Our love of plants has to begin somewhere. For gardener Simon Mitchell, it began at work. Here he tells us about his gardening journey and how it helps him de-stress and get away from the hustle and bustle.
As everyone knows by now, modern life is stressful. I work 60 to sometimes 90 hours a week as a sous chef. Not that I don’t like my job and don’t love what I do, but sometimes you need to find something else to fill your spare time – as small and limited as it may be.
So, this is how I got into growing plants, gardening and everything in between and how it helped me to reduce the stress of a hectic life.
- how I stumbled upon gardening
- how it started
- how it grew
- what I have learnt
- cutting yourself off and having fun
So, as I have said I work A LOT, and was starting to get bogged down, like everyone else, with The Shining effect (all work and no play). I needed something else to do, and fast. So, after a few weeks of thinking, I didn’t realise what was right in front of me. I was working in a place called The Botanist – so why not get a plant or two? Considering I was just looking for something new to brighten up my week and give me something more to do, other than just work. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for – the amount of plants that were out there!
As I work long hours and most of my time and effort is spent in work, I first Googled ‘plants that are hard to kill’. As everyone with long days and hectic schedules knows, it’s easy to forget about something like a plant in the house. I came across Tillandsia. I bought a terrarium and some stones and put something together. After some success, I then upped my game and got a terrarium for Christmas and now have about 15 different types.
When I became more confident in what I was doing, I moved over to more adventurous things. I bought a cactus and found out that they can be harder to look after than first thought. So, I used YouTube to find out how to look after them. This lead me to succulents and how to propagate them. The thought of growing a plant from a single leaf was ‘fake news’ to me at the time, but I gave it a try and it worked! I found it easier to look after succulents than I did cacti. So, I turned my attention to the garden about two years ago.
As I rent, I didn’t want to spend too much money on a garden that wasn’t mine. So I tried to do a cheap knock off garden, which turned into having patience and doing a lot of research into the plants that I was buying, what bulbs would come back year after year, and a few really lucky buys in the reduced section of the garden centres I went to. All of this got me to learn a lot more than what I thought I had. I now know:
- the different between bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes
- times of year to start planting vegetable seeds and when to harvest
- how not to over water and underwater the house plants
- which bulbs multiply in the ground to give you the best impact in the garden
- Dahlia tubers need to be dug up and how to propagate them for next year
- not all plants need soil (Tillandsia)
- most important of all, I have learnt that it’s OK to fail and kill a plant or two. It’s just part of the course of learning new things.
Since starting to take an interest in plants and doing the work in the garden, I have noticed a reduction in my stress levels from work. So, in the summer, I now wake up earlier to have my breakfast and a coffee in the garden. On my days off, I put my phone down for a few hours a day and don’t look at emails or Whatsapp groups. I completely cut myself off. I go to the garden centre (who all know me by name at this point). I have found how to take time out for myself and not be so uptight and highly strung. I have enjoyed bidding on things on eBay and finding out what they are afterwards. And this summer is not going to be any different.