Haven

The garden is gradually maturing and developing its own character as the borders age and years pass by. Microclimates, ecosystems and food chains are forming and there’s a feeling of it all being fundamentally “alive” and not just a curated set of carefully arranged plants, constant and static. The cultivated garden feels like a cohesive system, the borders may be separated but they all work together as a whole. It’s simultaneously diverse, dynamic, bewildering, harmonious, chaotic and wonderful.

It’s a haven for plants, insects, pollinators, birds and it’s also a haven for me.

You see, due to various reasons, I don’t have the most robust mental health. I can be unbalanced by stress, negativity and anxiety. The garden somehow protects me from this when I am in it. It projects a powerful mental shield against whatever my mind may be wrestling with internally. Like a paradise dome stretching from hedge to hedge with the formidable wall of tall pine trees at the back, it’s a clearly-defined zone of protection. The care the garden needs focusses my attention, every flower is a distraction, every leaf calms, every plant soothes, every fruit excites. There is no office stress in the garden, no politics, no religion, no conflict. None of that is allowed to enter. The spectre of depression cannot penetrate the barrier created by the combined garden biosphere. It’s almost magic yet it’s just a collection of plants.

It doesn’t always go according to plan however as the restoration work the garden still needs can feel overwhelming and chinks appear when plants fail through predation, disease or the elements but its rare and can be overcome. The garden needs me to maintain it and keep all the plants growing well together and in turn, I need it to maintain my mental health, to ease the the internal conflicts that can leave me drained and in despair.

Part of the reason for the exhausting schedule of work in the last couple of years to create a garden from the blank canvas we moved to was precisely due to realising just how much of a haven a garden can be and how much I needed it. It was particularly acute when we left the previous garden (which I had spent five years creating) and effectively went “back to square one” with the new garden. I felt particularly vulnerable and suffered for it until the first borders were planted. Things have been getting better ever since.

I will continue restoring this large garden, one border at a time and in turn, the garden will restore me, one piece at a time.

12 Comments


  1. Sunil, your garden is looking gorgeous! But I am sad to read you have some anxiety issues. The garden will restore you!! I remember when I was going through a particularly anxious time I wandered into a large garden center greenhouse. Breathing the air inside was like a relaxing tonic! So sit in your lovely garden, take a deep breath and enjoy.

    Reply

    1. Hello Lynn, I have a need to be surrounded by plants. I think this is why the borders are so large and so crammed full of plants. I love being among luxuriant, verdant growth, I find it really calming.

      Reply

  2. Good on you for sharing you beautiful garden and the reason for your need for it in turn. I wish you the best.

    Reply

    1. Thank you, Sean, best wishes to you too.

      Reply

  3. Much garden (and the other kind) love coming your way from Dorset. My husband, and two dear friends have or have had mental health problems. My hubs (now recovered) always told everyone about his breakdown and how he felt and he found the telling of it was good medicine, too. So thank you for sharing, because no-one is perfect and others will read and take solace from you and your lovely garden. Enjoy the Summer – take a cup of tea out there, sit and breathe it in, as Lynn (above) advises!

    Reply

    1. Thank you Mrs. Mac, the distraction of gardening and being surrounded by plants and nature is very restorative for me. I’ve been trying to relax in the garden but have lately failed as I’m working through a set of jobs all focused on getting the back of the garden (which is very messy) sorted out and looking civilised. It’s part of the plan to being the back half of the garden to a blank canvas, ready for marking out new borders.

      Reply

  4. Sunil, I am not prone to anxiety or depression, but this post resonated for me. Connection to the natural world is essential to my mental health, and the garden provides that connection in a way that brings me joy. Like you, I work hard in my garden not because I enjoy the hard work but to reap the benefits of serenity and joy that being in the garden brings.

    Reply

    1. Hello Jean, I find that too. The tough schedule of work to bring the garden up to scratch isn’t exactly enjoyable, but the rewards come sooner and are wonderful.

      Reply

  5. Hi Sunil. I know exactly what you mean. The garden helps me in the same way. You’ve made remarkable progress since you started over with this one.

    Reply

    1. Thank you Jason, it’s hard to see the progress on a day-by-day basis, but when bringing out pictures even from just last year, it’s quite hard to believe. It feels like we just jumped from a blank canvas to the borders we have now.

      Reply

  6. We find ourselves in the garden. It becomes a living beast bigger than those that torment us. When I really need to just think through something, I head for the garden. I don’t have to explain to anyone why I’m still thinking about an old issue. I don’t need to explain anything, not that I would. I become a part of the garden and no words are necessary. It’s almost like a sacred space where we can be our truest self without judgement.

    Reply

    1. Hello Tammy, I use the garden more to forget things and to distract from current worries rather than think through things, I think. Gardening is one of the few things that clears my mind as I concentrate on the immediate jobs and plants directly in front of me. It’s much more “here and now”.

      Reply

Leave a Reply