Happy Christmas Everyone 2020 A Strange Year but here is our round up of the year

Keeping Gardeners Growing

by Heather Fooks a long- standing member of Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity Committee. December 2020.

Here we are, finding ourselves in the last month of the year. The
shortest days are on us and darkness descends soon after four o’clock.
A few strong gales have swept many of the leaves from the trees and
spread their luxurious golden colours over our lawns, in our ditches and
our flower beds , beneath the trees and, even, if we’re careless enough
to leave our doors open for short while , inside our homes!! Only the
oaks, the last bastions of these golden colours, cling on stubbornly to
their leaves, until the next storm tears them out completely and they too
bow to nature and fall to join their fellows.
Now is the time when evergreens have their day. Without their solid
shade of green, their shelter and, above all, their shape, their statement
of space, contour and structure, the winter garden would lose much of
its character.
Those of us who live in a rural area know that winter, as well as spring
has its own characteristic beauty. The trees , stripped of autumn
brilliance have their own beauty. Unclothed, we can see their true
individual forms, as their dark tracery stands out against the sky.
Many people ‘fidget ‘ (William Robinson’s description, not mine!!) at the
sight of beautiful leaves in autumn. Instead of enjoying them, as Shelley
did. They rush to sweep them up whilst there are still many left to fall
down. The invention of the ‘garden blower’ has revolutionised the job !
Using this device, we leave the clearing until all the trees are bare, blow
them into manageable heaps, load them on the trailer, and deposit them
in a place set aside for leaf mould, where they remain for three years,
and used therefore in rotation. Any that have fallen amongst trees or
shrubs, we leave to slowly enrich the soil as they decay.
There are plants to enjoy in these seemingly “barren ‘ months of winter.
Shrubs such as the wintersweet Chimonanthus praecox. The winter
honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima, witch hazels, Daphnes and azaras
are all easy to grow. The winter iris I.ungulates (stylosa) has been
flowering for some time now. It loves to be in poor soil against a wall in
full sun. This hot summer has encouraged it to flower earlier than usual,
which I think is why we’ve been enjoying them for some weeks. We
must not forget Helleborus niger, the Christmas rose. In High Dutch its
called Christ’s herb, ‘because it flowereth about the birth of our Lord’ .
They like a rather moist, semi-shady place in rich soil.
One of the brightest highlights in a winter garden can be Cyclamen
coum. In the right position, this bright, hardy cyclamen can delight us
with magenta, pink or white flowers from now through to spring. Their
round or slightly heart-shaped leaves begin tho grow in late summer
and autumn. They exhibit a huge range of colour, pattern , and designs.
They grow from underground tubers that go dormant in early summer ,
starting back into growth again in late summer. We grow them in
borders that are usually moist, under trees and shrubs, where they
appear to be happy and are seeding enthusiastically.
Christmas is looming and under the present uncertainties, our
celebrations may be seriously curtailed.  Whenever world events alarm
us and life becomes uncertain, gardeners should take comfort in
Voltaire’s words: ‘il faut cultiver notre jardin’. Literally translated that
means ‘We must cultivate our garden”.  He wrote this in a famous novel
called “Candide” which he was writing during the ‘Seven Years’ War.
This was a very nasty Europe-wide conflict. Things may be bad for us at
the moment , but, hopefully, they are not THAT bad!
What Voltaire was getting at was, that when confronted with un-looked
for national or world disasters, the best thing we can do is to deal, in
our personal way, with the things that really matter and that we CAN do
something about. So, whatever you do in the garden this winter, I hope
you enjoy those days of cold but crisp sunny weather, the changing
views and colours of our borders and the fun of looking ahead and
planning for next year.
May I wish you a Healthy and Happy Christmas from Heather


This year was a strange year, like so many charities we plan to hold various fundraising events throughout the year.  With Covid it meant we were unable to organise them.  Instead of the committee meetings being held at a kitchen table we were transported to virtual meetings and then Rosie on the committee suggested putting together a book of gardening tips to raise funds and suddenly we were all galvanised into action and a germ of an idea snowballed and now in December we are on our second print run and we have learned how to pack and post under tier 4 restrictions!! Its a shame we haven’t been able to share the excitement as a committee and trustees together but we are all pleased with how our book has been received and overwhelmed by people donating their gardening tips and then helping to promote it.

Our book is simply called ‘Cuttings – A Cornucopia of Gardening Tips from Famous, Expert and Green-fingered Friends’.  The foreword is by Alan Titchmarsh our President and with contributions from Julian Clary, Carol Klein, Mark Lane, Joanna Lumley, Dame Helen Mirren and many others.  It was great to receive tips from supporters who recognise the benefit of gardening to both our mental and physical wellbeing.  This year like no other has taught so many of us how valuable our gardens are.  The range of tips on offer in our book is incredible and encompasses a wide spectrum of horticultural subjects.

We were so pleased that Mark Lane, one our Trustees offered to launch our book for us https://youtu.be/tkaKuGcXpSg please click on the link to hear Mark Lane talk about ‘Cuttings’.

Once launched the book has stood up to scrutiny and so many people have offered to help promote the book.  Gardening for Disabled Trust works on a shoestring budget –  we give out something in the region of £50,000 a year in grants but the charity is run by volunteers who give up their time and as a result our running costs are less than £2000 annually which is mainly spent on insurance, postage and printing.

If people promote our book on social media Gardening for Disabled Trust Charity is able to use the money on grants to get people gardening again rather than advertising.  We really can’t thank our loyal supporters enough, they really help us to promote the book and avoid advertising costs.

Thank you Melanie Reid for mentioning us in her column in The Times

Thank you Helen Yemm for mentioning us in your column in The Telegraph

Thank you James Fisher for mentioning us in Country Life Magazine

On Social Media we now have over 2800 followers on Twitter and we have been followed by BBC Gardeners World which has over 98,000 followers. If you want to follow us we are @Garden4Disabled. We have been in existence for over 50 years and we are really beginning to be noticed as the only charity in this field and the  vital  importance of the  work we do.

We have super supporters on Social  Media worldwide who really help us to get our message out there, here are a few of their lovely tweets about ‘Cuttings’

On Instagram we are @gardeningfordisabledtrust and have about 500 followers 

Here are few examples of lovely posts we have had on Instagram about ‘Cuttings’


Finally we also have a page on Facebook so please join us on Social media and keep up to date with our activities and how you can support us.

Thank you again to everyone who donated their gardening tips and helped us make a success of ‘Cuttings’ to date we have sold over 1700 copies

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Carol Horwitz

Honeybee Swarm Season in Northern New Mexico

The apple trees and wild plums are blooming. That means it is honeybee swarm season in Northern New Mexico. Swarm season occurs annually in the spring when our fruit trees are in full flower. A honeybee swarm, while it can look frightening, is really just a honeybee colony “giving birth.” This happens when the colony outgrows its home. Inside the hive the worker bees have come to consensus that it is time to move. They tell their queen to lay eggs for future queens and slim down a bit for flight. Concurrently the workers fill their stomachs with honey, enough to last a few days. Then half the colony and the queen leave en masse – usually parking for a short time in a nearby bush or tree or the veranda of your home. Scout honeybees go out to look for a new home location – a tree cavity, and old beehive, your canale. They return to the colony and dance the distance and direction to a possible new home location. Each scout tells a different story. Then, the ENTIRE colony discusses the pros and cons of future home sites. When they are in agreement they leave to their new home.

When in swarm a honeybee colony is at its most docile. The bees are not defending honey or brood and their stomachs are full.

If you see a swarm sitting on your favorite rose bush, simply wait a bit while the bees discuss future colony locations. Tell them you appreciate their work as pollinators of the many foods you enjoy. And if you see a swarm feel free to contact your local bee keeper, they maybe interested in giving your swarm a new home

This Week’s Guest Blogger is David Allan

In 2014/15 I became seriously ill and I spent the whole of 2015 in hospital. This experience left me disabled using a wheelchair and stairlift etc.

Since I became diagnosed I could not get into my garden as it was terraced.  I used to be a very keen traveller and I worked abroad as a teacher.  I love plants and growing your own food. I even used to keep chickens.  Being in hospital for over a year it dawned on me that life will be quite different moving forward.  Whilst in rehabilitation learning to walk and talk again I thought I would return to teaching so I completed my Master’s degree.

Still thinking of gardening I started to plan a small garden.  Time progressed and I had started a PhD just to have something to focus on.  Then I attended a  speech and language therapist who asked me what I wanted from the sessions.  I said I would love to return to teaching and casually she said “well that won’t happen”, that devastated me for a long time.  Then I acquired pneumonia again for the third time in November 2019. It hit me quite badly and it took a long time to recuperate.  I was housebound for three months and just as I was about to get out and about covid-19 appeared on the scene.  As I’m classed as extremely vulnerable and in the high risk group I was required to shield.  This would of driven me stir crazy if I did not have the disposition that I have.

I started to think about my garden and designing myself a shed/greenhouse that were joined.  I could not find any that I liked that were within my budget.

I had several builders to give me quotes and some were ridiculous and only one builder suggested that it would be cheaper to raise it instead of excavating it due to the access.

I thought about it and I researched equipment to enable me to have access.  I found that it was possible.

The builders were very good to start with but the main builders went missing for days at a time.  A seven day job soon turned into 7 weeks. But as I was shielding this was not a great problem.  The individual contractors for rendering and electrical work were great I have to say.

My raised beds went up in no time.

A local man we knew built sheds and I asked him if my design was possible and he said yes. When that day came it went up in a day and a half.

I tried to stay in budget but I needed a stairlift and balustrades.  Luckily I found a stairlift on market place for quite a bargain.

In total I was 50% over budget at £15,000 but I funded the whole project myself.

I’m extremely pleased with my garden, so much so that I have just started the front garden project.  Currently there is only a square lawn surrounded by a small wall which stops me from getting into it. I plan to have raised beds around the perimeter made with sleepers and I’ve calculated that I need 7 tons of soil and compost.  I have a handyman that used to be my ex pupil who has agreed to do it for me.  I’ve already started the seed planting and propagation from trees and bushes.

The only thing I would change about this project is that I would have electricity and lighting installed at the beginning.  Water taps would be closer to the shed/greenhouse too but overall I’m thrilled with my garden which is now useable and rewarding space.  My photos below show the project stage by stage

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Nikos Thymakis a Landscape Consultant, Garden Designer and Tutor In Landscape Management

A Hortus theory about the Hellenic Garden

By Nikos Thymakis , HORTUS ECO LTD (nikthymakis@gmail.com )

What is the “Hellenic Garden”

A picture of the Nature of Hellas

Hellenic garden is a concept that became popular in recent years- an established “trend” in the worldwide gardening, a new style. In fact, this is the design, construction and management record and view –focus of our country through natural materials and plant species that characterize micro-landscapes of our country describing culture, history, science, art, and rural practice… what we call “Hellenic Aura”. It is a self sufficient-sustainable garden, designed with a water wise approach, based on Hellenic Flora. It is a “brand”, an extension of historical –archival records in space or modeling pictures from the Hellenic Landscape” .

A Typical Hellenic Garden

The “edible” part

The edible garden” is a botanical synthesis, conducted by fruit trees, vegetables and herbs and is highlighted by a biodynamic vineyard. The garden represents our effort to cultivate food items The typical olive grove, an “Elaionian Landscape” (Elaia= Olive Tree, Aionian= Eternal as “natural painting” the composition of herbs, shows a painting similar to Hellenic countryside.

The “healing place”

As an everyday “healing” place, a reference to Paradise is our garden. Despite its size, there is always the opportunity to touch the “ecosystem” and feel good inside. The authentic garden, that “round” (all year color and edible interest), “smell” (fragrances from leaves of herbs and flowers as much as the mowed grass or the soil) and “whistles” (attracting life –birds, animals, insects- or have the sound of water –pond, creek, waterfall) is the outdoor room of our home, the kiss of our mother , the Nature, the blessing of Lord…

Fragrance and Colour in Hellenic Garden Style

As much as refers to the following poem, is the “feel good” way of living!

How well the skillful gard’ner drew

Of flow’rs and herbs this dial new,

Where from above the milder sun

Does through a fragrant zodiac run;

And as it works, th’ industrious bee

Computes its time as well as we.

How could such sweet and wholesome hours

Be reckon’d but with herbs and flow’rs!”

(from “THE GARDEN”, Andrew Marvell, 17th century)


This Week’s Guest Blogger is Claudia de Yong a Garden Design and owner of an online shop selling artisan and vintage garden pieces

Planting in Numbers

When we plant our gardens we generally follow a rule which is to plant in
odd numbers. Threes, fives, sevens and so on. In a garden centre or nursery
we can be tempted by a herbaceous plant which looks so lovely we feel we
‘have’ to have it. Then we come home and wonder where we are going to put it without really thinking of the overall picture. However, when designing

a garden, we would never think of just planting one of something unless it
was a large shrub or tree and we have planned where it is going to go from
the outset.
Recently a client asked me why we plant in odd numbers. I replied that
traditionally we don’t tend to plant in even numbers as we want to avoid
a bed with plants all in a row lined up like soldiers. We take our inspiration
from nature which has a natural chaos about it and thus a less ordered or
managed look. When planting bulbs, natural chaos really comes into its own
and great drifts can be achieved by throwing large numbers of bulbs into an
area before planting them where they land.
This however, is not how we like our gardens to be all the time and for a
formal look it is possible to plant more evenly to achieve an ordered garden
or bed. This way of planting can also be seen in a lot of parks and stately
homes where symmetry is all important.
Many gardens that I have work on have had very enthusiastic owners who
have been taken by different plants they have picked up from either a
garden centre or a sale and have planted them not really knowing how big
they will get or whether they will blend into their gardens. They have then
asked me do my magic and transform the garden keeping odd plants they
like. This is always a bit tricky but in the end I have convinced them that if
they like certain plants so much why not buy a few more to make a
statement rather than having one little specimen. This way I explain they will
have more enjoyment from the plants they like and the overall effect will be
much better. Indeed, planting just one herbaceous perennial can be totally
lost in a large bed and is much easier to plant three rather than search for a
spot to put one in.
Placing pots in a garden to add colour and variety for seasonality has also in
the past been dictated by tradition. Two pots either side of an entrance for
example is always popular. More recently, having three large pots along a
wall is seen as more trendy. The move away from lots of small pots with
different annuals in them has been replaced with large statement pots and
containers. Tall shrubs and trees have taken over from the bedding in modern
homes and we are seeing an increase in tender plants like cannas and more
on doorsteps.
Architecture often dictates the style of garden too. A cottage garden which
is more informal is more obviously found in a country cottage setting and a
town house will more likely be formally planted which adds to the ordered
and managed environment in which it is set.
Fashions come and go in gardening like other areas as do trends. Budget
dictates a lot of our decisions but if you can plant in threes or more, and not
in a line it will give more pleasure and greater impact.
Claudia de Yong Designs

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Walter Cudnohufsky, a Landscape Architect and Author of Cultivating the Designer’s Mind: Principles and Process for Coherent Landscape Design

THE FOREST: Design Origins? Forests are sources of calming inspiration for many people. Living in Ashfield, MA, Susan and I walk several times a week, often on wooded Bug Hill Road and similar neighborhood roads.  We always return refreshed, full of healthy oxygen and with new observations. I regularly bring ideas back to the design and painting studios.

Healthy New England forests are diverse in species and appearance and occupy all “life zones” from ground cover, to low and high shrubs and understory trees to high canopy trees.  This idea is strongly suggestive to the earth-conscious landscape designer and the conscious gardener.  They, like all of us, may harbor an urge to create a felt sense of harmonious unity perceived particularly in our nearby forests. Unlike human manipulated objects and places, we look to nature generated forests with a non judging eye accepting what we observe.

It may be argued that many of the most persuasive and compelling principles of design—and, beyond that, of community living—are a heritage of human life in or near the “primeval forest”.

Some of the ways forests guide design are obvious. The straightness of tree trunks is imitated in the straight boards and timbers from which we build. Vertical and then rectangular forms are most easily achieved using the predominating verticality achieved from trees reaching for the sun. The vertical emphasis in buildings, churches and civic structures, has been inspiring their human occupants for centuries.

The tapering of tree trunks has also been noticed and imitated, whether in a cathedral or a New England barn or church. Most buildings move from a supportive, thick base to the roof, with the size of timbers diminishing at each level. The columns of the Parthenon—or, for that matter, the New England Greek revival porch—also taper, in part to appear “authentic or natural.”

Tree branching, not unlike the branches of river systems, shows division into smaller and smaller branches, a dendritic pattern and form that is predictable and has also been reflected in the structure of cathedrals and other buildings.

Moving from the single trees to the forest, we see that villages, towns and cities have many of the key elements of the forest: edges, corridors/roads, districts, nodes/rooms and landmarks.

As in design, edges allow us to recognize an element or feature as separate from its surroundings; in this case, the forest itself.  In forests, edges are often biologically rich and visually complex. The edge is often where the action is!

The forests have within them, furthermore, special districts of a few or sometimes a single species of tree, always reflecting the influence of soil and water. Such forest districts (we might call them neighborhoods) are replicated in our civic and garden plantings at all scales.  There are more subtle but, to the forester’s eye, richly complex nodes where different forest districts merge, sheltering animal and other life. We parallel these nodes in our town and city markets, town commons and urban squares. The node is again, where the most action is!

We all cherish the experience of a forest glade or outdoor room, and the experience is mimicked in designed landscapes from the humblest backyard to the grand estate or college campus quadrangle. Forests are, among other things, assemblées of rooms.

The path is another forests component that human buildings and communities have mimicked. Sometimes first made by animals, paths are enhanced and amended by humans. We then imitate them in our internal hallways, and, externally, in tree-lined allees of grand estates or paths through humble gardens. Canopied tree-lined streets are yet another example, none more grand than elm-lined streets, once common in New England and the Mid West before Dutch elm disease.

Forests also contain isolated trees standing alone, often an older tree, as in the wolf pine or parent oak or beech. Designers have imitated this by planting specimen trees that serve as a kind of monument, in our villages and yards.  At longer distance viewing, a group of trees can serve as a specimen.

Another helpful design principle found in the New England forests is the power of “aggregating uniqueness.”  Rather than scatter the anomalies of a forest, nature often concentrates them in a single location—the largest and youngest tree, more than one lighting condition, the rock outcrop and the small vernal pool. Imitating and aggregating similar combinations can add richness to landscape design and as with a painting, simultaneously assure focus and coherence.

The pattern of movement landing—such as a forest path as leading to an expanded open glade— is yet another principle that designers would best replicate both indoors and outdoors. Landings appear naturally along pathways, along streams, where we find large rocks, or fallen trunks. As landscape designers, we imitate and strengthen these visual and physical landings by offering benches, or widening a path, purposely interrupting predominating visual flow.

Forest lessons for human living appear limitless. In this age when pollution of all kinds is in the news; CO2, methane and hexafluorethane and more, we must recognize what the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has professed and now accomplished, community, municipal and state nature protecting laws are now adopted by some 200 cities and towns. These measures assure that life sustaining nature has rights.

We know that forests do largely unsung heroic work in sequestering C02 and perform dozens of life-enhancing tasks, such as erosion control, pollution diminishment, shading and cooling, wind protection, flood prevention, soil building and more. They are truly the lungs of the earth.  In recent years, we have begun to understand more mysterious processes, that trees and plants have their own means of communication, warn against diseases and pests and live symbiotically as family and as community, modeling for us what we find in diminishing supply among ourselves.

We would do well by recognizing the true value and importance of forests. As with many subjects, they tend to be undervalued. We are better humans to the extent that we intimately know the forests as model, design guide, mentor, teacher, health sustainer, spiritual support, physical and recreational outlet, and muse.

High Meadow Farm Ashfield, MA  March 2020



This Week’s Guest Blogger is Stephen Mason an Organic Community Gardener

Garden life
As a small boy I remember my grandmother walking me through the local park. She wore one of those square patterned woollen coats with a big collar. Every now and then we would stop and she would pull a small paper bag from her very large pockets.
With her free hand she would snap off a small piece of whatever plant we stood by and would place it carefully into the bag and then her pocket. As I watched she would always say `green fingers make things grow`.
When we got home she would show me how to plant out each broken piece into small pots. Trimming the broken end clean it again before sliding carefully into its new home. My recollection is that they always rooted and her garden was the most eclectic melange of plants I ever knew.
At the end of her garden in Winchmore Hill was a wooden gate. One day she took my hand and with a pair of secateurs and a basket she led me down the garden to the gate which until then I had never been through.
Beyond the gate lay a wonderful place, Humming with activity and laughter, busy with people pushing wheelbarrows ,digging and chatting.
There at the end of her garden was a huge shared allotment. Every house around it had some space to grow. Every space was a collage of greens reds and yellows, canes and frames, sheds of all sizes painted in bright colours. Butterflies fluttered and bees buzzed while spiders spun their silken webs and candy striped deckchairs lay under worn out parasols.
Together we walked past runner beans and artichokes, tomatoes and cabbages, past grape vines and roses clambering overhead.
Everyone we passed said hello with a smile offering cups of tea and occasionally gingernut biscuits.
For me as a small boy it was special , magical, a place where life felt good. The memory of it and it’s magnetic attraction have stayed a part of my life ever since.
Since then I have gardened in many places and with many people, some for fun and others for more complex reasons. I have designed and constructed, planted and cropped, sown seeds, pruned and trimmed.
Currently I work in two Community Gardens in London, each a charity offering a calm green space in a crowded hectic city . I support biodiversity and am totally Organic in every aspect of my life.
The Hoxton Trust Community Garden
The Community Gardens I work in are very different and offer a multitude of possibilities to their visitors. They are used for birthdays, educational visits, art classes, music events, poetry evenings and the obvious summer and winter celebration’s
Forest Gate Community Garden
I run workshops and short courses on a wide range of topics from Composting and Biodiversity to Organic Food Growing and Container Gardening.
Here are the links to both garden websites

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Ed Bowring a horticultural therapist and gardener living and working in West Sussex.

Coming from a long lineage of gardeners it wasn’t surprising that I too caught the gardening bug but it wasn’t until faced with my own serious physical health issues that I took what I ate seriously and looked into where our food comes from. Retraining for a more active and outdoor life, growing our own produce and dietary changes have played a huge part in improving my ankylosing spondylitis and combined with the healing process of gardening, growing has been a blessing on my mental health as well.

Through previously working as an occupational therapist in mental and physical health I realised what an amazingly therapeutic medium horticulture can be. Through further training with the RHS, Thrive, Pershore College and Coventry University I qualified as a horticultural therapist and gardener and have run and managed therapeutic kitchen gardens ever since. I currently manage a community garden in Chichester for Grow Chichester where we run supported gardening sessions for all ages and stages, those with no outside space of their own, mental and physical health issues or those socially isolated. The community garden is a wonderfully supportive and safe space where the harvest is shared between the volunteers, offered to the public and given to the local foodbank and homeless projects. 

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic anxiety is sadly rife at this time, but gardening can help, GPs and the NHS have been and continue to prescribing gardening to help with anxiety and depression. The process of connecting with nature, focusing on a gardening task and experiencing the following sense of achievement can be so grounding and really boost our mood and sense of well being.

Being shielded I keep thinking thank heavens this lockdown happened at the start of spring and not winter providing a chance to be outside and garden! It’s no secret that as a person who likes to actively do and achieve, not being able to work for months has been a real challenge. But being able to channel the frustration, anxiety and despondency into growing and developing our new garden as a family has been a lifeline for me. It’s been a joy to potter with our 6 and 4 year olds in the garden over the weeks and to slow down and focus on the small things. Whether it’s bringing the first cut dahlias into the house to brighten up a kitchen table or seeing the children’s joy at their now 8 foot tall sunflowers towering over them. It’s these simple pleasures that mean the most and have such a direct benefit on our wellbeing.

The uncertainty we are faced with currently has the potential to overwhelm and chip away at our security, but nature has provided us with the great escape. No matter what goes on around us the plants and trees still carry on, birds sing like we’ve never heard before, the seedlings tenaciously push up towards the light, buds open and the bees go about their essential daily business. Here is the hope that life carries on regardless and all will be well again.


Website: https://www.chichestergardener.com



This Week’s Guest Blogger is Walter Cudnohufsky, a Landscape Architect and Author of Cultivating the Designer’s Mind: Principles and Process for Coherent Landscape Design

Gardens and Gardening Are Good Medicine Take as self prescribed!

 Berkshires, USA in the Spring

It is a balmy Berkshire spring morning— the winter snows of 2002-3 have finally disappeared.  You have just taken a break from your first gardening chores of the spring and are having a glass of water on the porch. The sweet aromatic fragrance, deep brown color, and crumbly texture of rich garden soil has fully captured your senses as it has every spring.  You reflect momentarily on the aspirin bottle you brought with you in case your joints are objecting.  You notice as well that, like other medicines, aspirin contains claims, warnings and instructions for use.

It occurs to you that gardening is easily the best medicine for you. You have heard others proclaim something similar. Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, long time and highly regarded landscape researchers, hold the conviction “… everyday nature can make a significant contribution to people’s everyday lives.  Nearby nature can foster well being.” 1


No aspirin today!   You wonder quietly if you created a prescription label for the act of gardening, what would it proclaim?  Would it be the lengthy hype similar to the “cure-all” medicine peddlers of old?  It is certainly easy for you to imagine some of the things it might espouse.


Gardening – The Fine Print

Gardens are the Universal Medicine!

Indications: For those who need an immediate antidote for mental fatigue—at once therapeutic, healing and restorative!

  • Gardening is a restorative therapy, contributing in tangible ways to our physical health.
  • Gardening is a meditation, a desperately needed vehicle for reestablishing sanity, and thus restorative to our mental health as well.
  • Gardening provides the essentials for joyful celebratory living, and is a source of creative inspiration and expression.
  • Gardens provide the context for self-discovery and understanding. They are great teachers of patience, faith, and collaboration.
  • Gardens create a sense of place, a celebration of beauty in a chaotic world; they regularly serve as a basis for meaningful social exchange and community building.
  • Most of all, gardening generates empathy for other living things and connects the gardener to vital life. Gardening can demonstrate our ability to live in greater harmony with our natural world.
  1. Gardening is a restorative therapy, contributing in tangible ways to our physical health.
    Supported by science and our own personal experiences, gardens are known to have a therapeutic and healing influence on our lives, be it for individuals, communities, or our entire precious earth. Though outwardly a simple activity, its implications and results are multi-faceted.  In addition to the welcome physical exertion, gardening reduces stress and promotes healing.

 The Kaplans suggest we need most the “non-demanding quiet fascinations” that nature and gardening supply.  Consciously or not, we realize we need non-threatening and restful places to complement and relieve our anxieties and fatigue.  The more restorative of these environments are amply endowed with natural materials, and provide marked contrast to our daily (work) environments. They feel whole, complete and soothing.

Gardening with nature is well endowed with aspects of quiet fascination.  Flora, fauna, water and the endless play of light and shadow delight and intrigue us.  In addition, nature displays (to those who observe) the multitude of natural processes such as birth and death, growth, decay, predation, succession and even hopeful evidence of survival.

  1. Gardening is a meditation, a desperately needed vehicle for reestablishing sanity, and thus restorative to our mental health as well.

 The cycle of gardening, reflecting as it does the cycle of life and death, is a deep metaphor shared by all human beings.  Thus gardens have the potential to convey to us a more profound understanding of this universal cycle and our place within it. We understand the movement of seasons, and the concept of renewal.  There is often an introspective and meditative quality to time spent in the garden.

Gardens go beyond horticultural excellence and taxonomic dexterity, beyond plants and planting.  They embody the opportunity to increase genuine sanity and welfare for those who work in them and view them regularly. In this tension-filled, fear-laden period of human history, creating and maintaining restorative settings has some real urgency, according to the Kaplans.  Since our contemporary lifestyle tends to be centered around technology, our fatigue is more often mental rather than physical.  Gardens directly enhance our recovery from this mental dis-ease.


  1. Gardening provides the essentials for joyful celebratory living, and is a source of creative inspiration and expression.

 Gardens give us a sense of joy and abundance. After the basic human necessities of food, shelter, water and air (to which gardens contribute as well), gardens provide three additional components of a fulfilled life:  the opportunity to create something of beauty with our own hands; direct and meaningful contact with the earth and nature; and a locus for informal, gregarious contact with neighbors and friends.  There is great joy in discovering the first blossom on the peas in the spring, tasting the first ripe tomato in summer, harvesting the squash just before frost, and continuing to uncover root crops after snowfall.  The garden returns our labors with bounteous generosity.

Gardens and the environments they support also stimulate us intellectually; they evoke literature and poetry, inspire art and photography, advance a basic understanding and awareness of nature, and introduce concepts of ecology and biology.   As we experience our own creativity and discovery, we feel more deeply connected with our natural environment… and expand our sensitivities.


  1. Gardens provide the context for self-discovery and understanding. They are great teachers of patience, faith, and collaboration.

 It might be said that a prime reason for our earthly existence is to better understand ourselves.  This is accomplished not only by self-introspection but also by relating openly and interactively with our world, by understanding our place in it.  Environments—whether natural, social or manipulated—do provide a basis for self-learning. As we monitor our reaction to people, situation and place, we gain a better understanding of ourselves. The Kaplans suggest that this information is more basic to people than money.

Anyone who gardens must develop patience; gardening is an exercise in delayed gratification.  Thus, the practice is about the process as much as it is about product.  As we observe the plants, we develop greater respect for their needs.  It is a participatory process, one in which we learn by doing.  We do get some immediate responses as well, such as watching a plant perk up after we water it.  The ways in which plants respond to our care remind of us the interconnectedness of our own natural systems.


  1. Gardens create a sense of place, a celebration of beauty in a chaotic world; they regularly serve as a basis for meaningful social exchange and community-building.

Gardens are one way in which we create a “sense of place.” Psychologist and author Suzanne Langer 2 defines place as “space imbued with meaning.”  Successful “places” are often limited in scale, have clear boundaries, and read as a thematic and coherent whole.

Again according to the Kaplans, compelling places are characterized by complexity as well as coherence, legibility as well as mystery.  These seemingly opposite components must be in balance for a garden to be a place of comfort and stimulation.  Those elements that give pattern, order, predictability and coherence to a place provide a context for those elements that add contrast, focus, interest, intrigue and variety.

As gardeners, we are charged with the task of creating or sustaining place.  We attend to the relationships, qualities and conditions that make a space comfortable, intriguing, non-threatening and attention-holding.  An element as simple as a tree can be a focal point, as can a bird feeder, a colorful mass of perennials, a rich screen of foliage.   Anything that can arrest and hold our attention this fast-paced world helps facilitate place.

In addition to providing a place for private meditation, retreat, and self-understanding, gardens also provide a context for meaningful human relationships and connection with others.  Even as we observe our own gardens and our place within it, we recognize in others the same impulse to create, to build, to celebrate life in the gardens they have created.  We join with others to create memorials for important events or persons in our community. As we learn about “place-making”  in our own gardens, we can recognize the importance of creating sustainable and nurturing places in our communities.  Thus, gardening includes a community-building aspect.


  1. Most of all, gardening generates empathy for other living things and connects the gardener to vital life. Gardening can demonstrate our ability to live in greater harmony with our natural world.

One of the most significant gifts gardening bequests is the simple discovery that as humans we can live in harmony with our natural surroundings. Human compatibility, the sense that we belong in nature, is essential for our personal rejuvenation. Gardening is an encompassing act of domestication; our ability to domesticate the wild, whether plant or animal, gives us a sense of participation in the larger natural world.

In a period when the world’s attention is on death and dying, there is an accelerating need to be connected to living, healthy things.  We are confronted with  sick air, sick soil, sick lakes, sick streams, sick cities, and sick food.  We need, perhaps desperately, to connect with fresh food, active people, healthy environments and non-toxic materials.  We are gasping for assurance that life will go on.  We must nurture our goal of organically healthy living, and gardening is one very important objective on that path.


The gardening prescription we have contemplated does have a pontificating ring of the medicine man of yesteryear.  Is it possible that these proclamations are true? Oh well you return back to your spring gardening and that’s scrumptious topsoil.


1 Kaplan, Rachel , Stephan Kaplan and Robert L. Ryan. With People in Mind. (Washington, DC : Island Press, 1998).

 2 Langer, Suzanne. 

Cultivating The Designer’s Mind by Walter Cudnohufsky

As a practicing landscape architect, design educator and founder of The Conway School of Landscape Design, I have developed a rich portfolio of design ideas and discoveries over the years. This tested and cogent process to achieve excellent landscape design is now in print and available for purchase.

Written with longtime collaborator Mollie Babize, Cultivating the Designer’s Mind: Principles and Process for Coherent Landscape Design is uplifting, accessible, practical, and broadly applicable across many disciplines. If you work with the land—as an established landscape architect or emerging landscape designer, master gardener or avocational home gardener, as an architect, civil engineer, planner or builder—our book offers techniques and tools to make one’s design more efficient, functional, environmentally responsible and aesthetically pleasing.

The highly illustrated book will be of particular interest for those studying design and is a comprehensive presentation of the elusive subject of design thinking. It presents a process that will lead to greater design confidence.

Reviews: Landscape Architecture Magazine August 2019 Issue

Ecological Landscape Alliance review 2019

Commonweeder review 2019 Greenfield Recorder review 2019

Cordially, Walter Cudnohufsky,
ASLA Walter Cudnohufsky Associates, Inc.
Landscape Architect & Planner

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