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Reasons to start gardening (if you need them!)

For whatever reason, far too many people would rather sit indoors looking at a screen of some kind than get outside and enjoy the world around them. This includes gardening, which still has many devotees, but could really do with more. Plants give us the oxygen we breathe, the food we eat and absorb chemicals that would harm us, including carbon dioxide. A house with a garden or a selection of colourful pots by the door is welcoming and lifts the spirits of visitors and passers-by alike.

Paving and decking save effort, but leave little room for plants and no habitat for the myriad of creatures that used to enjoy domestic gardens. The few animals that benefit from decking include less welcome visitors like rats and mice, which love the space underneath and will nest in there quite happily. Hedgehogs have no need to visit a garden that offers no food in the form of worms, slugs or ground-dwelling insects, so their habits are having to change and their numbers are declining very quickly. Small birds need insects in great quantities to survive, but as less gardens are planted, there are less plants for insects like aphids to live on and bird habits are also having to adapt.

Gardening is not “dirty” or “unsanitary” - comments we hear all too frequently, especially from children whose parents believe that they should live as germ-free a life as possible. Yes, gardening is mucky and fun and hygiene precautions, like thorough hand-washing afterwards, should be observed, but not at the cost of opting out. A bag of fresh potting compost from the garden centre should be viewed as a chance to grow something interesting, pretty or edible (preferably all three) not a bag of germs waiting to ambush the unwary.

For inspiration, take a walk around a good garden or park at this time of year (winter) and you will see an astonishing selection of plants in flower. RHS gardens, stately homes and botanic gardens are a great source of information and many have designated “winter gardens”, where you can find plants you may never have seen before, such as:

  • Daphne bholua - fantastic fragrance
  • Viburnum tinus - pink buds opening to white flowers, good scent
  • Viburnum x bodnantense - pink and white forms available, good fragrance
  • Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea' - winter-flowering pink cherry blossom
  • Skimmia - lots of forms, with fragrant flowers and berries over winter
  • Camellia - forms like ‘Yuletide' flower in winter
  • Chimonanthus praecox - the “wintersweet” with creamy-yellow flowers and a superb scent [pictured]
  • Hamamelis - “witch hazel” has spidery, fragrant flowers in mid to late winter
  • Sarcococca - evergreen, glossy leaves and tiny fragrant flowers.

If you would like to start gardening, but have no idea how to start, you can check out our videos or contact your local gardening club. They welcome new members and are a good source of help with tips and advice - because, don't forget, we all had to start somewhere.

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This story was published on: 29/12/2018

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