Depression, Anxiety and Gardening …

girl and puppy sitting on green grass surrounded with shrubs during daytime
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

When I was young, I used to think gardening was for old people. I also used to think that cricket was dull (No I daren’t mention football). Well, cricket for me is still quite dull, but being undoubtedly in the minority I concede that I just might be wrong. And as for gardening being for old people, well I’m so far off course with that opinion that I’m heading to the Bermuda Triangle, never to be seen again. So please don’t shoot me down just yet. The ignorance of my youth was pretty blissful, but as you know, I am now a new woman and learning every day.

I used to watch my mother pottering around her gardens dead-heading here, staking there, looking as pretty as a picture and so very, very content. At peace with the world. I try to emulate her, starting off with Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, a large floppy hat, flippy floppy skirt and a rather twee trug, until I’ve done my usual and got a little overexcited and started tree pruning or digging in manure with over enthusiastic gusto and before too long the skirt is hitched up into my knickers, I’m pink in the face and all sense of glamour and grace have disappeared into the compost heap most probably along with the hat. Quite how my mother managed it I shall never know.

But a couple of things I do know are this …

Studying for those RHS (Royal Horticultural Society for non-gardeners) exams was the probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Perhaps because it was something that I was actually interested in, rather than studying algebra, trigonometry and …. binary (what exactly is the purpose of binary?) at school. Maths and I never got along and indeed still have a fairly tenuous relationship. Learning about something however that lives all around us and keeps us alive is so relevant, so important that even the narcissist in the old me cannot help but be in awe of mother nature.

And finally, gardening is the best cure for anxiety and depression todate that I have come across. It would be inconceivable to find me upended in a herbaceous border crying into the perennial geraniums, I’d be too busy gazing into their cheery little faces of pinks and purples. And how can I possibly be anxious when my entire focus is to pull out weeds and deadhead the roses … it takes complete concentration and as we all now know, I simply cannot multitask.

Also, and as an aside, being in the sunlight … did you know that normal sitting room lighting gives you 100 lux, whereas being outside on a sunny day gives you between 20,000 and 200,000 lux! And we wonder why we feel better after a day outside. Plus there’s the exercise … think endorphins and dopamine, and finally that wonderful feeling of satisfaction. Of a job well done.

So even though we have a postage stamp of a garden in our military quarter, there’s still room for some flowers and pots and whilst I don’t think that Wandsworth Borough Council would appreciate my attempts at tree pruning, I see no reason to do a bit of digging, planting and pruning, if not to look glamorous with our Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, but at least to perhaps find a little peace within the world and most importantly, within ourselves.

Katie xx

Do you have a garden, balcony or a windowsill with pots? What do you grow?

48 thoughts on “Depression, Anxiety and Gardening …”

      1. Believe me, this plants teaches so many things. They’re fresh, they spread mind blowing smells (it’s their love actually). They also teach to see life from positive angle all the ways all the time.
        Whenever i look at those blooming plants i thank them. I get instant relief from my stress and enxiety. Don’t know why but it works really. And same thing applies to the aquarium also. My fishes also help me in staying away from enxiety.

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    1. It’s a really calming, soothing activity … even pots on a windowsill filled with the lovely smell of geraniums can be gratifying. I hope you do too, I think you’d enjoy it … keep me posted, I’d love to know how you get on. Katie x

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  1. I haven’t done any planting this year as I’m planning a move but I love growing veggies etc.
    On another note, cricket IS gardening. It’s just watching grass grow (aren’t you impressed I didn’t say it was boring and I seriously up cycled cricket?!)

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  2. Ive recently discovered the contentment of my mum in my own garden, ive just grown some mangetout and although only a very tiny crop it is my first little crop and im enjoying picking them. In fact i just ate some in my salad, i felt like quite the farmer. It must be an age thing. x

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  3. Our backyard here near Woodstock NY where we moved a year ago has the remains of oak forest, so we just let it do its thing and let the wildlife come and visit. I naively planted tons of seeds and plants last year, and the deer and chipmunks ate the majority of them with a friendly burp and waited for more. It is all kinds of plants, and so I am happy when it just thrives. We need rain right now, so I hope for a good steady rain today.

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    1. With a friendly burp!! I love that. Deer are beautiful even if a bit hungry! Last week I took a cycle through Richmond Park here in London … incredible that you can be in London and yet deer roam freely around in great big groups …. I don’t know what a group of deer is called, there’s probably a name for them. And they’re individually really big too. I’m guessing that your summers are seriously hot … Oak trees are one of my favourites of the really big trees. Where did you move from?

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      1. It was a rather dreadful place, taking care of someone’s condo at a senior citizen community near the NJ Turnpike, for a few years. The people were mostly nice, mostly much older, like 85+ since many had moved there when it started 30 years past and were 55 at the start. The pollution was very bad, but at least the deadly chemicals above the Turnpike made every sunset gorgeous–the colours were like rainbows filtered through all the smoke and poison.

        I am glad there are still some decent parks in London. I read many of the old Regency romances, and the parks then (1811ish-1820ish) sounded lovely.

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      2. Golly that sounds like quite an experience … I love the old romances too – Give me Jane Austin any day, and the parks in London really are very beautiful. Yesterday I went to Wimbledon Common which is much more like a huge field with woods in and is lovely for walking dogs, running, riding horses and bikes in. The more central parks are rather formal but equally lovely in their own way. Katie. Xx

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  4. I have recently graduated to a 2 acre ‘yard’ in New England. This after 5 years of balcony gardening in Cantal and latterly a glorious haven of a garden in Grenoble but shared with the other occupants of the Hôtel Particulier in which we were fortunate to reside and with gardener who admittedly did let me deadhead the roses. To say I am daily finding the delight in wrestling with a garden complete with wild woods and opportunities to plant borders and to landscape a swimming pool is an understatement. And marvelously, in New England it is actually quite normal to wear a big brimmed hat and Jackie-Os to prune the rampant vines on the stone wall. OK, they do like to wear baggy capri pants and rather tenuous t-shirts but the hats are a start and I’m confident I can teach them all about chic attire for jardinage. I’m not so smitten with the mowing though …… tractor +slopey bits = scary (that’s an irrefutable mathematical formula, by the way). Frightfully impressed with your RHS qualifications – may I treat you as my garden guru, please? 💋

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    1. Mowing on slopes … urgh! Scary, yes! I remember as a family having to pull our father’s ride-on mower out of various precarious situations! Funnily enough although I was doing gardening in my twenty’s, I only started seriously after I bought a rough plot of land next to my garden in my early thirty’s when I was divorced. I had two tiny children and they would play in this complete wasteland very happily whilst I dug. They were odd times, I was desperately sad and a complete mess emotionally, and yet, that simple life, just me and my boys … and we were so happy, just the three of us. I’m fairly certain that the gardening kept me relatively sane. However, your project sounds rather splendid! Planting borders! What fun you will have planning … I’m a teensy bit envious! X

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      1. I absolutely understand what you are saying. Stripping life down to it’s simplest components in times of crisis is balm to the flayed bare spirit and surely nothing is simpler than working the land? This place will be lovely. I am here, primarily to make it so which will enable us to eek the best possible price out of it when my husband retires but also to bring life to it in a way that it has not felt for many moons it having been the backdrop for the bitterness of a marriage decaying and finally exploding and then a solitary occupant (my beloved) with neither the time nor really the heart to care for it. Nothing is fundamentally wrong with it but it is very tired. TLC and a strong heart and back are all that is required. That and understanding what will and won’t work and making it all a little more intentional if that makes sense. The wild woods need a nice ambling path through them, the scrubby grass that you see as you come up the drive needs a rockery filled with lovely alpines and heathers, the border in front of the house glorious when the iris are blooming and the magnolias needs to be glorious for more of the year and that requires much planting and the house itself needs window boxes. The pool area was never finished and needs a little paving and some gravel and then lovely pots and of course there will be roses somewhere. A dust and air budget dictates sense and it is a balancing act but one that I am really enjoying. I’m so glad that plot of land helped you through the acid bath of divorce. I picture you with those little boys digging your way through the literal mess in your mind and I smile X

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      2. How beautifully written, you are so wonderfully descriptive. You will make it perfect, absolutely perfect and what a challenge. This is very exciting! There’s something about physical work that I really do enjoy … I think it’s good for the body and soul. Somehow after a day working hard I feel as though my little world is sitting straight if that makes sense. But where to next for you I wonder? Back to France?

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      3. I’ve just come in from stripping vines off the stone wall along the front boundary – sweating like a horse, covered in big smuts and tiny cuts (scratches but that doesn’t rhyme 😉) and a sense of definite achievement. I think it is the combination of physical effort and standing back and seeing the results that makes it so head cleansing. When we sell we intend to retire in France – but that is ahead and I have learned in life that planning too much can result in confusion so for now I’m content to be here 😊

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  5. I have some planters on my balcony, but alas none of the seeds I planted this spring decided to emerge into the sunlight. I’ve been thinking about planting some more seeds but maybe that would be just another reminder of what a black thumb I have…

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  6. I finally have my “bit of earth” as a favorite character from the Secret Garden might say. I’m busy learning that weeds always win and it helps to stare straight at the beautiful flowers and ignore the million volunteer invaders swiftly trying to take over the place. It teaches one to focus on the beauty instead. There may be weeds in life, but there are roses and lilacs and star gazer lilies blooming soon.

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    1. Ahh, now you are in a different league to me … You are on the gardening pedestal and I merely gaze in admiration. One day, you, me and Ali (The Mindful Gardener) will wander around one of the RHS gardens together and the two of you will have intelligent conversations (probably in Latin) about the plants, and I’ll secretly have a book stuffed up my jumper to remind me of their names and be trying desperately to keep up with you! What a wonderful and funny day that would be! Xx

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      1. It would be funny!
        You are too kind though, I do not see myself as a gardener – that is really Susan’s part of the deal. I am more of a plant geek! I do actually think in Latin names too. Which is really sad I know….

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  7. Ahh yes, gardening feeds the soul! I used to kill every plant I looked at but I fell in love with gardening when I moved to the country and my inspirational neighbour showed me her incredible garden. In a euphoric mania I embarked on a massive endeavour to create my own garden masterpiece worthy of showing to the public, however I bit off more than I could chew, the mania ended and took with it my enthusiasm leaving a couple of nice areas, a fairy garden and a large veggie patch and approx 3 acres of half landscaped wasteland. The last few years the garden has suffered from neglect, but some of the bones are there now and I would love to bring it back to life!
    xx Kate

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    1. Oooh sounds like a wonderful challenge Kate! And similar in fact to how I started … it’s hard work though isn’t it, but brilliant that you’ve got a veggie patch. They’re the best! Keep going, send pictures and keep us posted! Katie x

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  8. Funny, I used to think needlework was for little old ladies too but some years back I took up embroidery as a hobby.

    Gardening is wonderful! I just helped garden today at a botanical garden. It was mostly weeding but I loved doing it to help benefit the strawberry plants that were growing there. I’m only sorry that I didn’t discover the wonders of gardening earlier. I used to be very much of a person who stayed glued to my computer screen and too anxious to even really go outside on my own. 😟 Those were some terrible times!

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    1. How wonderful that you discovered it … it really is quite magical. I’m not really much good at sewing and have great admiration for your embroidery … I would imagine that it’s very therapeutic and soothing. Sounds really rather lovely. I’m impressed too that you helped at a garden. Good for you! Hats off to you big time. Katie x

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  9. My parents have a huge garden in Cambs that bored me to death growing up. I now adore it when I visit as have my children. I don’t have much opportunity to grow much other than herbs in my sun scorched garden. But ! Faced with life as a SAHM…I have joined a group of women at an organic farm. We plant and grow lots of veg one morning a week. We then have a big lunch. It’s the favourite day of the week for all of us for various reasons. It was cancelled for the first time in a year due to rain this week and I have been a right cranky pants !! It’s the perfect tonic 😊

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    1. What’s a SAHM??! I love the group idea at the organic farm … that sounds wonderful. I bet you all absolutely love it and I’m not surprised you were cranky when it was cancelled! It’s probably good to be all women bonding together … really fun! Katie x

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      1. Maybe its an Americanism ? We get so much of that here in Oz. I noticed that as soon as we came over from the UK. I shall have to quiz my friend who ia a big parenting forum fan in the UK. Is it a forum thing, Aussie thing or American thing? First world problems but it’s going to niggle me now 😉😉

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  10. We don’t have a garden but we have a bunch (excessive, kind) of potted plants. All cacti, or succulent. I wanna get a potted indoor flower but it’s so complicated to adjust the right temperature, kinds of soil, manure? I can’t even. Maybe one day

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  11. I have a couple of veg beds in my front garden, hubby and me had a lovely couple of hours “pottering” (a phrase that is only ever used when talking about gardening!) today, and oddly I was actually wearing a floppy hat! 😀

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    1. Gardening is now drawing to a close for the time being as I’m moving to New York in a couple of weeks. I don’t think there’ll be the same need for gardeners there so it’s definitely time for a new adventure and learning new skills. However, having said that, most days I still daydream about the garden that I’ll have when we return to the U.K. … I look forward to that. Katie

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