Other people's gardens

Gardening boosts wellbeing – who knew!

Gardening is good for mental health. To gardeners this is as obvious as a flowering daisy in a well-tended lawn, but scientists have now added evidence to match our personal experience. They have found that gardeners generally have greater life satisfaction, enhanced self-esteem, and fewer feelings of depression and fatigue than non-gardeners.And lest you think that simply shows that people who feel good, garden, a further study demonstrated that pottering about in the garden reduces stress following a stress test more effectively than relaxing in a chair inside with a book, or doing an indoor exercise class.

That last bit is important because it suggests that gardening’s mental health benefits aren’t related to exercise endorphins, but just to being outside growing things.

It’s these latter mood enhancers that lure nurseryman Tim Pickles into the garden after a working week spent talking plants and gardens at his eponymous garden centre in Campbelltown. “I need to plant things and look after them,” he says. “It makes me feel better. You can feel the stress leave your body. Even when it’s work, and trimming that hedge is work, the sense of satisfaction when it’s done makes it worth it.”

Tim Pickles garden

The hedge screens off the neighbours, but opens up to views of bucolic countryside. The daylilies planted here with bronze phormium are mown to the ground when they finish.

The hedge in question is 100m of Waterhousia floribunda, a handsome native with a weeping foliage habit and coppery new growth that Pickles first admired 20 years ago, hedged on either side of the tollbooths on the M5. His hedge provides the privacy Pickles craves around his five-acre property in the hills behind Camden, where he has planted more than 100 trees, mostly deciduous, to create a park-like space that is always changing in form and colour. The most recent addition is a fast-growing Brachychiton ‘Jerilderie Red’, planted in response to the news that a neighbour a kilometre away is building a house. The tree, 8m high and 7m wide, with stunning bell-shaped red flowers through summer, will neatly hide the distant house and maintain Pickles’ sense of being surrounded by nature.

Creating and maintaining this garden is stress relief, satisfaction and joy for Pickles. And he’s keen to share gardening’s good effects, so this weekend Tim’s Garden Centre is again participating in RELEAF. This is a Garden Centres of Australia initiative to encourage people into the garden for better mental health and to raise money for Beyond Blue.

Tim Pickles in garden

Tim in his cactus garden with one of the magnificent heirloom pumpkins his young son has been growing in the paddock, and which he gave to me. I plan to admire it for quite a bit longer before I cook it.

“I was surprised when we were involved in RELEAF last year to find how many people who came to the nursery had had been touched by suicide in their family or friends,” he says. “What we did meant a lot to those people. It’s not hard to help and that’s why we’re doing it again.”

‘Something Blue’ is the theme this year, and as well as a wide range of blue plants for sale, shoppers should expect staff in blue wigs and blue hats. Different garden centres are arranging different events; Pickles has organised experts in backyard chickens, backyard bees and balcony bonsai. The plan, he says, is to extend the range of reasons people might find to get into the garden and discover its benefits, no matter the garden’s style or size.

Tim Pickles garden

Beautifully pruned Chinese elm in Tim’s garden, with that Waterhousia hedge, bronze flax and masses of ‘Wavy Navy’ aggies.

RELEAF is at participating garden centres on April 9 and April 10. More: www.releaf.com.au

It’s time to

Buy something unusual
Collectors’ Plant Fair offers rare, unusual and unfashionable garden treasures from more than 70 specialist nurseries. April 9 and 10, Hawkesbury Race Race Club, Clarendon, tickets at the gate $14 on Saturday, $12 on Sunday. More: www.collectorsplantfair.com.au

Botanical art
Acknowledging the 200th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney this year’s Botanica exhibition has a focus on the native plants of Sydney and those that arrived with the early settlers. All works are for sale. Saturday April 9 – Sunday May 1, 10am – 4pm, Lion Gate Lodge, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, free entry.

Divide daisies
Shaggy white perennial shasta daisies are finished for the year. Trim them back, and if necessary lift and divide the clump, repeating it elsewhere in the garden, or sharing with friends.

Sow pea seeds
Climbing types offer bigger harvests than bush types, but do require a trellis or other support. Add a handful of lime to compost-enriched soil and direct sow seeds thumb-deep.



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