How is everyone doing right now? I wonder is anyone else going through some strange ups and downs? One minute I am feeling calm, hopeful for the future and enjoying the spells of sunshine here in my little corner in the West of Ireland….and the next- bam- I’m thrown into a spell of feeling a deep sense of blue. I think maybe it’s that uncertainty of where this is all going, when it will end and how will society be altered when it eventually does return to ‘normality’.
We are all feeling this new shift in our lives and there is nothing as unsettling as feeling purposeless in the midst of a monumental change. This feeling is best described by the Germans who’s word ‘ohnmächtig’ is often used as feeling incapable or useless in the face of a crisis. Literally translated it means ‘being passed out’ or ‘fainted ’ and what better way to describe how many of us are feeling right now.
Considering that as humans we all crave a sense of purpose, a valued work of some kind and being needed and wanted is part of our DNA, being asked to stay at home and not fulfill our sense of daily rituals in work and connection feels strange. And new. At times bringing a sense of euphoria for being forced to take a break and at other times bringing with it a deep sense of melancholy.
While this strange new world keeps moving around us, there are some small things we can do right now to retain a sense of balance and purpose.
The simplest thing we can do is to surround ourselves with green.
Everyone that spends any time out in their garden knows that gardening is one of the most valuable forms of therapy.
There is something about the fresh air, the touching of plants and appreciation of nature that slows us down and makes us feel good. Especially now, gardening and getting into our green spaces, however small, has become more valuable than ever and provides us with a strong, positive impact on our psychological wellbeing. The garden is the perfect spot to relax and unwind and being surrounded by green is the perfect antidote to our current, unsettled situation.
Freud said: “Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.” and this is definitely something that is needed now more than ever. The inevitable cycle of seasons, the budding, blooming and fading of flowers. It’s the beautiful ignorance of the flower that makes it hard not to smile when you watch their unwavering morph into bloom in world which is going crazy around them.
The garden is undoubtedly a place to rejuvenate psychologically and gardening can become a mindful ritual which forces our worried minds to become still and stay firmly rooted in the moment. Surrounded by beauty we can really concentrate on the now so taking inpiration from nature and gardens.
So considering the times we live in I thought I’d outline some ideas how gardens can help us get through these testing times and take us from feeling blue– to feeling like you.
1. Make exciting plans for the future
The excitement that comes with making a plan for the future once the world will inevitably start moving normal again is not to be underestimated. I’ve started a list on my fridge which includes everything from inviting new friends to stay for a long weekend to fancy dress parties on my patio, a trip to my favourite hotel with my son to a surf trip in the sun and many, many more hugs. I also have a long list of gardens which I’ve been meaning to visit and never got around to or haven’t been to visit in far too long. Now is your chance to make that list and dream.
Here’s my top 10 gardens on the list-some local, some national and some global!
- Lissadell House and Gardens in Sligo
- Ballymaloe House and gardens county Cork
- Kells Bay Gardens in Kerry
- http://www.huntingbrook.com in County Wicklow
- Kylemore Abbey Gardens in Galway
- Patthana garden in County Wicklow
- June Blake’s Garden in Wicklow
- The Eden Project in Cornwall
- Tom Stuart Smith’s Secret Garden, in Marrakesh
- Desert Botanical GardenPhoenix, Arizona, US
2. Plant some seeds
Audrey Hepburn said “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” and there is nothing like getting some seeds in the soil and watching the small plants emerge. Whether you’re 5 or 50, 10 or 100, planting seeds is the essence of hope and rejuvenation and it’s that feeling of success, gratitude and being rewarded at the end with something edible or beautiful which is hard to compare to anything else.
Seeds For the kitchen garden
The Organic Centre in Leitrim for example has an online shop which is open for seeds and garden sundries and garden equipment. The charities’ online shop has remained open in the midst of the crises and a skeleton group of staff and volunteers have been working heroically to meet an increased need. While the centre has had a huge demand on seeds and sold put of many, they now have more seeds going up online and this is constantly being updated. Customers can order and pay for transplants over the phone – and can arrange to pick them up or if they live in the region, they can talk to Centre staff about having their order delivered
The charity Irish Seed Savers Association in Scarriff, Co. Clare who grow, conserve, & distribute Irish organic vegetable seeds, grains and fruit trees had to temporarily close their online shop due to massive demand but will be back online on the 1st of May. www.irishseedsavers.ie
The Sligo based company quickcrop.ie run by Andrew Davidson is the place to go to if you’re interested in equipment and tools for growing kitchen gardens and everything you could possibly need to make it a reality. All about making vegetable growing easy and accessible whether you live- in the countryside or the city- the company has a limited stock available due to high demand but has new items going up every day so keep an eye on the website. The site is also an invaluable source of knowledge and information for those who love gowing food.
Seeds for arranging and border colour
Flowers which are suitable for arranging are often some ofnthe most beauul ones for the border too so if you grow plenty of them then you’ll have enough for both. This is a super way to bring the outside inside and I love having a few vases of flowers scattered all over the house. While garden centres are closed right now, some supermarkets offer a variety of flowering seeds for growing gorgeous blooms for arrangements. If you can only get out for your food shop then pick up some seeds at Lidl for example who have some lovely seed mixes which include favourites for bouquets such as zinnias, californian poppies, strawflowers, china asters and carnations and start your own flower arranging garden.
Brown envelope seeds in West Cork have plenty of stock and the website will be open on Saturday at 6pm and will stay open until orders are filled the following Thursday. Owner Mads will then use the weekend to start next year’s garden so that seed sttocks rmain constant. www.brownenvelopeseeds.com
Seedaholic.ie who are based in Galway who offer a wonderful range of flowers- both for kitchen garden as ell as ornamental are hoping to re-open their online store in early May. www.seedaholic.com
3. Support independent growers and smaller artists
Many smaller companies are struggling right now and it’s never been more important to buy local, ethical and with the emphasis of quality over quantity and speed. Some choice flower designers who made the move to grow their own flowers for their business are now seeing the fruit of their labours as they are still in a position to supply people with the much needed gift of flowers.
Supporting sustainable flower businesses who grow their own flowers is a super way of brightening up someone’s day with Irish grown flowers as well as cheering on those people who made the admirable move to sustainable flower production using local produce which encourages nature’s biodiversity. Bumblebee farm (www.bumblebeeflowerfarm.ie), Elmgrove farm (elmgrovefarm.ie) and Hanako flowers (www.hanako.ie) are examples of Irihs grown floristry which sources sustainable local flowers with stunning results. The website www.flowerfarmersofireland.ie is a valubal resource for indentifying florists who work with Irish grown flowers.
If you’re searching for seeds, consider that while some larger companies may be struggling with keeping stock of seeds, many smaller independent suppliers still have availability. Angela Tye of UK based Graen studios for example has a small but beautifully curated selection of seeds available for online order whose packets double up as the most gorgeous printed works of art so you can grow your sweet peas and frame the packet. Win-win. www.graenstudios.com
If it’s bringing the nature indoors you’re after then look no further than Superfolk, a brand which makes simple and beautiful homegoods for people who love the wild outdoors. Based in Clew Bay, on the west coast of Ireland the design duo offer products inspired by the wild nature and coast of the west of Ireland. Super for bringing nature into the home and for special gifts. www.superfolk.com
4. Support plant based charities
Many smaller plant, garden and sustainabilty based charities have found it hard to cope with the simultaneous drop in visitors and rise in orders for plants and seeds and many sold out of seeds and plants quickly. A great way of supporting these charities in this time- even if you can’t get your hands on their amazing seeds for a week or two, is to join them as a supporter and help them continue their work going forwards. Irish seedsavers, The organic centre and the RHSI (the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland) are all examples of charities which do wonderful work in conservation and and at the same time offer rewards for becoming a member or supporter. A bonus is that you often get notified first when they have new stock of seeds and plants as well as access to vlauble knowledge and percentages off courses and garden visits.
Irish seedsavers in Scarriff, Co. Clare are dedicated to the preservation of traditional native varieties of fruit and vegetables. By becoming a supporter you will receive yearly benefits such as 7 FREE packs of organic seed, 10% off apple trees, 10% off workshops, 2 big newsletters, summer and winter and free admission all year round. www.irishseedsavers.ie
The Organic Centre offers a membership at €40 for an individual and €60 for a family for the whole year. By becoming a member you support the long term future of The Organic Centre as a resource centre for organic growing and the development of a national network of organic gardeners. It also entitles you to 10% discount on courses and all shop, online and seed purchases. Free admission to The Organic Centre, its gardens and its events (with the exception of fundraising events), free advice and information on request and the e-zine – ‘The Chronicle’.https://www.theorganiccentre.ie
The Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (RHSI) is a charity, dedicated to promoting and improving the knowledge, skill and practice of horticulture, arboriculture and floral art while encouraging respect for the environment and offers memberships which offers anyone with an interest in gardens, gardening and plants year-round access to a community, expert knowledge through our journal and events and a range of experiences, including free or reduced entry to 45 prestigious Partner Gardens. For more go to www.rhsi.ie
5. Choose your sources of information well
I’ve decided to only switch on the TV once a day in the morning to get the latest updates on what’s happening in the world. By avoiding spending too much time watching TV or being on social media I have personally found that I feel far more hopeful right now. It’s not that I don’t want to know what’s happenning- it’s just that I can’t handle hearing it all over and over again.
I do have to admit though that there’s nothing I love better than a good scroll through instagram and if you chose your sources carefully twitter, facebook and co. can be valuable sources of inspiration and knowledge and connect us to the wider world of people who are all going through this strange time with us. I say this: lose the people who spread negativity and choose to follow people who aim to make our world -and screens more hopeful, jouful and beautiful.
Here’s 10 amazing Instagram garden inspired accounts to follow:
1. Gardenista – @gardenista_sourcebook
2. Garden Collage Magazine @gardencollage
3. Gardens illustrated magazine @gardens_illustrated
4. Éva Németh @eva_nemeth
5. The skinny jean gardener @skinnyjeangardener
6. Mud & Bloom @mudnbloom
7. America village Apothecary @americavillageapothecary
8. Airfield Estate Gardens @airfieldgardens
9. The pineapple Chef @thepineapplechef
10. Kitten Grayson Flowers@kittengraysonflowers