After a horrific year of heart-breaking news about terrorist attacks, fires and conflict around the world thankfully there have been some heroic acts of kindness that’s been featured on every TV show and newspaper, but I’ve been feeling helpless and frazzled by it all. Thankfully through my own personal traumas, or challenges as I like to call them (much less dramatic!) I developed a love of gardening which really helped soothe my frazzled mind and gave me a place to escape to.
A few years ago when life was really difficult I had a really over-grown garden so I was able to go and chop all the shrubs back – I had no idea what I was doing to the poor plant, but it looked untidy and I needed it to look neat, nothing to do with the lack of control in my life!
After a few months I thought I needed to understand how to look after my garden properly so I enrolled at a local horticultural college and attended every Saturday for two years and learned all about plants, their structure, soil and loads of other stuff I can’t really remember. But that’s what stress did to me, it affected my speech and memory – I just forget words mid-sentence.
But looking back on this time in my life, if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have developed my passion for gardening and colour and turning houses in to homes. After all our homes are our safe havens and pottering around in the garden for an hour or two always lifts my spirits.
So if you’re feeling frazzled, here are a couple of projects you can do in an afternoon that can help you soothe those jangled nerves and brighten up your home too.
Make a planted container
I love container gardens for many reasons; they can brighten up a dull space all year round by having seasonal pots. You can change colour schemes and create a focal point, height, texture and interest within a border. The downside is keeping water levels right for the plants to thrive.
Here’s a container I made for a front garden, as you can see the space is narrow and very boring. This particular spot was on a high street, so there’s plenty of pollution and is in the shade, which meant the plant choice had to be thought about.
Step 1: Choose a suitable container or pot for your plot. There is so much to consider at this point, so there is a separate blog on this subject (coming soon!). In a nutshell, think about the colour scheme and how the pot will enhance the plants. A quick rule of thumb for colour combinations that contrast are: yellow and purple, red and green, blue and orange – if in doubt do an internet search on ‘colour wheel’ and click on images which will provide you with contrast and harmonious colour combinations.
As you can see from this picture collage, how the choice of plant, background and pot creates a different look, so it’s worth taking time to choose the right combination. The top left picture looks more modern/contemporary, compared to the bottom right which looks more traditional.
In this example below I’ve used a wooden trough, which has already had timber preservation applied at the factory. You can buy them without being treated which makes it easier to paint to match your preferred colour scheme. If you’re using a large pot, it’s advisable to add the compost and plants in situ, otherwise it could be too heavy to lift and move around the garden.
Step 2: line the pot/container with plastic, such as a bin liner – this helps protect the pot from the damp soil and will prolong the life of the pot – no need to do this if you’re using a plastic pot. Use a pair of scissors to create drainage holes in the bottom of the plastic liner – but make sure they’re not too big for the compost to fall through. Drainage is important as lots of plants don’t like to have their roots permanently in water as it can damage the roots and they could drown. In winter the water can freeze and damage the plant roots which could ultimately lead to the plants’ death.
Step 3: add broken crocks or gravel to the bottom of the pot to help with drainage.
Step 4: add in a layer of compost. The depth is dependent upon the height of your pot and the size of your plants. The top of the plant root ball should be level with the top of the pot when planted. Add in some seasonal bulbs at this point. I’ve created a bulb list for year round colour – it’s free, just message me for a copy firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 5: arrange the plants and when you’re happy with the layout, add in compost around the plants and firm them in. Water well until the plants become established. The plants used in this pot are: Heuchera, Thalictrum and Fatsia.
Make a door or table decoration
If you’re busy pruning shrubs and plants in your garden you could use the clippings to create a lovely decoration for your home. These are easier to make than they look, and can be used for any occasion. This example is a table decoration, but you could add a big ribbon and hang it on your door for Christmas.
Materials needed are: a circular oasis (with a plastic base), available from any craft store or florist. A sharp pair of scissors or secateurs, lots of mixed foliage from your garden (ask neighbours if you don’t have enough variety) and decorations of your choice such as candles, berries, fir cones.
Step 1: soak the oasis in water until it is soaked through but not dripping. I place my oasis on a tray to make it easier to water and handle. The foliage will hide the tray.
Step 2: Add in the main focus flower to the oasis – cut the stems to 3-4cm long. In this example a silk rose has been added – use odd numbers – and place equally around the oasis. You can do this by eye.
Step 3: Start adding in the foliage, berries and decorations – put them in to the oasis at different angles and cover the whole oasis. Look at it from different angles and fill in any gaps with more foliage – you can’t have too much!
Here’s an example of one you could create for Christmas – just add in some twigs for added colour (I’ve used Salix in this version).
I love creating wreaths as you can get outside, make a mess in the process but create a thing of beauty at the end of it. I completely focus on what I’m doing and forget about everything else going on around me, so it’s a great way to switch off and enjoy the moment.