Let's celebrate the benefits of gardening in the post-Covid world
As I write, this National Gardening Week, I am looking out at my garden awash with colour and the luxuriant growth of spring, and my spirits soar.
I am too far away to spot the equally enthusiastic growth of weeds! As gardening is reputed to be the most popular of all pastimes, I imagine millions of others feel the same.
Indeed, the medical profession now accept that gardening, and its intimate connection with nature are key factors in fostering not only physical health, through the activity involved, but also mental wellbeing. If I feel frustrated, I know I can attack weeds fiercely and feel much better afterwards.
I know that being out in the garden in fresh air and surrounded by the soothing effect of green spaces can lighten one’s mood. Indeed who can remain in a state of deep gloom when a cheeky little robin boldly comes close to you in order to seize upon some unsuspecting worm in newly turned soil?
Another major aspect of concern to me is that so many people confess to a feeling of loneliness and isolation some or all of the time as revealed in surveys conducted following the Covid-19 lockdowns. This is in an age of unrivalled electronic communications so it must be that human happiness depends on actual and not remote contact with other people.
Here again, gardening can help as it need not be a solitary occupation. There are countless local garden societies which bring keen gardeners together to exchange advice and plants and develop lasting friendships - even if the latter may be strained slightly if keen competitors aim for the top spot in local gardening competitions!
Another sure-fire way of developing both a horticultural and community spirit is to join a band of volunteers supplementing the efforts of a small core of professional gardeners in some of the great gardens run by organisations like the National Trust or some private gardens. I met a keen volunteer very recently as I walked through the garden of the Garden Museum close to Lambeth Palace on my way in to the House of Lords. It clearly gave this retired lady immense satisfaction to feel part of a team doing a really good job. I am sure that one of the appeals of renting an allotment is not only the opportunity to grow your own produce, but to meet other people with a common purpose and the chance of a chat over a mug of tea or coffee.
I am also heartened by the enterprise shown by residents in various streets up and down the country working together to enhance the beauty of their gardens – or even more daringly, taking over neglected communal patches of land and making that a place of beauty.
Last but not least, let me extol the virtues of many organisations that bring together people with various disabilities, and mental health problems, and use gardening as a therapeutic exercise with some brilliant results. One such is “Thrive” that has run its Pathway programmes for over 40 years, giving people the chance to learn to garden at one of their three centres on a weekly basis for up to 6 months.
One real bonus is that they also learn the value of teamwork and communicating with each other. It is worth reading some of the moving comments made by the trainees themselves on the “Thrive” website. The charity does much more than this but one development that especially appeals to me is their latest initiative described as “Connecting with nature, connecting with people.” That says it all!
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.