Andrew Fisher Tomlin, Monday 20 August 2012
This year, I’ve been struck by how many journalists and celebrities have been extolling the benefits that gardening has brought them.
But, even more so by a small but growing band of journalists who say growing your own vegetables is a waste of time and gardening a boring chore better given to a professional! Ok, so it’s not for all of us and I’d be out of a job if everyone wanted to create their own garden, but the success of Royal Horticultural Society membership, our local garden groups and campaigns such as National Gardening Week show that those people are in the minority.
In Britain we have been - and increasingly are - a nation of gardeners. At times we have been less engaged with gardening but generally we appreciate what our gardens and parkland bring to our lives. Indeed, if you believe the reports, we Brits rank gardening up there along with shopping, eating out and - dare I say it – sex!
Much of the value of green spaces appears to be in the link with our own well-being and the alleviation of stress. Key studies have recognized the benefits of green landscapes. Green space helps reduce pain and improving recovery times for patients including reducing the need for pain-killing drugs. Green activities, such as gardening and conservation work, reduce blood pressure and consume calories without excessive strain on the body. Provision of and access to green space reduces the incidence of mental health problems including depression and can help with ADHD. Buildings with high levels of greenery even have 52 per cent fewer crimes often related to stress alleviation.
Judi Gerber on the Care2 website extols the hidden virtues of gardening. The National Garden Month in the USA encourages individuals to garden and to make ‘America a greener, healthier, more liveable place.’ It’s about improving your environment and providing your own food source but also, as Judi says, we overlook the fact that gardening really is exercise, even though lots of people don’t think of it as ‘real’ exercise. You can actually burn as many calories in 45 minutes of gardening as you can in 30 minutes of aerobics at the gym. And, depending on what task you are doing, you’ll bring benefits to different muscle groups, of flexibility and strength. So what’s better? Paying for a gym membership and plodding away on a treadmill or getting the exercise by clearing up your garden?
We know that our street trees and forests provide great benefits to people and places; not least in London, where they generate local character and distinctiveness. They increase property values and the desirability of localities for living and working. We know that trees help in climate control, reducing summer temperatures and attenuating the impact of floods and storm run-off as well as helping us to breathe by removing pollutants, in our cities.
But most of all, for me, gardening, plants, gardens and parks all bring people together as well. There’s a great community in gardeners, garden designers, landscapers and plants people that transcends boundaries and gives us great hope for the future. In recent years I have travelled to New Zealand, the USA, Russia, China and Argentina and everywhere gardeners come together as individuals and create enthusiastic gardener communities, and in many cases community gardens, that in themselves reduce stress and isolation and create great neighbourhoods and supportive communities for us all.
Andrew Fisher Tomlin is a local landscape gardener. Visit www.fishertomlin.com or for a chat about your garden project call Andrew on 020 8542 0683