I hope you have all had a good Christmas even with tier restrictions. We had a super day, even without visitors. We very slowly opened presents. Alice had a lovely day with many fabulous presents from friends and family. I got a few gifts for my outside lifestyle but nothing so much on the gardening front. But I hadn’t asked for anything so didn’t expect to. Alice received a few gardening gifts. Mainly craft activities: paint your own birdhouses and fairy gardens. So, I’m sure they will feature over the next few weeks.
It seems like the last few weeks there have been many of the six on Saturday posts mentioning how they are struggling for motivation to garden. Then with the news on changes to tiers in the UK, I know many people’s mental health has spiralled further down. This combined with many people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is leaving many people across social media stating that they are struggling. So, for this weeks six I am looking at six things which have helped me recently.
1. Get outside
Getting outside has been shown to improve mental wellbeing again and again. Ideally during daylight hours but even getting outside at night in a semi-natural setting has been shown in some studies to help. If you don’t have access to an outside space a windowbox or houseplants have been shown to have some mood-lifting capability but I don’t really think it’s a substitute for getting out properly. It can be an effort to drag yourself out currently but having the right clothing helps keep you out once you get out. I keep a set of cheap waterproof trousers by the back door which are more than adequate for most gardening jobs. The Gold Leaf dry touch gloves are my go-to in winter as my clay soil can become pretty horrible this time of year. Buffs for neck warmth and a hat are more convenient for warmth than a big scarf. But once you get doing most jobs outside you warm up quickly enough.
2. Aim low
It helps to aim for just getting small manageable jobs done on each trip out in the garden. If you’re trying to get out and do everything your mood will end up lower. But if you go out with just the aim of planting say 10 bulbs, pruning one plant, you have more chance of succeeding and coming away feeling satisfied. I aimed to get my Iris reticulata planted a few weeks back. It took about ten minutes. They were all bunged in pots but I came away feeling better for having gone outside with a small definite aim in mind that was achieved.
3. Don’t be hard on yourself
If you don’t get jobs done it doesn’t really matter. Worst-case scenarios for most gardening jobs is a slightly less impressive display of something the year after. So long as the job being left isn’t endangering anyone there is no need to place pressure on yourself. It is unlikely our gardens are going to be enjoyed by anyone much beyond our own households anytime soon. So, there is no need to beat yourself up if jobs don’t get done. I have alliums that have been sat in a cupboard for a good while. They have been left while other jobs have been completed. I will get them in the ground probably in the next week. It may be too late it may not be. Doesn’t matter. These irises were meant to be going around the hostas in pots but I haven’t got around to it so they just went in small pots. I haven’t even bothered to tip them out of their plastic pot. They’ll still give some flowers.
4. Celebrate what is there
I have tried to plan the garden to ensure there is something in flower throughout the year. Currently, the stars are the cyclamen. The hellebores should be stunning but they’ve been nibbled quite a bit. There are a few Irises that will be flowering over the next month. But if you look there will be something worth celebrating even if it is just frost on leaves or the stark beauty of bare branches against a winter sky. Celebrate what is going on.
5. Grow evergreen
To avoid the garden looking too stark over winter I have quite a lot of pockets of evergreen planting hidden around the garden. For much of the year, it isn’t visible but as the herbaceous perennials die back the ferns and heuchera are revealed. The hollies come into their own. The evergreen shrubs provide structure over the winter. It just keeps the garden looking that bit lusher over the darker months so you don’t find yourself looking at a full garden in decay. This shaded corner is filled with evergreen ferns and heuchera. They have browned off a bit but they still provide a solid block of green to lift the spirit.
On a side note, as this is the time of year people go for nostalgic posts, the 3 large ferns at the back were amongst the first plants I planted when we moved in. They were tiny little things, maybe 20-30cm big. Now well over a metre.
6. Enjoy the wildlife
With many of the trees bare the birds become much more visible in winter. This combined with food sources gradually dwindling bird feeders become more important. If you do provide feeders keep them clean as a disease can be spread easily in winter and make sure you keep them stocked. If they are empty birds waste energy visiting. Watching the birds in winter provides endless joy. I usually increase my feeders at this time of year in preparation for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. By providing a variety of food and water sources I get to enjoy many different birds coming into the garden.
If you fancy reading more on gardening for improving mental health check out these two books:
If you fancy some gentle viewing watch the National Gardening scheme lecture with Tom & Sue Stuart-Smith. It supports a wonderful charity that then gives onto many worthy causes.
It is also day 2 of the Wildlife Trust initiative ‘12 days wild‘. This aims to get people to appreciate nature in these dark months to improve mood. Well worth signing up and looking through their ideas. Check out yesterday’s blog.
We have another day of rest ahead for boxing day. We’ll be taking it slow. I hope you all enjoy your weekend whatever you are doing.