A resilient Gardener (pt.3)

Lawns. Traditionally gardens are laid to turf with thin borders running around the edges. Ideal for families with children, or with pets needing space to run around. But is this as it should always be?

I spent the first year in our home looking at the garden and what happened throughout the year. Where the sun rises and where it sets. Which parts of the garden catch the early Easterly sun, where the maximum sunshine covers and which areas see the late sun as it sets in the West. Importantly as our area is a very wet area, I needed to know which areas of the garden held the moisture, and how damp that area is.

Our rear garden was laid mainly to lawn however, the was a diagonal strip the was very damp throughout the year. Mowing it was difficult, not just because of the gradient, but also because of the amount of moisture. I resolved to create a planted bed in the centre of the lawn, following this damp are and choosing moisture loving plants such as hydrangea, Iris, Astilbes, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, Ferns, Ribes, Primulas, Cornus, Quince, Camassia, and others. My plan was to have these introduced to the area, they would help draw up more of the moisture and allow the remaining lawn to flourish.

It has helped with the moisture and the delight of this planted area as it comes into flower is a wonderful treat.

With this year’s heatwave burning much in the garden, the lawns have also suffered. A close cut just prior to the heat was, in retrospect, not the best of things to do. However, grass is resilient and a combination of raising the blades on the lawnmower to allow the blades of grass to recover – this will continue now as we head towards the autumn months – liquid feeding and we also have rain falling again. The lawns are recovering nicely. I have patches that need reseeding due to a combination of damage by crane-fly larvae which I also need to treat with nematodes, but also die back from our dogs wee! If you water any patches straight away, it should dilute the intensity enough not to cause damage, but it’s not always easy running around with a watering can of water as she marks her territory.

I’m not one of those gardeners who need a manicured lawn, sharp edges and perfect stripes. I do encourage the edges to grow enough to give refuge to frogs and newts and other wildlife. I also grow an area that I cut only twice a year to allow an element of rewilding.

Loss …

It happens. So many nights of disturbed sleep. Constant watching and supporting. Tiredness and exhaustion. Emotionally drained. A spent force. Unable to see beyond the relentless need for my presence.

As a parent of a special needs child, – no longer a child, but a young adult with greater needs that increasing age brings – requires more from me as his health also deteriorates.

Resilience, and acceptance is key. There is no question in my willingness to care and support for him. My love is unconditional and endless. My energy and mojo lost.

Those who care for a loved one in similar situations to ourselves will understand only too well these periods that we go through. They are never written about in the text books about various disabilities or parenting a special needs child. But these times are hard. Not only the tiredness, not only the emotional emptiness, but the missing of meals due to the level of required care attention, impact on our own health, the loss of personal interests and isolation from friends or family.

Strength of character is paramount. Accept that we will go through these periods and develop a routine to regain focus and determination. It will pass, as sure as it will come again …

A resilient Gardener (pt.2) …

At the time we bought and moved into our home, the previous owners had a Dalek style plastic compost bin at the bottom of the garden. Taking over another person’s compost can be daunting as you will never know how, or even if, they had composted correctly. Without the required mix of green and brown material, the regular mixing up and possibly watering the heap, you could have a pile of mouldy material that no matter how long you wait, it will not compost. The Dalek we had inherited was bottomless. This may also increase the risk of vermin having moved in to get to the warmth inside the heap. The day came when I committed to opening it up and seeing what lay inside …. Mouldy grass cuttings, dried by age but not composted as there was no real mix of essential ingredients, and no moisture.

Clearing the aged contents into the local authority’s food and garden waste recycle bin, breaking down the Dalek and disposing it at the local recycle centre in the hard plastics container, I set about creating a new compost. Having a garden around six hundred and fifty square meters, set in an area close to established and protected trees I knew our garden would be creating a lot of compostable material. Particularly once I started planting. Lawn cuttings, pruning’s, deadheading, weeds, both annual and perennial, both of which would need different treatment, kitchen peelings, shredded paper, and leaves. At the time we moved in, I had not realised just how many leaves we would be gathering up each year. And over such a long period of time as each tree shed its leaves at different times.

I initially kept the compost location where the original owners built theirs at the bottom of the garden. It made sense as while I am working within the garden, it is not far to take all the material destined for it. Our garden slopes away from the house. Dropping around six feet in hight. All moisture therefore runs away from the house, and we do have patches which are quite damp. Even though it is south facing. This slope does offer an opportunity to grow trees which grow to around four or five meters in height and planted at the bottom of the garden, we look out directly into the canopy when looking out of the windows. I have planted Amelanchier, Flowering Cherries, Eucalyptus, Quince, Crab Apple, Rowen, and the height after some ten years, the canopy of each is seen in line with the ground floor windows giving a feeling of planting you may find in a flat garden. The magic happens when you follow the trail into and around the garden you see the canopy rise and shrubs  underplanting coming into view.

To compost our potential to the full, I knew we would need a varied approach to how we do it. Ultimately, to have a hot bin compost would enable all kitchen waste and not just peelings to get composted. Until we installed a hot bin, cooked waste would have to be disposed of via the local authorities recycle facility, otherwise we would be attracting rats. Likewise, perennial weeks would need the heat of the hot compost to destroy the roots, preventing them from regrowing and so they too will go via the local authority. The weekly collection of food waste and garden waste is very welcome, and the local authority compost it all in their facilities, creating a compost they use on the parks and other green spaces as well as selling it back into the community, for gardeners use.

I set up facilities to store leaves separately from the main compost heap which was a wood structure, wrapped in chicken wire to deter rats and mice from getting inside for the warmth and to nest. Leaves went in separate timber containers initially. Three, one-meter cubed containers allowed space enough to drop the collected leaves into. After a couple of weeks, allowing the volume to settle, I would empty each container out and shred the leaves either through a shredder or mowing over them. Both techniques designed to break up the leaves and enable the compost process to start that little bit earlier. The shredded material is put into black bin bags ensuring the contents were moist and pricking the bags all over to create air holes. These bags are then stored behind the shed and allowed to do their stuff and rot down. The process takes around one to two years, but you get gold when you gather your long-awaited leaf-mould. Do this every year and you will be sure of having a constant ready supply.

The main compost was built in two parts. The receiving section into which I would place all our compostable material, from the garden, kitchen peelings and the shredded paper, introducing each in layers and after a month or so, mixing the heap to ensure heat and moisture is moved around. After a couple of mixings, I would transfer this heap into the second section where I continue to mix it until it has composted completely and is usable on the garden for potting, enhancing the soil or mulching. As each load is pulled out to be used, I would sift it to pull out any twigs or larger lumps that had not fully composted, and these would go back in the heap and allowed to compost down further. So far, I have used all I have created as it is ready, but soon I may be able to store more and more and do away with the need for any additional purchased compost. Organic material is different, I still need to buy in composted farmyard manure to add to the mix.

My aim is to garden without anything from the garden needing to leave for the recycle centre. My desire is to do my part in creating a sustainable area and I can see that route to achieving it. The standard compost heap is a start. Creating leaf-mould is a valuable second. Hot bin composting and introducing a wormery are planned and at this point all our kitchen waste will be used in the garden – cans and plastics already get recycled – all paper and cardboard can be shredded or torn up and add to the compost. In addition to composting, growing our own veggies and fruit also helps feed us without having to buy in and again, no need for packaging or the awful airmiles. Eating seasonal foods is key and understanding the growing season with succession planting and companion planting will ensure our achieving this aim.

All I do in this regard is self-taught through what I have read or picked up from friends who share their own experiences directly or on-line through communities with a similar interest. That sought after family home I referred to previously has offered me no guidance. My thoughts return to ‘am I creating that ‘family home’ experience myself, here, now?’ Though our son does sit in his wheelchair and watch what I am doing, when encouraged, he will join in with some aspects of the garden, but he will not learn from me in the sense of following what our parents or grandparents did, onto his own garden, nor will we have grandchildren to involve or include in future years either. We do however treasure the moments we have with our son and as we include him, we find the garden offers us and him many opportunities to learn. This learning may well need to be repeated time and time again, but we have come to terms with that, and repeat our lessons willingly ….

A resilient Gardener (pt.1)…

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It is six o’clock in the morning. July. I stand outdoors on the decking, overlooking our South facing garden at the Cherry Laurel hedge I had started to prune back a couple of days earlier. It was overhanging the fence by up to four feet in parts. Motivation prevented me from attending to it over the last couple of years. Pandemic anxieties and family health issues were priority. There remains another ten meters of the hedge where pruning is still required but I am waiting for a dry period forecasted before I continue. Half of the overall length has been completed and so I feel quite relaxed about what remains. Four blackbird nests were found in this hedge and for that reason I always use secateurs to cut back the branches. A sense of mindfulness, and an awareness of what each section contains, that using a powered hedge cutter would not allow, and maybe damage could be caused to any nesting birds. As each nest was revealed, I checked carefully for inhabitants, but they are empty, the youngsters having already fledged.

Rain is forecast. Rain is often forecast in our Pennine located town. Nestled in the foothills of this, so called backbone of the country, it is a reality of the topography which allows the flatter surrounding landscape to remain drier. The hills where we live cause a build-up of pressure on the rising clouds being blown in on the prevailing wind to release their watery cargo, picked up from the Atlantic Ocean before moving across from the West. Having a moist garden has its advantages, not least an almost endless supply of rainwater collected in the multiple water butts around our home.

Before the expected rain, over my left shoulder, the early morning sunshine has revealed itself. The air is warm. Sounds on that air are filled with those natural songs from Blackbirds, Song Thrush’s, Robin’s, and others. Regular attendees to our garden to sing a choral piece for us. Or me, alone in these early hours each morning.

The next hour is my hour. At seven o’clock the household will awake, and my attention will be drawn to attending to a variety of tasks needed to support our son. For now, I start the day as I try to start most days, by asking the smart speaker to quietly play may favourite music. So softly that it is heard as background music and does not compete with the song of the birds outside. My preferred choice of music has become very meditative with age, particularly in this special hour. Time for me to gather my thoughts about how the day will, I hope, roll out, and what I will do if circumstances allow, or indeed prevent.

As I stand looking out, holding a hot mug of tea, a gift which bares the motto ‘I Dig Gardening’ around it, I start thinking about our garden and asking myself, “does this feel like home?”  As a child, my mother and father moved home frequently. More to do with my father never settling and always looking for something different, than anything else. We moved from town to town and even to a different country. Australia. Looking around at the early butterflies and bees flying around the garden, I smile as I think of stories my mother told me of when I was born in the maternity unity of Ormskirk hospital. I was an August baby. On this late July day, I celebrate yet another completed year in a few weeks’ time. The midsummer warmth all those years ago, meant the windows in the maternity unit were opened wide to allow the fresh air in. Seasonal moths of all sizes were flying in with the air and were apparently around me and my cot as I was lying there. Maybe this period was the start of my interest in nature and wildlife. Interacting with moths on my first day of life and today, sixty-four years later, I handle moths, butterflies and slugs with equal calm and fascination. The gardener and writer Christopher Lloyd wrote how we could learn to handle slugs if we wanted to. An important message I keep in mind as I spend many hours helping our son accepting how to try things that cause him great anxiety.

My family moved home many times. Around Lancashire, Merseyside, emigrating to Australia, returned to Sefton, then to Derbyshire and back to Lancashire. Even while in Australia we moved several times. For myself and my sisters, each move demanded a new school, a fresh attempt at making friends and a new community to settle into. Today, I lack that sense of having a family home, in that many people can think back to a family home where they were brought up over many years. I feel no attachment like that and for me, I do feel I am still looking to create that family home.

Many people will talk of being influenced in the garden by their parents or grandparents and having spent many hours working and learning together. My interest in the garden has been developed through seeing other aspects of gardening. My father spent his time growing and showing roses. Something we as children were not allowed to get involved with.

Even today as I look out into our garden, making mental notes for an always unwritten to-do list, I ponder on the fact that this is our eighth garden since we were married. Was I becoming like my father and never settling? I’m confident that our moves have been determined by our son’s disabilities and relocation has been due to accessing services and support which sadly are more related to postcode than society will admit. I remain unsure if we will settle here as our forever home or if mobility and support needs will demand that we create that forever home in another place, and create yet another garden.

Plants do mature over a period. There are annuals, bi-annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees, each one reaching maturity at different times. The garden I am looking out over now has been over ten years in the making so far. I think it is the first time I have seen what I have planted show some maturity and, in many cases, we are witnessing flowers and growth we never saw in previous gardens. Am I creating that family home that I have unknowingly sought after for so long?

My attention is interrupted by the smart speaker indoors announcing it is time that our son arose from his bed “It’s eight o’clock and time to get up” My hour is up. It is essential that we get our son out of bed at this time as he needs to start a course of medication which is spread across the day. It will take me about an hour, maybe more from this announcement to help him out of bed, get him washed and dressed and then encourage him to eat his breakfast before toileting and tidying him ready for the day. From this moment on, our son can not be left alone. He has seizures each day because of drug resistant epilepsy. At high risk of sudden death in epilepsy (SUDEP) we need to constantly watch over him in case he falls during one of these seizures, or chokes, or our being ready to inject him with additional medication should he not come around from a seizure.

I have become a resilient gardener over the years. Often, not being able to spend more than ten or fifteen minutes within it due to these caring demands …

A new Project …

In the Garden – A new project …

We needed a new project. Something that will engage our sons mind. Focus on the positive and inquisitive, rather than the usual terrors and pain. Something that will allow long term support, teaching, comforting, and exciting.

There is a saying, “Gardening, cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes …” Well, I am about to put that thought to the test, not because I simply want to test the theory, but because I need to try something new. Our son is in need of help. Medication is failing him. Mental health is failing him. His only hope for a fulfilling future lies in our love and our ability to consider support which is a little ‘out of the box’ . The Garden has been key to our support over many years and the nature of the impact from our sons epilepsy, autism and learning disabilities, means that any, and all lessons taught, are forgotten almost as quickly and we need to revisit those messages again and again.

Our son has developed an interest in taking photographs. Watching myself as I try to capture that illusive image and style that suggests I may know what I am doing. Still trying I would suggest too. But our son watches as I take up my camera and asks “can I have a go?” That he shows an interest is so rewarding in itself and to spend time with me as I share images and comments with a wonderful community on Flickr and Instagram, talking about other peoples pictures and reading out the comments to him, has, captured his interest even further.

In the Garden – The area to redevelop

Having a weakness down one side, our son uses his are and leg on his left side only. Managing a camera is not that easy with one hand, but setting it on a tri-pod, rotating the camera plate so that his left hand can easily get to the shutter button and viewing the image through live view, our son is able to see an image that he feels he would like to take.

Many are deleted as you may imagine, but I do look for those which he has taken and appear ok. I upload these, crop them to lose anything obviously unwanted in the image and frame it. Everything else is all his own work and which he takes great pride in achieving.

This project allows for our son to indulge in taking pictures along the way – and incidentally form an invaluable tool for recovering lost memories as we revisit each one and talk about what was happening at the time he too the picture – and also enabling me to encourage him to get his hands (or at least hand) dirty by helping with the development activity, the planting, the nurturing and if all goes to plan, the harvesting. At this stage, we enter another project which is culinary. Using the garden to grow food and taste it, allows me to broaden the variety of foods he will eat, overcoming resistance due to taste, textures and smell. I’ll cover more about that later, for now, we have much to do to sort out an area that we are going to redevelop.

In the Garden – Overseen by the Goddess, Flora

With temperatures of over 37C, it may not have been the best time to plan to start this project. Climate change has seen record breaking temperatures which are several degrees higher than previous records and we are forced to remain indoors, with the fans on, keeping hydrated. Epilepsy can be adversely impacted by temperature and when coupled with inability to sleep and gain essential rest, our sons seizures have been severe and frequent throughout each day.

Our plan is to create a sensory based garden growing many vegetables and fruit with some special treats in a new polytunnel. Peppers and chillies and a personal passion of cactus. I aim to prepare spring and summer annuals, hanging baskets, Christmas wreaths and many other things that working within a poly tunnel can allow.

The pictures our son had taken just prior to starting all the work, have been taken, but we wait now for a break in the weather and some cooler days before we move some raised beds and clear an area to erect the polytunnel.

Month’s end …

As June comes to an end, I once again wonder where the year is racing to. It seems no time at all since we were looking at the first shoots of spring and now, so much has passed and the mid to late summer delights in the garden take over.

Planning for spring next year has begun. Cuttings being nurtured, seeds ordered, layouts reconsidered for when I can divide or move various plants.

Next year, I have decided that I must grow vegetables. I had a stab at it last year with some limited success, but I want to do so much better as time allows. My plan is to limit the range of veggies I grow so that I can give them the attention needed for succession growing and rotation. Favourites (and basics) of Tomatoes, Potatoes, Carrots, Beetroot, Sprouts and Cabbage will be my focus together with Lettuce. I will also look at growing fruits, with Apple, Rhubarb and Strawberry all high on my priority list. The area has been allocated and a number of raised beds and large pots installed ready. During the rest of the year I will add compost and organic matter, and allow the planting beds to settle.

Home grown fruit and vegetables are just wonderful to eat. Full of taste and always fresh. So far, I have only dabbled with them, but next year, I’m looking for substantial crops and with it, a healthier diet and cut back on transportation costs and pollution, not to mention a cost saving for our budget too.

Sticking with what I have tried a little with in the past and looking to perfect what I grow, it is also an ideal opportunity of involving our son in something constructive and ultimately healthy of both mind and body as he joins me at the raised beds and in the new polytunnel.

The rose …

At this time of year, the garden delivers something magical. The rose. So many varieties. So many types. So many colours and fragrances.

I have written many times how the garden helps our family with health issues, but the rose is the one that also helps me!

The song sings of harsh winters and emotions, and yet, it also sings of the response to the suns love turning into the rose. As each bud grows on the developing stems, petals forcing out of the protective shell, hinting at the colours hidden inside. And then, the magnificent of the bloom as it takes form and grows.

Climbers, Hybrid Teas, Miniatures, Ramblers, Bush, Standards, Half Standards, Old English, Shrub, Patio …. the list goes on, and yet each and every one delivers a boost to your wellbeing and lifts your heart.

Their season is not as long as some other shrubs and perennials, but wow, they do deliver with such an impact.

Midsummers Day …

The longest day of the year. Usually celebrated on 21st June, but different cultures will celebrate this event anytime between 21st and 24th June.

In truth, the length of the day is no longer than any other day. 24 hours. That is all we are allotted and within those 24 hours, we must ensure our lives, as always, are as fulfilling as possible.

What we do have though, is the increased amount of daylight time. This is indeed the case for the longest period on 21st June. The longest period in the year between sunrise and sunset. A day to rise with the sun, and settle down as it sets. In between, accomplish all you can.

Having returned from a short adventure. my attention is overwhelmed by the amount of greenery in the garden. This year we have had significant rainfall as well as sunshine and for sure, it is a mix that the garden has relished and rewarded with abundant growth. Flowers and colour are certainly still there, but green is the dominant colour. Where do I start? how do I begin? what am I trying to accomplish? and the longest day is ticking by as I spend to much time procrastinating.

Spurred on by better, and more accomplished gardeners than myself, I am encouraged to get started with committing to 15 minutes and to do something. Anything!

My 15 minutes starts with uncovering an overgrown pathway. I had started to create this gravel path many months ago. Motivation and time dwindled. Perennial grasses and weeds took hold. Slowly, the path disappeared. That is until today!

With memories of the story about recovering the lost gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey in Cornwall running through my mind, I move in to my own lost and overgrown garden and begin clearing back the weeds and grasses. Uncovering previously collected rocks, bags of golden chip gravel, paving blocks – even an abandoned spade, thoughts of why I was working on this area came flooding back.

I had developed an evergreen border at the end of the garden. An area that holds its colour and form throughout the seasons as well as providing natural habitat for wildlife and nesting birds. Backed by a neighbouring bay hedge standing some 12 feet, or more in height, above which the borrowed landscape of a nearby woodland area can be seen adding the deception of a much larger garden.

In front of the bay, I am growing variegated privet to an average height of 8 feet. In front of theses, holly. Each bush 5 feet high and with a spread equally as big. In front of the holly is a box hedge, much lower, but from front to back, the border had reached around 12 feet deep. Or more.

What I had not seen, but it was creeping up on me, was our sons resistance to coming into this part of the garden. I already knew that green is a colour that in many cases will ease the anxieties a person with autism will have. A basic hangover from our ancestors who viewed green as an indication of safety for a variety of reasons I will not go into here. As this border held wildlife, and a depth that created hidden areas, our son was experiencing a heightened level of anxiety as a result of an unknown, something, moving around in the border. A person with autism needs routine. That sense of routine is far reaching and in our sons case, he needs to be able to see, and understand what he is looking at, knowing that it is always there without surprise or change. The hidden movement of a blackbird nesting deep in these plants, creates a panic and fear of attack. Our son would freeze at the sound or movement when we passed this border. The instinct of fight or flight would kick in. As he could not run away himself, being a wheelchair user, he is dependant up myself to get him away. Until I did, he would fall into a rage, born from deep, but genuine fear.

The answer was to remove the border. Cut it back and open it up. Our son would be able to see clearly that there was no threat hidden within it. Over time, I dug up the box hedging and holly, replanting them in more open areas of the garden and cutting them back into an easy to understand shape – I knew I should have practiced topiary – and thinned back the privet and overhanging bay. I repositioned the gravel pathway so that it runs through the middle of where the border was and when I became tired and preoccupied by our sons declining health and need to care for him more to safely bring him through these attacks from epilepsy and the anxieties, my work and enthusiasm in the garden fell away. Nature began reclaiming what I had left, and tried to make the best she can, working between rocks and stones and bags of gravel.

This was my long forgotten project. The bigger aim is to use our garden to calm our sons anxieties and to ease his pain. Each plant put in is intended to serve as an educational tool to help illustrate life for him. In the garden, and through the plants in our garden, our son has learned to manage fears, control the terrors in his mind, increase the variety of his eating habits, to learn about life and about death and oh so much more.

We have encouraged him to explore all the wildlife on our garden safari’s and I have developed his interest in picking up a camera and picturing those things of interest to him in a project we call Marc’s Window.

How dare I lose my motivation to garden. How dare I turn my back on creating and continuing to maintain this garden environment for our son. How dare I give up on creating a safe area, a fun area, an educational area, a forest school area. How dare I just stop, knowing how dependant our son is on us, and what I do in the garden to enable adventures to happen just over our own very threshold to this wonderful world.

I needed that initial 15 minutes to make a start. The day after, I was there for half an hour. Today our son wanted to join me and helped (safely) cutting up stems to add to the compost. We ordered a new polytunnel today, so that during the winter months I can encourage our son to sow seeds, for spring and we will learn all about nurturing, patience, creativity and giving.

Dear diary …

Did somebody suggest climate change and global warming is impacting on gardeners and gardening?

It appears that our traditional ‘April Showers’ are now falling in May. Rain that also feels like it never ends. Our weather forecasters tell us it is dry, or it is cloudy. They even tell us the sun is shining, and yet, I look out of the window and it continues to rain.

All this water has revitalised the garden. Flowers blooming, lawns growing at an incredible pace, the evergreens looking particularly green and lush. “No mow May” has been forced upon us, as the mower would not cut through the wet grass anyway. Wild flowers are springing up all over, the lawn itself looking particularly lush, except for where we are walking and the well trodden path is clearly visible. No mow May may actually run into June as well if this weather keeps up.

Early spring flowering perennials are in need of cutting back now. They will benefit from the trim and even flower again in a few weeks with renewed energy from the trim. With the soil as moist as it is, division of these same perennials is so much easier than if the ground was dry and baked solid. A job missed last year, but this diary note should remind me to complete the job this year. It is a job that particularly this year is important as not only do the various plants need revitalising by the process, but also we are considering relocating and as much of our planting is attached to memories and gifts, although I can buy new, I feel that to take with us a cutting of the original plant will, in essence allow those memories and kindness of gifts to remain with us.

The divisions will go part into prepared pots and part into new positions in this garden. Some plants such as the Angelica has not survived and a number of roses, Britannia, Wendy Cussons, Margaret Merril, Peace, Just Joey, all died for some reason after flowering so well the year before and so we have spaces to fill.

It is true that this year, has been a year when my time in the garden has been significantly impacted by the health of our son. It seems the days we spent out there together, he, as ‘gaffer‘ pointing out this and that which, with his autistic view, was needing attention to create balance of shape or colour or even scent Me as his ‘gofer’ needed to attend to it.

To garden at all has been a test of resilience and though I love my time immersed in gardening activities, our sons’ health and needs are paramount. The consequence is that much has escaped me and I am tasked with doing all I can to contain it so the purpose of it continuing to be sensory supportive for him remains.

100 different flowers is my aim to grow in this garden. By the end of the year I am sure I will have nearer 150. On top of these will be the evergreens. Many of which are foliage only. Box Hedging, English Yew hedging, Ferns, all planted to provide that core green colour which is a base for calm which our son can look upon year round and the primeval emotion and behaviour that lies in us all brings comfort today, as it did in the beginning. It is often considered to be a hangover from when man could recognise fertile ground and water by the amount of greenery growing. A safe area. It is also believed that it’s safety allowed those early people to hide from predators within the grasses and trees. Many examples of the colour easing and calming emotions has been shown through science time and time again. Blue is another calming colour for similar primeval reasons signifying the life giving water we are all so dependant on and the clear cloudless sky signifying a safe day to go outdoors. There are those with autism who are far more attuned to the benefit of these colours than many of us.

Our garden has the green, we include as many blue flowers as we can. Flowers such as the Geranium Rozanne, the Iris, Siberian Flag, Ceanothus or Californian Lilac all offer that reassuring colour that encourages our son to venture into the garden and bask in the healthy outdoors.

May …

Blossom on the trees is disappearing again now. The deep pink of the Collingwood Ingram ornamental cherry all blown away and replaced with stunning foliage was first, then the Tai-Haku white cherry has also left the branches, the crab apple, Malus Evereste is hanging on, but only just. The year to date has revealed many beautiful flowers and the garden promises so much more. Last year we had so few fruits on the crab apple they had been eaten before I had chance to make up any jelly. This year, I hope for more.

The month also reveals some of those smaller, but still beautiful flowers, often hidden under the canopies of trees and shrubs, like the Lily of the Valley standing out so white in the damp shadows. Planted several years ago, at least, one or two were planted, the spread of them, forming carpets of mini white bells are through self seeding and naturalising. Some need to be lifted, potted up and passed on when they have appeared in inappropriate locations, but in the main I have left them alone to do their thing.

Another active self seeding flower showing itself this month is the brilliant yellow Welsh Poppy . At the end of the season, it disappears from site. Flowers gone, decaying leaves eaten by the Leopard slugs (the good guys in the garden) and you need to wait until April or May for them to show themselves again. That may be in the same area as they were previously, but guaranteed, is the growing of new ones – almost like Foxgloves – in locations that have welcomed their seeds. Keep an eye on these too, they may well come up where you do not want them and so you may want to reposition them.

As we enjoy our May garden, we already see signs of what will delight us in our June garden.

Bearded Iris, Roses, Lily’s Clematis, Gladioli, Ranunculus, Freesia, Hosta …. many flowers to arrive in the coming weeks, and also, much work to do. This year I do need to lift and divide many perennials. It is of benefit to them to be divided every two or three years to stimulate growth and also to provide you with additional plants.

As we do this, the designing of the garden itself will be looked at, again! as the plants are growing and maturing to the point we can divide them, it offers an opportunity to plant a scheme which when we started out, cost and suitability prevented us from doing this at the outset. Planning now is essential for delivering something very special from next year.