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Category: A walk in the garden

A blog to supplement our page on a gardening year showing how we created a feelgood garden, based on sensory themes of sight, touch, scent, taste and sound to ease and comfort our sons anxieties.

Eleanor …

Eleanor …

Storm Eleanor was battering us over the last day or two. Not as much damage as feared, though standing structures such as our obelisks have been blown away.

Taking a walk around the garden via the gravel paths, it was clear the amount of rain that has fallen as the lawns are almost lakes, certainly with ponds dotted here and there as the land is sodden and subsoil wet through as well. Not much can be done right now except keeping a watch for any potential damage and keeping an eye on the forecast in the hope a dry spell is coming any time soon.

All however is not lost and at a time when the planted garden is largely resting, there are exceptions as with the Winter Pansy and Primulas. Grown in both garden borders and in posts, they are doing well right now. It is important to keep them from being covered from any fallen leaves which will cause them to rot very quickly and where they appear waterlogged, to clear the water by spiking the ground or even rolling or brushing the surface water away. Primulas like it moist, but not swimming.

Today was the day to look at our new addition for the garden. A Polytunnel Steeple Green house. It’s not too big, but a great introduction to greenhouse gardening. Measuring 143cm wide x 143cm deep x 195cm tall I have – or will have, when it’s assembled – 8 staging shelves and I plan to use this for seeds, propagating existing plants and growing succulents. If successful, I may move on to a full greenhouse. Today was spent checking all the parts were to hand and understanding the assembly instructions.

With a few ‘personalised’ adjustments, this will be a place where I can work on some horticultural projects with our son, irrespective if it rains or not. An access point wide enough for allow a wheel chair through and a special bench seat set up for him to sit on while we sow seeds, propagate cuttings and create bowls and pots. All being well, we will make wreaths together in there next Christmas.

Pause on the threshold …

Pause on the threshold …

We have learned the technique of taking a moment on the threshold to our garden. Rather than just moving into it and getting stuck in to whatever task needs completing. We stop at the five bar garden gate, rest on it with a flask of tea and just take a moment looking at, and then listening to, the garden.

We saw shrubs and roses budding up in the unusual mild weather. We saw spring bulbs bursting through the soil, eager to seek out the sun. We saw the small birds returning to the sunflower heart feeder. We heard the birdsong – not yet experienced enough to identify the many songs – We heard the nearby by trees rustling as the wind begins to get up ahead of a forecast storm. We see the colours of flowers, no longer hidden under fallen leaves, but standing proud in the dull, wet day.

We spent some time there, looking, listening and for a moment, just focusing on breathing the fresh air of outdoors. Talking through each aspect with our son, sat alongside me in his wheelchair and for a moment, his terrors forgotten, he questioned me about the flowers, the grass, the birds.

This moment was interrupted by a neighbour who shouted across, “… your getting wet out there …”  “No” we replied, “we are standing in the rain, looking for rainbows” 🙂

One eye on Winter!

One eye on Winter!

A potted garden for winter

In order to have something for our son to look out of the window onto is all important. Those sensory aspects of colour, smell, sound, and touch are something we try to provide all through the year.

As summer is now giving way to autumn, many flowers are seeing their last days and will be pruned back in readiness of their dormant weeks until they begin to bud again next year. Some, on the other hand are beginning to show new growth as they thrive on the colder weather that autumn and winter bring.

In our sons potted garden, we set out last year to pot up a combination of Cyclamen, and early spring flowering bulbs that will give colour from as early as October and run through in waves of different flowers in the same pot until April/May next year.

The Cyclamen have started with the green foliage and will soon develop crimson petals as the flowers come through. When it snows, the contrast between the crimson and the white of the snow is stunning. We have replicated this ‘potted’ garden idea in the garden as well and the naturalising capability of these plants will expand year after year. The crimson will be followed by yellow from dwarf daffodils, white snowdrops, and the purple fritillaries. As these colours begin to fade, the scent of the herb garden is coming into it’s own and many spring bulbs planted out in the garden.

It’s not just about the joy of gardening, which in itself is a means of therapy for myself, but also the way in which we can use these sensory aspects at times when our sons mind terrors need calming. One technique we use is to sit calmly and bring our discussion to ‘what three colours can you see?’ … it sounds simple, but in those few moments where focus is on looking for and identifying three colours, one after the other, helps to stop the random thoughts and fears of his mind and brings a single focus. Even for a few minutes, this act of bringing his mind under control eases the level of anxiety and fear. We build on this with identifying three sounds, the sound of water tricking in the pond, the sound of birdsong around the feeders, the sound of wind through the leaves and grasses, and when the herbs come through, scent is also used.

The garden is a wonderful healing place that takes a little time to develop, but the rewards are significant and endless.

The frogs hop in

The frogs hop in

Hop into the garden

After the success of creating our Butterfly Garden, I was excited to find today that we have an abundance of frogs that have set up home with us too.

Slug eaters – they need to eat more – each night we walk Lady Bronte around the garden, she was attracted to movement deep in the Lavender walk borders. Needing to investigate, I went in search of what may have caught her attention and found them, at least eight of them all hoping over each other for protection as I uncovered their hideaway.

I have put in a small pond, but I have not seen any of these around it, but there is plenty of damp, shaded areas which they seem to love.

Our son is fascinated by them and I’m delighted they have arrived again – each year for five years now – and so our attempt at attracting wildlife is proving quite successful. Together, we have installed ‘frog homes’ that we can now check on and hopefully, we can take photographs together, look to identify them and watch them grow.



Bumble Bees

As we walk our various themed garden areas, we spend time along our Butterfly Garden border. Though fast coming to the end of the butterfly season, they are still attracted to the buddleia we have growing here and joining in the enjoyment of the sunshine is also a number of bumble-bees and wasps.

Very quick on the eye, they do keep us entertained for several minutes, watching them dart from one flower to another.

This garden has surprised us by the number of visitors we have attracted this year and probably does not need too much, other than a little tidying up, doing to it during the winter season. At this point, the evergreen holly and low box hedge will reappear as the summer flowers die back, but allowing us to continue to enjoy this are of the garden.

The Butterfly garden border

A little structural work to insert an archway across the gravel pathway, separating the Butterfly garden from the Rose garden, via this Rose walk and renew the pebble pond at the end of the path, will be all we need to do.

August is a good month for colour in this garden, with Salvia, Verbena, Roses, Buddleia, Weigela, Nepeta and Crocosmia all in beautiful flower and with frequent deadheading and pruning, we are looking at prolonging the season as long as we can and from early flowering Daffodils, this garden offers year round interest and opportunities for photographs through the year.

As well as bees and wasps, this is a haven for birds. We have feeders to the end of the border, but these flowers attract the insects that the birds, particularly small ones such as blue tits, wrens, sparrows (when they turn up) nuthatch and others, love to feed on in addition to the seed we put out.

So our son can make the most of this area, I’m putting a bench adjacent to this border and the rose garden and overlooking the pebble pond so we can sit a while and watch, listen and smell the sights and sounds while taking in the various scents … oh and sharing a flask of coffee!

Our feelgood garden

Our feelgood garden

A new visitor …

You probably already know that I love our garden and that our son takes great comfort from being within it. One of the areas we have been trying to develop is our Butterfly Garden, an area developed with plants and flowers that attract butterfly’s in the hope that when we sit and spend time there, we may get visited by a passing butterfly that may actually settle on us and so delighting our son’s experience in the garden.

Constructing this area over two or three years, the best we had was a lone small cabbage white, and off he flew. This year however we saw a lone red admiral arrive too. Today, as the sun shone, I was able to count at least 15 red admiral butterflies in the garden at any one time and which spent all day with us and amongst the plants. including the other varieties, we must have had a consistent two dozen or more throughout today.

We have had the small white, the red admiral, the peacock and this little chap who I am given to believe is the ‘comma’ – if it is, it is a real success as they don’t normally travel as far north as where we are.

My job now is to make sure our garden remains an attraction to the butterfly and that they return each year. I need to create more plants and drinking stations for them and an area within this garden to sit where we can just rest awhile and wait for them to land on us – and of course take a photograph or two (ok, maybe more)

I love it when a plan comes together 🙂