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Gardening in Lock-down: the art of acceptance

I was introduced to gardening when I was little, at my nana’s. I grew up learning the names of plants, developing a fascination with roots and a love of sweet-smelling herbs. Decades later, I still crave gardens; it’s one of the reasons I’ve been involved with Cardiff’s community growing haven, the Global Gardens Project, these last few years.

During lockdown, I’ve had a chance to rekindle this love. In early March, five years after she signed up to the waiting list, my mum finally won her plot at the local allotment. In this time of quietness and social distancing, I’ve been back in my hometown helping her reshape a wild patch of land into a new garden - we’re so lucky it’s just two minutes down the road.

Today was a sunny, beautiful day and while my mum (a keyworker) was out, I went to water our plot. I ended up standing at the edge of the wild bed we’ve started, watching ferns and bluebells catch the sun with that bright, spring green that only happens when light filters through fresh leaves. The lemon balm is spreading and chard is growing massive in the veg bed.

I’ve been reading a lot more with all this new time on my hands, and the latest few books from my shelf have been full of philosophy (see bottom of article for recommendations!). With this in my head, it struck me today that the garden is one of the simplest, clearest ways to demonstrate a peaceful way to live.

You grow what you plant. Sow it, look after it, give it the right conditions - and you can reap the rewards later, be it a potato to eat or a flower to look at. At the same time, you’ll always find something unexpected growing up alongside what you’ve planted (sometimes you might prefer this to the originals). And it’s also true that some things you sow, no matter how carefully you look after them, were never going to work out. To have a fully sustainable garden that you can enjoy, you control what you can, let go of what you can’t, and celebrate the happy accidents.

Also, stay with a garden long enough and you will notice that it works in cycles. Like everything we do, see, or feel, plants flourish in their season, then take their times to rest, die back or go dormant until they’re ready to open up again, or until something else takes their place. Everything has its time and we learn to appreciate it while it’s there. We don’t turn away in summer thinking, “it’s okay, I’ll look at the flowers in winter”; we know the time to look is now and we enjoy it while it lasts, knowing full well it will disappear. New flowers will return next time.

I suppose lately I’ve been prompted to think about accepting rather than resisting, working with our natures instead of against them, going with the twists and turns in life (especially life in the time of COVID-19). I don’t think I could have understood these notions so well if there was no garden for me growing up. I also think maybe (ironically, as I’m writing this, and recommending books) it’s an idea best understood without words; a universal lesson that anyone who spends time in the natural world can learn. That’s why places like Global Gardens are so important; they give us city dwellers a place to watch the cycle happen – a place to sow, to experiment, and to accept.

Two fantastic books I’ve read this month which explore the keys to living well:

Island – Aldous Huxley (a novel)

The Tao of Pooh – Benjamin Hoff (non-fiction)

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