At this time of year, when we are all trying to focus on healthy lifestyles and resolutions for 2016, spare a thought for your garden. Gardening is one of the best forms of exercise, improving physical and mental health. Not only does it keep you physically fit, but it can reduce stress and raise self-esteem. It is an activity that we can start from a young age and continue into our advanced years, and it can promote healing and well-being, making us more aware of our natural surroundings, and helping one connect with others, thereby reducing isolation. There are many ways to try and achieve your target of at least 2.5 hours of moderately intensive exercise each week but gardening will provide a more rewarding motivation than the treadmill!
Many health and charitable institutions are looking at horticultural therapy in the treatment of all sorts of conditions, with proven results for patients with depression and other mental illnesses. Communal gardens are popping up in hospitals, schools, prisons and community centres. A recent study in Stockholm showed that regular gardening cuts strokes and heart attacks by 30% for those over 60 and regular gardening has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of dementia, maybe because it involves so many critical functions such as strength, endurance, dexterity, learning and problem solving, and sensory awareness. Being in the open air and sunshine is good for mind, body and soul, providing much needed vitamin D. Growing and nurturing plants also promotes a feeling of well-being and being in touch with our surroundings.
So – Is your garden providing this lift – this ‘feel-good’ factor?
Winter is a surprisingly exciting time in the garden. It appeals to all the senses. We have wonderful colours in the evergreen foliage, winter stems and flowers, from the red/orange/yellow Dogwoods and white silvery Birches, to red/pink/white Camellias and yellow Daffodils and white Snowdrops. The silhouettes of the trees and deciduous shrubs are often stunning in the winter light. There are so many scented plants at this time of year, from the Daphnes and Skimmias, to the Viburnums and Witch Hazels, and as the wind rustles in the trees, we hear the native birds trying to find the remaining berries and starting to think about longer days and Spring.
So be aware of the therapeutic properties of your garden. Whether you have containers or borders, aim for a garden or outdoor space that will nourish all the senses, and provide a haven for work, rest and play. Happy Gardening in 2016!
Anne Fraser and Caroline Streets
07729 835988 and 07930 876348