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Down to Earth: How gardening helps us look forward

“Looking back is never the same as enjoying the moment. . .” It’s time to open a new chapter, both in life and our gardens, says Cambridge designer Robert Barker

There's light at the end of the tunnel, in life as in the garden, writes Robert Barker (44052641)
There's light at the end of the tunnel, in life as in the garden, writes Robert Barker (44052641)

As we are in the first few chapters of another year, I am reminded more than ever that this is a time to be looking forward instead of focusing on the past. Everyone, worldwide, is clearly aware just how difficult 2020 was, but the hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can put last year behind us as soon as possible hangs in the air.

According to a number of articles I have read and from conversations I have had with friends and clients, our gardens were not only a huge distraction in 2020, but also a sanctuary to escape worry and depression. This completely makes sense to me. The benefits of having access to gardens and nature have been proven to have a dramatic effect on our wellbeing.

There are many reasons for this, but I suppose the key is that there is always something to do and within a garden you can visibly witness change, too. The seasons change and with that our gardens rise and fall. It is a wonderful reminder to us all that even when we are in the thick of it, things will change and pass.

Even in these darkest of months - I personally particularly struggle in the first months of the year - our gardens help us take stock of what is happening now, what happened in the past and how to plan for the future. A good tip to help with future planning for any gardener is to take notes throughout the year so that at times like these, when planning, briefly looking back helps you to drastically leap forward.

In my own garden I like to experiment with plant combinations or with untried species so making notes of things as events take place - things that worked and things that failed - is really important because if you are like me, these details can easily be forgotten. By the time winter arrives and the garden is asleep, it is not easy to remember exactly how vibrant certain flowers were or just how amazing the garden smelt in summer. Looking back is never the same as enjoying the moment. By revisiting notes, taking stock on glories and failures, we can then make our plans for the future.

So let’s all start the year off in the same way, starting with a clear out of the ghosts of years past, then planning for what lies ahead, enjoying the moments as they happen and reaping the benefits when they are needed the most… Sound like a good plan?

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.

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