfume can contain up to 100 different ingredients. A few of these ingredients come from animals, but the vast majority are plant-based. Essential oils extracted from flowers, leaves, bark, gum etc. The five main categories are: Floral: Lavender, lily of the valley, violet.
Green: basil, lemon balm, pine, rosemary
Citrus: Orange, mandarin, lemon
Woody: Cedar, birch
Spicy: Carnations and pinks, bay, fennel seeds
While you are not setting out to be a master perfumier, it is worth bearing these groups in mind when you are choosing scented plants for your own garden.
The pleasure that scent gives also does you good! Research in the relatively new science of psychoneuroimmunology is showing that if we feel good, if our sense of well-being is enhanced, then our immune system is stronger and we are better able to fight off illness. Scent also works on a physiological, molecular level, with the scent molecules passing into the bloodstream either via the lungs or through the skin and being carried all around the body. This fact was discovered over two thousand years ago by the Greek botanist Theophrastus, when he found that a scent applied to the skin as a plaster or poultice could be detected some time later in the patient’s breath. While scent is at its most powerful in essential oils extracted from plants, the fragrance you smell from plants growing in the garden, though less concentrated works in the same way. That is why you feel so good after weeding in amongst the rosemary or in the herb garden.
Aromatherapy is an alternative therapy that is becoming increasingly recognized as having real merit. Mandy aromatherapists apply essential oils, which are distilled from plants, by means of massage – by itself a very useful therapy for relieving physical and mental stress, which is made even more beneficial by the oils. Others use the oils purely for inhalation, either by means of a burner, in bath water or applied to fabric – a pillow or handkerchief for example. While aromatherapy techniques rely mainly on the use of highly concentrated essential oils, growing scented plants in your garden offers at least some of the same benefits. Certainly, there is nothing like sitting in your garden on a warm evening breathing in all the scents and just relaxing.
December 16th, 2009
There is not many problems that an hour or two pottering in the garden won’t at least put into perspective. Often I will nip out into the garden for just ten minutes and find suddenly that several hours have passed, the kids have not been fed and the day has disapeared. Whoops! I find that gardening is one of the best antidotes to stress there is. Gardens and gardening counter stress in a number of ways. Just being in a garden or green space reduces stress levels.
The act of gardening itself is very beneficial too. First, it is physical activity, something that many of us who spend our lives at desks or slumped in front of the television badly need. Most of us live our lives at breakneck pace. The Internet means that much of our working lives happens in a heartbeat, we can do the shopping a 3 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon (just as well for me) but there is practically no down time any more. -But there is in gardening. Gardening slows us down to the pace of life as we were meant to live it. Gardening works in its own time frame, it will teach you patience.
Gardening brings you directly back into contact with the yearly cycle – it really is one of the only activities in this modern world that still does. When you garden you will notice the subtle seasonal changes – the buds beginning to swell, the first leaves turning colour – you cannot but be aware of the cycle of life.
Gardening is essentially an optimistic activity. When you plant a seed you are investing in the future. Gardening also gives you endless second chances. Ok, so something didn’t work quite as well as you had hoped, learn from it and move on. I find gardening to be very creative. I can’t paint or draw but in the garden I can create something visually beautiful. Or at least beautiful to me.
Growing plants also offers a relationship with something living, an opportunity to be nurturing, to feel needed. There is also an immense satisfaction to be had from seeing seeds that you have sown germinate and grow into plants. It is a sort of validation, it gives you a real lift.
So if you are feeling stressed out try a little garden therapy.
December 13th, 2009
If you are a gardener then you will know that your garden makes you feel good. I know it gives me enormous pleasure and satisfaction. When I come in from a good day spent in the garden I may feel tired, but it is the right kind of tired – the kind that comes from physical work well done in the fresh air and in a place I love, not the kind that comes after a string of stressful meetings and a nightmare journey home in the traffic.
Gardens and plants in themselves are good for our health. Trees are the lungs of our polluted cities, converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. They also take up and filter out a number of other serious pollutants in the atmosphere as well as protecting us from solar radiation. You and I can do our bit by planting suitable trees and shrubs in our gardens.
Our diet can be improved by growing some of our own food. I know my little vege patch encourages me to eat more vegetables, and there is something enormously satisfying, elemental almost, about feeding yourself in part at least from your own plot, and the fruits of your own labour. Yesterday I had one of Waddles & Hazel’s eggs poached in a nest of Swiss Chard from the vege patch. It tasted wonderful! You don’t need a huge amount of space either. Even in the smallest garden you can find room for some containers. Herbs are wonderful too fragrant and it gives an enormous pleasure to wander into the garden and take some fresh sage or rosemary to add to your cooking.
Gardening as an activity is also very good for you physically. It is a valuable form of exercise and works all the main muscle groups while giving your heart and lungs a very good workout too. I read an article once that stated that you can burn more calories per minute digging than you would do cycling and only slightly fewer than swimming! I don’t know if I would though with my form of pottering about in the garden. But it is a nice thought anyway. Still, after a day in the garden I sometimes have sore muscles the next day – so it must be doing some good. And unlike other forms of exercise which are an end in themselves and so can become boring very quickly, gardening has an end product. A product that you can touch and smell and feel!
Overall, the quality of life – including mental as well as physical health – is improved by spending time in the garden. Gardening is therapy and one of the best stress-busters that there is! Getting out into the garden after a hard day and pottering for an hour, or even just sitting there and looking around, is an ideal way to unwind. It is wholly absorbing – I often head out into the garden a loose all track of time. Usually a good thing, although this has gotten me into trouble at times. But I do know that spending time in the garden is a stress-free activity that forces you to slow down to the pace of the natural world, the pace at which we all lived until very recently in our history. It is a way of connecting to the natural earth. Being in a garden, surrounded by beautiful plants, calms the mind soothes and lifts the spirits. I hope you can find some time in your garden today.