Article in RHS “The Garden” Feb 2014

We’re proud to have had an article accepted by the RHS “The Garden” magazine. This abridged version of Michael’s musings on “horticulture as healing” gives a brief insight on how gardening helped him overcome the effects of a stroke in 2012. The full article is to be published in an edition of Devon Life later in the year.

(from RHS “The Garden” Feb 2014)

photo copy 20

Opening up the road to recovery

Garden owner Michael Pell on the recuperative power of gardening

After a wonderful Christmas in 2011, I did a spot of gardening in my Devon plot to help work off the excesses of the preceeding few days. While sawing away some overgrown hollies, I was suddenly kicked in the middle of my back by what I thought was a deer. I only wish it had been; instead, I had experienced a stroke.

Lying in hospital for three weeks can allow one to wallow in self- pity. But my biggest worry was how on earth would the garden be ready for its first public opening, in aid of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), the following May? At my lowest point, my thoughts turned to cancelling the event and resigning myself to moving house and leaving the garden behind, incomplete. Even so, I simply couldn’t contemplate watching two decades of hard work disappear before my eyes.

But two years have passed and I am so glad that I did not give in to those inner demons. While the effects of the stroke will remain with me for life, there are positive aspects to be drawn from it. Because I can no longer garden at the same speed as I used to, I notice things that I hadn’t before; because I don’t garden in the same way as I used to, new opportunities have opened up for the garden itself, transforming it into a more relaxed space.

Time was when I would trim the grass within an inch of its life. Now I use a ride-on mower – and where it does not reach have created wild areas, encouraging thousands of wildflowers to grow. To think that something so life-giving is a result of a thing potentially life-threatening is a salutary lesson.

I never realised when I, my wife Penny and friend Richard committed to opening for the NGS, just how much being part of that organisation would help me overcome the stroke. The encouraging comments from visitors each year are a constant inspiration to develop new ideas and to keep looking forwards.

We are not professional gardeners – we simply love this peculiarly wonderful British hobby that pulls people together. From a personal point of view, I know that through gardening I can forget my condition and move on. Life is as ever-changing as the seasons and we do well to learn great things from that.