There's something about getting older (and hopefully wiser!) which make you really appreciate the occasions and opportunities which you have to do the things which you really enjoy. Working in London during the week, I find myself more or less constantly rushing around, whether it's to get through things at work, or dashing to and from the train station. The hubbub of the city is brilliant, but sometimes it can be pretty overwhelming, so every Friday I find myself ecstatic at the prospect of heading home to the greenery and fresh air of home, knowing that I can pretty much please myself without constantly having to keep an eye on the clock for two days. In terms of finding ways to relax, I've documented my adventures in baking, and running is another fantastic stress buster. Over the last year or so, however, I've taken up a new hobby which has since escalated into something of an addiction- gardening.
Yes folks, you heard me correctly. Gardening. Whilst I feel that admitting this only serves to cement my '24 going on 64' status even further, it's something which I've found hugely relaxing and really rewarding too. Having become more than a little obsessed with The Big Allotment Challenge of late, and with The Chelsea Flower show starting this week, I thought I'd put together a little post about all things horticultural, taking you on a guided garden tour of some of my favourite growers:
Freesia (Freesia laxa)
Last year, growing freesias was one of my pet projects. Taking an assortment of bulbs which I picked up from Wilkinson (their garden section is amazing, and really affordable), I potted them up, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. By all accounts they are quite tricky to cultivate over here as our climate is so changeable, and they absolutely hate the cold- which makes it even harder to know when to plant them, especially with late spring frosts. Each stem tends to grow to between five and ten centimetres, before segueing into a series of delicate buds, which bloom best when the sun is shining. Whilst it's recommend that you bring the bulbs indoors for the winter, I kept mine out and have had them bloom even more beautifully this year, although that's probably down to the comparatively mild weather which we've had.
Whilst I can't really take any credit for the success of this gorgeous lavender as my parents planted it when I was younger, it's definitely a real favourite of mine, and a traditional treasure which I don't think you can go wrong with. Not only does it give off the most beautiful scent, but it's also fantastic for attracting bees and butterflies into your garden. Comparatively hardy, this plant can be grown in a pot or develop freely in soil, but make sure to prune it regularly to keep it looking tidy and allow for healthy regrowth.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus)
Taking a little bit of a tropical turn- here we have the hardy hibiscus. This small shrub comes in lots of different varieties, and we have about four growing in our garden. Although only the paler coloured flowers tend to thrive in the UK, this is a plant which does surprisingly well over here- and I saw lots of beautiful varieties in Morocco too. These pretty plants love the sun, so be sure to grow somewhere warm, and again prune regularly for the best results year after year.
My absolute favourite. Again, I can't take any credit for these as they've been in the garden for longer than I've been alive, but year after year they come back prettier and bigger than ever. Regular pruning is absolutely essential with these- and the perfect excuse to use the blooms as pretty decorations! Hydrangeas also do really well in comparatively shady conditions, although they don't really like the wind, so try and keep them as protected as possible. The flowers arrive in a spectrum of shades, and tend to bloom towards the end of the summer/beginning of autumn, but water regularly during warm weather to keep them healthy.
Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus)
Beautifully delicate, but with a tendency to run rather wild, the sweet pea is a plant which needs regular looking after and trimming to keep it under control, particularly as it's self seeding- so you normally tend to find that it grows incrementally year on year. A climber by nature, these love having something to grow up, around or through, so if you're thinking of cultivating them from seeds, I'd definitely recommend investing in some trellis or a growing frame. Again, don't be scared to cut the flowers as and when they bloom- the plant will thank you for it in the long run!
Aside from being a brilliant de-stresser, gardening also gives you a really tangible result at the end too- and since I've taken it up I've been bringing in plenty of beautiful fresh flowers- definitely an ultra affordable alternative to buying them! Even if you've only got a little window box or invest in a pot plant, it's a really lovely way to get back to nature- and when you grow successfully you definitely feel like you've achieved something.
Are you a fan of gardening? And what do you do to relax?
(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)