Absolutely delighted to share my latest two-page feature 'Wellbeing Over Winter' in the 14 November 2020 issue of Garden News magazine.
As the day's shorten and the weather takes a dive, so can our spirits. It can be hard to find the motivation to lift morale over the coming months. Our health can be directly influenced by nature and how we interact with it. We maybe heading into winter but there are still plenty of relaxing tasks to do in the garden.
It can be tempting to shut up the greenhouse and forget about the garden until spring but give wellbeing a boost and get outside, embrace the wonders of nature with some simple therapeutic activities.
It can sometimes be the last thing we feel like doing BUT it is amazing how invigorating a hit of fresh air is. Like many animals this winter we can feel like hibernating through the coming months but be brave, stick on the thermals and waterproofs and embrace the elements. It is guaranteed to get you smiling and top up your vitamin D – even if the weather is a challenge.
Take cuttings. Pelargoniums naturally need cutting back in preparation for their winter dormancy so put these stems to good use and pot on. It is satisfying to create free plants from garden waste.
Weeding. Set yourself a small manageable project, stick on a gardening podcast for company and you are away!
Clean and organise pots, tidy the greenhouse, sow winter veg. Perpetual spinach, broad beans, garlic, shallots, even winter salad can be planted now.
Plant Spring Bulbs
Planting bulbs has an incredibly positive influence on mood. The anticipation of future blooms and the promise of spring give you something to look forward to. You are literally planting hope! Grow tulips, narcissus, crocus, fritillaries and alliums for 2021 colour.
Bring the outdoors in, plant a container of indoor bulbs. Buy prepared bulbs pre-chilled to force for Christmas and New Year blooms. Grow Amaryllis, Narcissus Paperwhites and Hyacinthus orientalis.
Studies show the colour green relaxes people so fill your home with plants this winter! Monstera deliciosa Swiss Cheese plant, Clivia miniata Natal lily, Pilea peperomiodes Chinese Money plant and Sansevieria trifasciata Snake plant will all provide that evergreen fix. Surround yourself with green and create a calm sanctuary indoors.
Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing is the simple act of spending time outdoors surrounded by trees. In the 1980’s the Japanese government discovered that two hours spent in a forest could lower cortisol stress levels and blood pressure, improve concentration and memory.
To forest bathe take long deep breaths whilst walking slowing or sit still to feel calm and connected to your natural environment. Turn off electronic devices and focus your senses to absorb the relaxing atmosphere of trees. Listen to birdsong, smell the damp earth and moss, look up, watch branches and leaves sway in the canopy, touch tree bark. Not got a forest to hand? Then take your lunch break at a local park.
Walk in nature
Exercise of any kind releases endorphins, which are mood boosters, couple with the power of nature and you have a dynamic combination.
Look out for fungi, ferns and wildflowers in woods and countryside. Try and identify them.
Natural daylight helps regulate melatonin levels which controls your internal body clock and ensures a good night’s sleep, so the more time we spend indoors, the more lethargic we feel. Get out for that walk, feel invigorated, sleep well.
Study nature in your garden
There is a tremendous amount of activity in our gardens from autumn to spring. The more we engage with it, the more in tune we will feel rather than disconnected inside our homes.
Encourage wildlife into your garden, feed birds and hedgehogs, spot and identify insects and birds, study seed heads, cobwebs and new growth.
Look, listen, smell, touch – take time to appreciate the little things around you; the ever changing hues and crunch under foot of leaves, the gentle sound of rainfall, the scent of winter blooms and texture of rough bark.
Nature photography gives you a purpose to step outside the door and interact with nature, focus on the detail and escape for an hour or two. Not only do frosty mornings and misty afternoons provide the perfect light to make your pictures shine but skeletal trees, winter flora and seed carcasses take on a whole new artistic meaning.
You can impress your friends by posting your images on social media and perhaps even inspire others to do the same. So grab your smart phone or camera and get snapping!
Soil contains the harmless bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae that releases serotonin and dopamine, our brain’s natural anti-depressants, so gardening throughout winter can be beneficial to our wellbeing.
Trees emit ‘phytoncides,’ wood essential oils, which have a positive effect on our immune and nervous systems.
Stay positive this winter and get outside!
All photos © Debi Holland 2020