I have written before of my belief that I, a landscape gardener in the heart of Worcestershire, have the very best job in the world. I am outside for most of the year, and most of that over the summer, and I conduct my labours amongst some of the deepest green I’ve ever seen.
(I’ve been abroad and one thing I miss on any extended trip is just how green England really is. There are so many different shades and nuances of the one colour that I think we need more words to express what type of green it is. Just as the Eskimos are reported to have over a hundred words for snow, I think we should have a few more for our predominant natural feature too).
It is no secret that plants and trees, and nature in general, has a soothing affect on individuals the world over. In both the New Yorker and The Atlantic, journalists have often commented on the beneficial effects of trees on our health. And the BBC itself has claimed that playing birdsong to patients who fear injections relieves their phobias.
In short, it seems that nature can help to rejuvenate us in ways we don’t really understand. Some GPs have even started to prescribe gardening as a means to fight mental disorders in some patients, especially those who live in relative isolation and are devoid of company. Depression, dementia, and stress are all ailments that can be combated by getting out and greening the fingers it seems.
I can’t say that I am at all surprised. Gardening, and even the landscape gardening that I carry out each day, is both relaxing and challenging. It is physically strenuous at times, (especially on hot days), but that happy satisfaction that always comes after a day’s good honest work is one of the most enlightening experiences I believe anyone can feel. It is not an exaggeration to say that it enlivens the very spirit.
Keeping to this theme, I would like to introduce you to a charity called Thrive. It has been set up to help individuals who are isolated, disabled, vulnerable, or who suffer from ill health. And it helps them through horticulture and gardening. Set up in 1978, it has been the predominant gardening charity in the UK since that time, helping many thousands of people draw strength from the company of others in the pursuit of gardening.
One of the great works of French literature helps us to see how long this belief has endured.
“We must take care of our garden,” Voltaire wrote at the end of his 1759 satirical masterpiece Candide, in a line that sums up the premise of the entire work: that honest work keeps out the three great sins of idleness, vice, and want, as well as in reply to the protagonist’s best friend, the ever-optimistic Dr. Pangloss whose constant belief that ‘everything happens for the best,’ leads them into ever further misadventures. So, it appears, gardening is the best preventative for naive wishful thinking. It teaches patience, and reminds us of our place in the world.
Many of my readers, I suspect, share similar views. As a gardener who lives and breaths amongst the many different greens of our native island, I know it is true as well.
So if you are ever feeling slightly down, or the black clouds are darkening your horizons, then get out and garden. There is always, always something that needs to be done.