Sanctuary: Gardening for health and wellbeing

With more of us discovering our gardens in recent months, we’ve come to realise how important it is to have that outdoor space, Kirsty McLean looks at ways to help you make your garden work to the max…

Zoning  

Dividing off ‘utility’ (storage, clothes drying, bins, log store etc) so that you keep the main garden as a calm space to be in. 

Playroom

Creating an outdoor play kitchen with open shelves from wood, slate, granite, marble or any sustainable material, can provide the base for a multitude of activities. Chalkboards fixed onto a fence or wall can provide endless opportunities for fun. We all need a bit of ‘space ‘so how about a covered den using wigwams or living willow.

Outdoor Entertaining

Focus on creating a social space so that friends and family can visit. Developing an area that is dedicated to this, whatever the size is proving to be hugely popular. Include shelter for all weathers to make it season-proof by using a gazebo or fixing a sail cloth, attaching awnings or simply put up a garden umbrella. You can add-in light and heating under these too. Outdoor cushions and warm throws make being outdoors in autumn and winter doubly doable. 

Growing your own 

Great for health and wellbeing and a wonderful activity to do as a family. Growing your own fruit and vegetables is very popular. You can recycle containers or chose raised beds, trugs or planters in a vast array of styles, materials and price points. Start with carrots, onions, chives and leeks which are all pretty easy to grow. If you have a small space, then herbs are a good way to go. Try rosemary, sage, wild rocket, marjoram, parsley.

Wildlife/Nature/Wellbeing

As we spend much more time in the garden, it seems we have connected with nature on a whole different level. We’ve become aware of the relationship between what we plant and how this attracts wildlife and forms ecosystems. Growing plants that are pollinators makes for wonderful watching, as the bees, butterflies, insects and birds all thrive on their existence. 

All these plants are pretty easy to grow in most situations and are good pollinators, so they are idea for first time gardeners:

Spring: Bergenia, Ribes, Quince, Primulas, Euphorbia, Mahonia and Alpines
Summer: Lavender, Marjoram, Scabious, Foxgloves, Leucanthemum, Cat Mint, Echinaceas, Buddlejas, Cotoneaster, Honeysuckles and Alpines
Autumn: Sedum Spectabile, Aster daisies, Japanese Anemones
Winter: Hellebores, Sweet Box, Purpus Honeysuckle, Crocus and Snowdrops

If you have a small space, then how about trying a mobile meadow? I love this concept, which was introduced by Isabelle Palmer the author of ‘Modern Container Gardening’. The idea is that you cut wildflower turf (available from a number of online companies in Scotland) to fit compost filled pots. The turf is easy to establish, and the wildflowers will attract bees, butterflies and all types of insects… and look beautiful too!

If you have a larger space with a sizeable lawn, perhaps you could devote some of it to wildflower turf and mow paths through it or if you have a shed, you can give it a living roof using Sedum matting or wildflower turf.

Even if you have no gardening experience, there’s so much that can be achieved in even the smallest of spaces to help us enhance the quality of our lives, benefitting our environment and our mental and physical wellbeing in the process. 

Words by Kirsty McLean

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