How gardens and gardening helped me

20 August 2018

By Mark Lane

I have the wonderful job of designing new gardens for clients, looking at and selecting plants and materials to use, as well as the great honour to present for the BBC on gardens, garden design, gardening and RHS Flower Shows. However, this was not the case nearly 20 years ago.

Mark Lane with a resident watering the garden

When I had my car accident in 2001 I had many emotions to deal with; I had to come to terms with using a wheelchair full time, accept my mental health issues relating to co-morbid depression and overcome my chronic pain and fatigue.

I had a very long rehabilitation, during which time I would urge my partner to help me get outdoors, in both full sun and in rain.

I love the outdoors and the feeling of the warmth on your cheeks or raindrops on my face and hands. I also already had a passion for plants and gardening and wanted to feel the different textures, be enlivened by a colourful border or feel relaxed by a water feature.

Change my career path

There has been a great deal written in newspapers and magazines about health and wellbeing and gardens and gardening. A lot of research has shown how the act of gardening, whether passive or active, being outside surrounded by nature has a positive effect on us.

Mark Lane talking to an Agate House residentI know first hand how the restorative powers of a garden and gardening have completely changed my career path, outlook on life, acceptance who I am and being proud of being a wheelchair user and management of my depression, pain and fatigue through medicine, but also through actively gardening.

Getting my hands dirty in the soil releases serotonin in the brain, the feel-good compound — just like eating a bar of chocolate. Also, by adapting how I garden and pacing my activities I have improved my motor skills.

I am able to reach and twist my upper body but also sitting outside surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowering herbaceous plants I have learnt how to focus my mind, be more mindful of my environment. The latter is extremely important.

Recharged my inner battery

Sitting outside for 10 minutes has a positive effect both physically and mentally. I love meditating in the garden. I slow my breathing, listen and focus on bird song or running water, and gradually relax my upper body muscles. It feels like someone has recharged my inner battery.

Mark Lane talking to Agate House residents

Visiting gardens, especially those through the National Garden Scheme, have also helped ignite a few neurons in my brain. I get ideas from plant combinations, choice of materials and how a space makes me feel.

Every garden, whether it is a pot or a country estate, has its own ambience. Sometimes you can go into a garden feel uplifted, other times chilled and completely relaxed. I love other people’s gardens.

I believe the gardener’s or owner’s personality resonates in a garden. Gardens and gardening is a social activity. I am always learning, but most of all I am improving my health and wellbeing on-a-daily basis.

Mark Lane is the UK’s first garden designer/BBC gardening broadcaster to be in a wheelchair. He is a regular presenter on BBC TV Gardeners’ World and also fronts BBC TV coverage of the RHS shows. Mark is also a published garden writer.

Comments

I so agree that people, however poorly, want to feel the rain and a breeze on their face and not be told they have to stay indoors in case they catch a cold.

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