Meet the Gardener: Lucy @mindful.gardener

Lucy has kindly shared some of her responses to my 'Meet the Gardener' questions, particularly sharing the mental health benefits gained from gardening. Her instagram is full of helpful tips, so, if you don't already, then go and follow Lucy @mindful.gardener

Tell us a bit about you and when did you started gardening, and why?
I’ve always enjoyed gardening from a young age, my mum is a keen gardener so I’ve always been surrounded by plants but I really got the bug for it when I bought my first home. I’ve suffered with depression on and off since I was in my late teens and I found gardening and being outside amongst nature really therapeutic. Over the years my passion for plants has continued to grow so much so that I’m currently studying with RHS with a view to forging a new career in horticulture.

Which gardeners inspire you and why?
I have quite a few! Celebrity-wise it has to be Adam Frost & Carol Klein for me. Adam seems so down to earth and I admire his no nonsense approach to gardening. He is friendly and relatable and inspires people no matter how experienced to get up and have a go and Carol’s excitement and passion for flowers is infectious - it’s hard not to love her!  I’m also really inspired by Derek Higgott, who is one of the main gardeners at the National Trust’s Shugborough Estate. He is largely self taught and has a wealth of experience - it’s quite staggering just how much he knows about plants and his garden at home is simply stunning. I volunteer with the gardens team at Shugborough and feel very lucky to have Derek as a mentor.

What’s the most ambitious gardening project you’ve completed or have planned?
Sadly, I don’t have the biggest garden in the world so there haven’t really been many projects that have been hugely ambitious. However, my ‘lockdown project’ this year was to dig a new border against the wall in my front garden to create some much needed planting space out of a disused piece of lawn.

I planted it with lots of annuals and a few perennials over the summer which looked lovely. I’ve also planted a gorgeous, highly scented pale pink rambling rose from David Austin called Paul’s Himalayan Musk which I’m planning to train up over the fence/wall. I’ve recently planted lots of tulips and alliums in there too for what I’m hoping will be a beautiful spring display and I’ve just started planning what to put in the border for the summer so watch this space!

What is your favourite thing to grow?
This question is tricky as there’s so many plants I enjoy growing. Amongst my staples that I wouldn’t be without are Lavender, Verbena bonariensis, Hostas and Ferns.  I have a soft spot for Cosmos and Dahlias since growing them for the first time this year and I also have a few specimen trees such as Olive, Twisted Hazel and Witch Hazel which I just love. I feel I also need to mention my love of spring bulbs, which I absolutely adore. Every autumn I always go slightly crazy and end up buying hundreds of bulbs - it’s a serious addiction!

Anything new you want to try in the next growing season?
I’m always on the look out for new plants to grow and get a lot of inspiration from the wonderful gardening community on Instagram. I grew quite a few new things this year such as Dahlias, Cosmos & Zinnias (all of which I loved & will definitely be growing again this year) I also tried my hand at growing potatoes in grow bags which were a huge success and I enjoyed immensely.

Next growing season I want to try growing Devils Bit Scabious & Scabiosa columbaria both of which are great for pollinators. I’d also like to grow Echinacea, Gaura, a couple of new varieties of cornflower and dahlias as well as some different varieties of tomato and potato. This list is endless!

Where is your favourite garden in the world, and why?
I’ve been lucky enough to visit many beautiful gardens over the years and there’s still so many I have on my ‘to visit’ list. But I’d have to say it would be Tresco Abbey Garden in the Isles of Scilly. My childhood summer holidays were spent on the Isles of Scilly and I’ve also been back there many times as an adult. I know the Islands like the back of my hand and have many fond memories of visiting the gardens. I’m due to go on holiday there next year and can’t wait to visit again!

What do you wish you’d known earlier about gardening?
How good it is for your mental health. The benefits of being outside in the garden and amongst nature even if you’re not actually gardening are immeasurable. It’s wonderful to be able to take in all the sights, sounds and smells in the garden. Something as simple as focusing on a particular flower in the garden, how it looks, how it feels, the way it moves, how it smells or watching a bee flitting from flower to flower really helps to calm your mind. It helps to break to cycle of negative thoughts and in that moment brings pure joy. The process of nurturing something from seed to flower is also incredibly rewarding and can give a real sense of purpose. I get so excited by the process every time and seeing the fruits of your labour at the end of it is so satisfying.

What advice would you give someone new to gardening?
Don’t be afraid to give it a go. You will undoubtedly have lots of successes but equally there will be things that don’t work so well but that’s true of even the most experienced gardeners. The main thing is not to give up. Enjoy the process, learn from experience, have fun and remember plants have a habit of surprising you!

When not gardening, what do you like doing?
If I’m not gardening or planning my garden I’m usually out walking with my husband and my 4 year old daughter. I’m very lucky to have lots of good places to go walking on my doorstep and have a huge love for the Lake District so spend as much time as I can there. I’m also a keen swimmer, in particular open water swimming and have competed in several open water swims in the past.

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