What do gardens mean to you?

Tamsin Westhorpe discovers why so many of us enjoy being in a garden.

Country Gardeners’ Day at Stockton Bury Gardens is held in May Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

For the last five years I have held a Country Gardeners’ Day at Stockton Bury Gardens in May.

It’s a day of pure gardening pleasure with stalls from local Herefordshire nurseries and garden suppliers set up in the heart of the garden. Visitors enjoy a little bit of classic and folk music, tea and cake, plant shopping and a walk around our four acres.

Garden tags

At the event this year I decided to ask visitors to write on a parcel tag what gardens and gardening mean to them. All the tags were attached to a fence and at the end of the day I was eager to see what had been written on them. Untying them all was a challenge that I had not considered!

Gardeners write what gardening means to them onto parcel tags at Stockton Bury Gardens Country Gardeners’ Day
Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

Out of about 80 tags the three words that came up time and time again were HAPPINESS, JOY and TRANQUILITY. I’m not altogether surprised by this, but it was wonderful to have my suspicions confirmed that so many of us use our gardens as an escape from everyday life. The age range of those who filled in the tags was wide from young children upwards.

I can’t resist sharing a few of my favourites – here goes:

Digging, digging and more digging and eventually a happy wife!
Escape, surprise, work, food, wildlife, pleasure and endless potential in equal measures.
A space to think, relax and grow spiritually as well as horticulturally.
Gardening gives me peace and a link to my late Father.
A great equaliser – I can talk to a prince or a pauper about problems with my peonies.
Helps me to live in the moment.
An hour of two in the garden helps the darker shades of life momentarily disappear.
Gardening is a way of life – my garden keeps on giving.
The final one I would like to share was written by a young boy – A place to play football.

Mending Souls

With the hectic pace of life, I’m convinced that gardens and gardening are even more important than ever before. Open gardens allow those who can’t afford a plot of their own yet or those who have had to downsize a chance to immerse themselves in beauty, if only for a few hours. I often hear the words ‘Ahh, that’s better’ from visitors as they head out of the gardens here. It’s as if they’ve had a spa treatment. The beauty of an open garden is that you can enjoy the space without any of the responsibility or work.

Health benefits

Gardening offers the added bonus of helping to keep us physically fit. I was expecting a few more negatives to appear on the parcel tags such as ‘hard work’, ‘battling the weather’ etc but there were very few. It just goes to show that when we sit back and really assess why we garden the positives far out way the work that’s involved. After reading the tags I wondered what I would have written. I suspect something like ‘gardening allows me to eat as much cake as I like and being in a garden makes me feel safe.’ What would you write on your tag?

Winter Wonders

I’m going to keep these tags and look at them again in the winter when I’ve been gardening in the cold and wet.

Gardeners record what gardening means to them on parcel tags
Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

They will remind me why I’m working so hard to care for a garden that is shared by so many. Gardeners like myself are not just gardening to look after plants or grow food – we are gardening to mend souls, bring happiness, tranquillity and joy to others.

Tamsin Westhorpe

About Tamsin Westhorpe

Tamsin Westhorpe is well known as an editor, garden writer and lecturer. However, she prefers to be known as a gardener. She was previously Editor of The English Garden magazine and lecturer at Kingston Maurwood College in Dorset. Tamsin started her gardening career at the age of 16 working for her great uncle John Treasure of Burford House Gardens in Worcestershire. Alongside her freelance work and being a mother Tamsin runs Stockton Bury Gardens in Herefordshire with her uncles and is currently training to be an RHS judge.
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