GARDENING: No need of TV drama when you have a garden

Far from being upset by the recent government advice to stay at home wherever possible, this fellow is only too happy to oblige after last week`sregular early morning shop for provisions.

Thursday, 26th March 2020, 12:00 am
Cheerful garden surroundings.

The normally quiet venue was overrun, a siege mentality in the air, shelves emptying faster than they could be restocked. We are experiencing a serious, world-wide problem, and at such times having a safe, comforting garden retreat is a blessing.

There`s no need for company in a garden, your mind and imagination can take you on such wonderful journeys as you become absorbed in diverse observational and practical activities.

For example, I read a piece recently about the negative effect of the current pandemic on house-hunting visits and it was totally at odds with the situation in this garden where there are at least four different interested parties competing for one small dwelling. We`ve watched them, in turn, inspecting the property daily, and wonder which couple will place an offer and take up residency.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The property is a nesting box situated in an old silver birch tree. When it`s time for morning coffee we occupy one of several seats around the garden.

Two tree sparrows appear, and one goes inside while the other waits on a nearby branch, then both fly off. A pair of coal tits arrive and follow the same ritual. Next up are the blue tits. Both go in and stay much longer than the others. Measuring-up for curtains I assume, then oops! off they go. A great tit is last on the scene and there`s no chance it can negotiate the small entrance, or is there? The head goes in and out again so many times, clearly building confidence for a final push I guess, then wow it`s in. This is akin to watching a

daily soap. Can`t wait for the next episode! Similar cameos unfold daily around the garden, which is surrounded by hedges, interspersed with shrubs, specifically to attract birdlife and at the feeding stations where there is constant competition within and between species. Who needs television dramas!

Whether tending individual potted plants in the home or hordes of them outdoors, the potential is there for a feeling of well-being. I have a collection of

streptocarpus cultivars that increased to eighteen with the purchase of six new varieties at Chelsea Flower Show last year. They are tender potted plants that

need TLC over winter, a modestly warm environment, less water, etc. and this heaps responsibility on the owner, but the reward for caring is heart-warming.

They`ve just started flowering again! Plants out in the garden are no different in terms of demanding the sort of year-round attention you`d give a family pet

but the payback, tangible and otherwise, can be inestimable.

It might be as commonplace as the thrill that comes with seeds germinating successfully or the sense of achievement in growing your own fruits and vegetables. The true value of contact with plants and the environment in which they grow, is at long last being recognised as essential to our well-being. The experiences they offer are both rewarding and therapeutic.

We don`t all have gardens but if the desire to grow something exists there are several ways of fulfilling it. Gardening can be embraced at any level.

Rapid results come from germinating bean and pea sprouts in as jar. No compost required, just fill with water and drain-off daily, to gain nutritious

food within days. Try rooting stem cuttings in a glass tumbler filled with water and placed on the kitchen windowsill. Yes, I currently have one, and they are rooting! They also root in a clear polythene bag with moist compost that is placed near a window. Slivers of potato peel with eyes attached will deliver a mini-crop when planted in the same way. Basic gardening perhaps, but the daily inspection and anticipation is satisfying.

Perhaps you yearn for an allotment, a safe retreat with fresh air and plenty of space, surrounded by flowers, fruit and vegetables. That dream can be yours too but rather than endure disappointment, take it in stages. Avoid accepting a weed-ridden plot unless you`re prepared to transform it. Enquire whether anyone locally is prepared to share an allotment or house garden.

This abominable virus is destined to disrupt our normal way of life for an indeterminate time, so some form of distraction is necessary to retain our sanity. I`d heartily recommend nurturing plants. Whether you adopt one or many, you can tell them anything and they`ll keep it secret. Talk to them and

they will listen intently to what is being said. Ideal companions in a crisis I`d

say!