Flick Seton (seated front right) chairing the committee meeting
Flick Seton is the Chairman of Gardening for Disabled Trust
2018 has been a significant anniversary for our small charity: we have survived 50 years in the tough world of fundraising!
In 1968 our founder Mrs Kinsey identified the benefit that gardening brings to body and soul, and set about raising money to help people with disabilities enjoy the feel of ‘soil under the fingernails’. In this she was a true pioneer.
Half a century later, the health benefits of gardening are well-researched and documented: it’s even been estimated that every £1 spent on horticultural therapy brings £5 of health benefit.
For our clients, a little financial injection from the Trust can be life-changing. We are endlessly humbled by our clients’ creativity and imagination in devising schemes to adapt their gardens, making them accessible and functional in spite of their disabilities; and it is a real privilege to be a small part of that journey. Please do explore their stories on this website by clicking here.
Our small committee of 10 volunteers are tireless in their commitment to get more people back into their gardens and enjoy that exceptional pleasure that is gardening. If you feel inspired to give us a hand – with a fundraising lunch, or a coffee morning, or signing up to become a Friend perhaps, then we would be so very grateful. Please click here for more information
Andrew Fisher Tomlin offers some design advice for the elderly with vision impairment and who want to carry on gardening.
Imagine a group of visually impaired people. Now imagine that within this group some will only visit the garden for just a few weeks in their lives whilst others may be regular visitors. Many are in their 70s and 80s and need assistance to get around a space whilst some are in their 20s and 30s and extremely fit and active. Some love gardening, others just want to be outdoors. There’s also sighted people and children involved. That’s the community that we designed a 4 acre garden for Blind Veterans UK in North Wales to celebrate their centenary in 2014. The garden has to fulfil the needs of both members, some of whom have very recently seen action in the armed forces, staff and a local community. The overused phrase of “sensory garden” doesn’t begin to cover all their needs and wants which are as wide-ranging as gardening, bird watching, cooking and gym training.
We’ve worked with Blind Veterans UK for almost 5 years now and developed an understanding of the requirements for the members of the charity who, although often in their 80s, remain very active. We’ve now created 3 gardens for their community training centres and as a result members often ask us what they can do in their own gardens. Here are some useful tips.
That first garden in Llandudno is structured along a simple flowing path with seats, glades, workshops and places to exercise along its route. The exploratory element is important, allowing someone to wander, to get a sense of place and not to be faced with dead ends, crossing lines and decisions about direction that might confuse them. This can be difficult in a small backyard but a simple layout approach can often be the best. And the path flows back to the start so that you can do a whole circuit safely on your own.
Our gardens are often deliberately intended to be for passive and active therapy (e.g. through gardening activities such as vegetable growing) and by taking this approach the garden might also be low maintenance. There are always plenty of places to sit and enjoy the garden, watch the wildlife (which we encourage through water, bird and wildlife houses). If you are interested in active therapy there are places like Thrive that can help with information and support. At Llandudno a regular “Gardens Week” not only has lots of gardening activities but allows both members and volunteers to try their hand at something new like taking cuttings or growing vegetables.
The simplicity of hard materials is important. For example the path surface is deliberately a single material choice so as not to confuse and encourage freedom to explore. The paths are non-slip meeting British Standards for slippage but also well-maintained so that they don’t become dangerous. The texture of other materials are often tactile with water and sculpture playing an important part here. Simple seating is comfortable, practical and, just because our needs have changed it remains stylish.
Plants provide a gentle sensory experience through texture, movement, fragrance and colour to stimulate the senses. Familiar native plants might be important in stimulating feelings of well being, planting comes right up to the path to give the opportunity to touch, smell and feel the planting.
Colour has been vital as many of those with vision impairment can still determine some colour. We also find that contrast is important and so yellows against blues and reds and pinks against greens are often seen. Indeed we also plant daffodils in large drifts alongside paths that help direct the visitor along those paths.
For the members of Blind Veterans UK the garden is a place to escape outside and enjoy the sun, get some Vitamin D and use as a place not just for gardening but also for music, play and eating. The gardens we have created are multi function and so we’ve encouraged people who’ve never gardened to get outside and be active whether it’s to hang out the washing, dig a kitchen garden or just enjoy the flowers. It can’t get better than that can it?!
Before I moved I had never had any Cordyline in the garden.
In the front garden were two lovely specimens standing sentry next to the front.
My new friends where growing through gravel. Good idea as these characters like it moist but well drained. They don’t need much care, except for pulling off the tatty lower leaves. Result, I love a tough plant.
There were a lot of weeds growing through the gravel. I kept pulling and pulling them out and layered bark mulch over the gravel to keep the weeds away.
One day when I got home from work, I noticed something sticking out the ground between the Cordylines. A Cordyline baby!
I suspect the straight one at the back was the original, and the other was an off shoot. Taking away the weeds must have made them happy.
I love free plants, so I decied to gently remove the new addition.
I moved all the bark and gravel away. Annoying, but wait, what’s this? another baby!
Now this is where I should have only taken the larger off shoot to pot up. In the name of experimentation and laziness, I couldn’t be bothered to shift the bark and gravel again, I took both to pot up.
There’s life right yet.
As the above picture, the bigger one thrived and the little one didn’t make it. I likely hurt him when getting him out. Maybe I should have left him with mum to grow stronger before ripping him away.
You live and learn, at least I have one new free plant.
John Harrison has been gardening for over 40 years now. As well as writing for magazines and newspapers he’s the author of 8 books including the best selling Vegetable Growing Month by Month. He can be found online at www.allotment-garden.org
The Right Way to Garden
If you ask three gardeners a growing question you’re likely to get four answers at least. Which one is right? Well they all could be. The thing is there’s no perfect way to garden.
Chemical vs Organic The big argument in gardening used to be between scientific growing and the muck and magic school, chemical versus organic if you will. Both systems, correctly applied, can produce great plants and crops. Neither system is perfect. Chemical growing where the soil is treated just as an inert medium to hold fertilisers is arguably unsustainable. It can be damaging to soil ecosystems and the general environment. Organic systems can work well but if the soil becomes depleted or a pest appears in large numbers, plant growth will be checked and crop yields reduced.
To Dig or Not to Dig? The modern gardening discussion that has superseded the organic debate is whether to dig over the ground or not. Traditional gardening emphasised the importance of double digging or at least annual single digging to produce the optimum conditions for plants to grow in. No-dig growers put their effort into making compost and applying it in thick layers on the soil’s surface instead of tilling the soil. Once again, both systems can grow great plants.
The real question: ‘What is the right way to grow for me?’ I could go on with examples of diametrically opposed methods of gardening but I think I’ve made the point. The question gardeners need to ask isn’t ‘What is the right way to grow?’ but ‘What is the right way to grow for me?’ Never mind slavishly following systems and methods that others have laid down. We’re all different in the amounts of time and energy we have. Our soils vary and our climate varies. London’s climate has more in common with the Mediterranean than Scotland. Yes, lets grow organically, it’s better for the planet, but accept that sometimes a judicious application of a chemical fertiliser can rescue a failing plant. No dig growing often works well but with some soils, like a heavy clay, traditional double digging is – in my opinion – a better way to get the soil in good heart and keep it there. Pick and choose from all the ideas out there in books and on the web, try things out but don’t be afraid to change your ways if they fail. Eventually you’ll find the right way for you to garden.
I was delighted to be asked if I would write a blog post for the charity which I’ve only recently been supporting. One of my few regrets has been not having a garden so when I reached sixty and semi-retired I took on a half-plot allotment just a few minutes walk from home. That was eleven years ago and has proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. As well as soft fruit and vegetables I grow plenty of flowers which include pot marigolds (my favourite flowers), cosmos and sunflowers. I’m happy to see wildlife on the plot such as bees, butterflies and foxes, and it’s always uplifting to have a robin keep me company when I’m digging. Above all it’s the overall pleasure I get be it plotting or pottering, and I’m thankful that I’m still reasonably fit and healthy enough to enjoy the plot as I do. That even applies on the dreariest winter’s day when all I do is have a quick round before heading home to do some armchair gardening, browsing through seed catalogues with a cup of tea and a biscuit or two.
I’m a longtime regular blogger and my Flighty’s plot blog is mostly about the plot from when I took it on. One way I support the charity is by showing it’s logo on my blog as a link to this website. I also follow the charity on Twitter where I’m Sofaflyer . I support this good cause because of it’s aims, and I greatly admire that it’s entirely run by volunteers. Gardening for Disabled has been celebrating it’s fiftieth birthday this year and I hope that it continues to celebrate many more. Mike Rogers – allotmenteer, armchair gardener, blogger and sofa flying book buff.
How to prolong the flower season by cutting flowers for fresh arrangements, drying flowers for permanent arrangements and harvesting seed for resowing.
One of the best things about growing your own flowers in a small urban space is a chance to reap a multitude of rewards for your initial investment and endeavour. For the price of a packet of seeds – let’s say some brightly coloured opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) – a bag of compost and either a single large pot or some smaller sized containers – you will be able to grow enough flowers to pick for you home over the summer and arrange with other blooms and foliage stems in hand-tied posies. You can prolong the life of your cut flowers in a vase by searing the stems once they have been cut and ensuring that the water stays clean and free from any bacteria. I do this by refreshing the water daily and adding a teaspoon of bleach. If the water turns green and murky your flowers will have no chance of survival. If you leave some of the poppy flower heads to die off and dry on the stems of the plant they will turn into the most beautiful seed heads which are a work of art in themselves. These can be picked for use in dried winter arrangements that will last all season and look fantastic in a winter wreath or a pine swag wired on with some small fruits such as clementines and sprigs of holly. Finally, to get more bang for your buck the seed heads will contain pockets of hundreds of tiny seeds. Nature’s generous bounty is a no-cost payback. You will know when the seeds are ripe if you gently shake the seed head and can hear them rattle. You need to collect them before they disperse naturally if you want to sow them in a certain space or you can allow them to do their own thing and you will have a lovely surprise when you find your poppies growing up in unexpected places the following year. If for some reason you don’t want them in a particular position then just remove the seedling as it appears. For collecting and storing seed use a sharp pair of secateurs and snip off the head. Put the whole thing in a paper envelope or bag and label straight away. Do not seal them but leave in a cool dry space for a couple of days during which time the seeds will disperse naturally. Remove the casing and clean off any chaff and store them in jam jars until it is time to sow. As they are hardy annual flowers you can risk sowing opium poppies outdoors in the autumn before the ground gets too cold. This is the way to steal a march on the flowering season. If you sow half your seeds at this time of year they will put on a certain amount of growth and you will get some bushy foliage appearing before the plants become dormant as winter sets in. As soon as the weather warms up again they will come back to life and you will have an early crop of flowers. Plant the rest of your seeds in the spring once the soil is warm enough and daylight hours have started to stretch and you will get you second crop of flowers following on from the first thus giving you plenty to pick from early summer onwards. For more ideas and what to buy visit www.urban-flowers.co.uk.
The East London Garden Society arrived in this world 2011, five persons who could not find solutions from any source decided to band with each other and find solutions. One reason I became involved, it was requested that I attend a property in Stepney, East London, to view a potential garden it was here that an incredible story came to surface. As usual, this part of London has a variety of languages together with differing nationalities, indeed Tower Hamlets the borough in which Stepney is situated, is one, if not the poorest boroughs in the United Kingdom. The story being, an elderly Bangladesh lady lived next door to an elderly Vietnamese lady, neither could speak each other’s language, English, the language was also a rarity; however they both had a love of tomato growing. Gardening tomatoes brought them together gardening has many facets it can bring nations communicating in special ways. In an urban environment, where the pressures are usually greater, pollution levels are higher it sometimes takes a determined effort to communicate. Tower Hamlets estimates its population to rise significantly in the coming years, so what better way could there be to speak gardening.
Geoffrey Juden – Chairman The East London Garden Society
Gardening creeps up on you. It’s not like keeping a pet or having a hobby. One day you’re not interested and convinced that it is something for other people and then suddenly you’ve started. It can begin irrationally, like buying a pot of basil and then taking it as a matter of honour that you won’t let it die and, before you know it you have a window sill full of waifs and strays from your living larder.
Then it grabs you by the throat. Pots lead to bigger pots then tubs and finally a raised bed. You can fantasise about those two sleeper high jobs in neat squares and rectangles. Maybe even two or three of them. Raised bits of paradise,explosions of vegetables and soft fruit, maybe even a forcing pot. Radically I couldn’t help myself Swiss Chard, chocolate skinned Dahlias, fennel and honeysuckle. Bliss.
So, there’s something inherently healing to the soul in these acts of nurture. It never occurred to me I could care about plants and now I look at them as if their every wilting leaf or discoloured stem is a reproach, a mirror on my inner life.
Why does it matter? I write in early contemplation of the words I need to write to preface the Heligan Harvest time and, in reflecting on it I was acutely aware that we live at a time of refrigeration, international trade in seasons and a culture of bland homogeneity of shape and flavour. Time was when harvest was the arbiter of the nurturers craft and that mastery was the difference between abundance and hardship. The gardeners tending care has saved myriad varieties from extinction by supermarket and, as we wake up from our addiction to ease, we realise the strange truth that quality, beauty and joy cannot be shrink wrapped and traded. They are the mark of a brilliant re-emerging localism and it has been saved for us and our descendants by gardeners. Heroes all who refused to bow to the herd and who held up a sheltering shield to protect the black radishes, soldier beans, 17 varieties of rhubarb, the Queen of fruit, the Royal Sovereign Strawberry … the medlars, the turnips of flavour … on and on and on we could go and not a one of them has ever been seen in a supermarket.
So long live the gardeners and long live the potential to be a gardener. It only takes a moment and you’re hooked and have meaning in your life and hope in your heart.
I didn’t expect that my stint of working for a property developer, who enthusiastically and proudly own the The Trentham Estate, would be one that would continue to fulfil me after 14 plus years. It is surprising perhaps for someone like myself to be consumed by a single place for longer than I have been at any of the wonderful places I have worked at prior to this. I am someone who has always enjoyed tackling new projects on fresh green grass in gardens in many different parts of the UK – each time I have relocated it has felt like I am on holiday and enjoying the new locations with the eager enthusiasm of a holiday maker. So 14 years at Trentham has been a surprise, I have been hooked by this unusual and amazing place. But Trentham is not the only garden which has felt so very special to me – my heart warms to my times spent at Mount Stewart, Powis Castle, Beningbrough Hall, Harewood and Waddesdon Manor – each garden so very different, and for me happening at very different stages of my life and in the progression of my career. I feel that I have grown up in the gardens which I have both worked and lived in – and believe me, I had a lot of growing up to do! My successes have been equally balanced by my mistakes and by so many adventures, and a few misadventures, along the way. It is not just the places but the people whom I have met and the support they have given me which has been so much part of my journey through my continuing career.
Gardens continually present new challenges. They can look entirely different as they change with the season, or even throughout the different aspects of a single day that just may, by chance, provide the reward of an early mist or haw frost, or a setting sun with long dark shadows, or a special glimpse of nature that is a privilege to witness, and only comes by being in a certain place when the time and opportunity should rarely present itself.
When you think you have delivered a new project and it’s time to move on to the next, your earlier work is still evolving, presenting different opportunities and dilemmas; each needing to be prioritised with a view to what is happening across the whole garden. A good photographer might be able to tease out some of the different perspectives that we as gardeners may take for granted, and for many, their work may provide a record of how special a garden can be when the light or conditions create an ephemeral atmosphere that may not present itself during the busier visiting hours that the garden is open to the public. I am often told how lucky I am to have my role – well I am, but the full understanding of what the role entails is not defined solely by maintaining an image of the garden portrayed in a photograph, the garden is a living, dynamic entity that morphs and readapts its shape around its foundations. Managing this requires consistency, but equally its needs are also ephemeral and delicate.
I find the diversity of gardening and my own broader role of immense interest. My children, who know me better than anyone, are so harshly critical of my ability to provide a relatively confident answer or solution for most things – just because it’s not the answer they want doesn’t mean it’s not a possible alternative, and there is always more than one answer. I definitely count my google-like responsiveness as part of my skill set – certainly as a Dad. There can be no better way than learning by actually doing something – ok – getting it wrong before getting it right. I can think of no other area where I have become an expert, I am not sure I have the ability to focus my concentration on any one aspect for long enough to achieve that; but this is all part of the role that continues to provide me with the most rewarding experiences.
I occasionally return to gardens where I had worked in an earlier stage of my career and am reminded of the special time I had spent there, and how, despite the many seasons that have followed, the places, whilst changed and evolved, continue to have a have a special sense of place which still feels legible and recognisable to me. It certainly helps when one has had the privilege to work in a place before one can truly connect with it – although I haven’t worked at Studley Royal, Castle Howard, or so many other beautiful places which I feel I have had an understanding and appreciation of how very special those places are. There are many special places – but my favourite is not a garden, it’s very much a landscape, just not a designed one. The North Antrim coast – now that’s more than special. I’m on a roll now, the Roaches in Staffordshire’s Peak District – I feel truly moved even thinking about these incredible places. I suspect many others have not had the time, inclination or opportunity to do so.
Plants offer the feel good factor in so many ways!!
It is often stated that plants are the lungs of our planet.
Plants are so important to us all providing endless benefits many of which we do not appreciate at the time.
Gardening whether as a professional or as an amateur, is such a healthy activity. The physical activity that we carry out as we develop and maintain our gardens helps to keep us physically fit and in good shape.
Mental health is very much in the news currently as a growing concern. A stroll through a garden can provide relaxation, relieve stress, increase our air quality, improve our physical well – being and put simply, just makes us feel good!
Gardens come in so many forms either in nature such as a carpet of blue bells or as a manicured creation of exoticness such as that at Logan Botanic Garden. Although very different in their forms both make us feel positive and help to create enjoyment and pleasure.
Even indoors plants improve our lives by producing life enabling gases that are vital to our long term survival.
Many of us have happy memories from an early age of our first encounters with growing our first plant. From a personal perspective I will never forget the sense of achievement of producing enough new potatoes for our evening meal at the age of 8! Even today when we share our hard work with friends and neighbours there is a shared sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. There is no doubt that people enjoy beautiful things!!
As the Gardening for Disabled Trust reaches the mantle of a half century it can look back and reflect on the positive effects and changes that it has made to so many people’s lives.
Gardening and plants come in so many forms but they all have one thing in common in that they can create enjoyment, health, social well-being and happiness.