Posted 10th Mar 2017
Jane Bastow, gold medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show, talks us through the role gardens can play in promoting better health and raising money for charity
"For me, the benefits of gardening start with the three S’s. Sound, sight and smell. In my darkest days when my husband died (I was 33), the garden was my saving grace, so I feel I have personal knowledge of this subject.
First, step outside and stand still. As you slowly take in your surroundings, LOOK at all the plants – look for what is new since your last visit. Even if it’s the day before the changes are there.
LISTEN to the birds, the wind in the tress and the rustling of the plants as the wind moves them.
SMELL – breathe in the scents. The clean smell after rain – the perfume of the plants. At this time of the year the Sarracocca and Daphne odora are particularly strong.
Touch the Rosemary and Lavender and have their rich scent on your hands.
As you do these things with all or only some of these senses, if you are not fortunate enough to have all of them, a feeling of calm and wellbeing will descend on you. If you do nothing else this is an enormous help to how you feel.
Moving on to the ‘doing’. Gardening is better than a work out at the gym. Firstly it is out in the fresh air, it involves lifting, bending, stretching, walking, and you decide on the level of exercise you do, well to begin with. I find the garden takes over, because as you work at the task you have set yourself, you see something else and think I’ll just do that while I am here!!
You are creating a living landscape however big or small – an artwork of colour, shape, texture and perfume. It is a continuity of life from the smallest creature to the largest, from bees to in my case ducks and pheasants. As a gardener and member of the human race, you have a responsibility to wildlife, even on the smallest scale.
When sleep didn’t seem possible, a day in the garden with the fresh air and exercise would enable that to happen.
It is an incredibly good way of raising money for charity and for sharing your garden with others who may or may not have a garden of their own. A way of encouraging others to take an interest and to take ideas home to your own garden.
This year will be my fifth year of opening for the NGS (2nd April) and in that time I have raised £2492 for them. It is their 90th year of fund raising in this way. In 2016 the NGS donated £2.7million to charity. One of the charities is Macmillan cancer support and the NGS is their biggest consistent supporter donating £500,000 last year to them. This is fund raising on the whole by gardens owned by ordinary individuals who wish to join in on a remarkable enterprise.
I also open my garden in May (the 13th this year) and have done so for the past 20+ years raising over £20,000 – all with the help of friends who give their time to help on the day. I think the figures speak for themselves."
Jane Bastow, has a RHS Dip Hort and has also completed a course in arboriculture. She has also won gold medal in the small garden category with a group of friends at Chelsea Flower Show. You can find out more here.