My Highlights of 2020
1. The Joy of Zooming for Wellbeing!
I’m used to teaching and training face-to-face and, as much as possible, outside. But in spring this year I learnt to love indoor, remote sessions on Zoom. It helped me finish the evening class that I’d just started when the March lockdown began. Also it enabled me to create a range of online plant-based Wellbeing sessions. These provided much needed contact for people when we felt isolated, confused and sad as the pandemic took over so many aspects of our lives.
In fact I’ve enjoyed this new element of my work so much that I’ve developed a programme of ‘Grow Your Wellbeing’ sessions than can be delivered online and/or face-to-face from 2021.
2. Training and Supporting Volunteers
In 2019 I delivered a City & Guilds horticulture course for volunteer gardeners at Salford’s Peel Park. The Park stayed open throughout 2020 for locals, who found it invaluable for getting some exercise, a dose of nature and fresh air. But, unfortunately, the volunteer group couldn’t meet when I was due to start a follow-on course in May 2020.
But with the support of the, always creative and forward thinking, Peel Park Ranger (Jess Britch) I put together a course where I could deliver the theory via Zoom and then follow up with practical, onsite assessments in July, by which time the volunteers could work in the Park again. All the volunteers enrolled completed their Level 1 Certificates and Diplomas over the summer.
Building on the success of that course I developed a short Zoom course on Sustainable Urban Planting. This gave the volunteer group the knowledge and skills to design new planting plans for beds at Salford Civic Centre and Peel Park. Four plans were selected from those submitted at the end of the course and these have now been planted up by the volunteer group themselves.
3. Helping you make the most of your garden
I managed to continue my 1-2-1 Garden Advice Service during the pandemic and had as many customers as in previous years. One impact of furlough, lockdown and a beautiful spring and early summer has been that more people spent time in their garden and were keen to make improvements.
My visits were always outside and I could chat to customers to clarify their requirements at a social distance. My own wellbeing was improved by meeting new customers and seeing existing ones. By helping them to develop their outdoor spaces and give them planting ideas I hope I improved their wellbeing too!
4. Going on a Virtual Wildflower Walk
After having to cancel all my ‘live’ face-to-face events in the spring I wanted to offer something to lift everyone’s spirits (including my own!). In past years I’ve run guided Wildflower Walks around Whalley village, which were always popular. So I decided to create a ‘virtual’ walk using photographs and videos I could take while on my daily dog walk. The event was very popular and several previous course attenders came along. Some were suitably dressed with sun hats, shorts and walking sticks and others had brought a bottle of wine (some had both!).
Preparing for the ‘virtual’ walk really made me appreciate the wide range of beautiful native wildflowers I can see during one hour’s walk around my village in Lancashire. I provided handouts and ‘spotter sheets’ to attenders and I hope that I inspired some of them to get outdoors and search for wildflowers in their neighbourhood.
5. Writing a Book on Therapeutic Gardens
Unexpectedly, I was approached by a publisher during the summer to write a book on ‘Creating a Therapeutic Garden’. I’ve not written a book before and asked for friends’ thoughts before I decided to say yes. As any income comes long after a book has been published, it requires a lot of work in advance while continuing my regular work. I’ve signed the contract now and am committed to producing a book by the end of September 2021. It’s a rather daunting task, but I would love to pass on the experience, skills and knowledge built up over the years I’ve spent working in social and therapeutic horticulture. I hope my book will help promote the wellbeing and therapeutic benefits of nature, gardens and gardening, which have been widely recognised during the pandemic.