RHS National Gardening Week 2021 - Campaign calls to take a 'daily dose' of growing

Gardening is good for the soul, it seems, and never more so than as a riot of colour blooms while the nation embraces green spaces.

Pictured Russell Watkins, floral team leader at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, working within the grounds. PIC: James Hardisty
Pictured Russell Watkins, floral team leader at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, working within the grounds. PIC: James Hardisty

There has been much research into the health benefits of connecting with nature, in reducing stress, releasing endorphins, and the uplift in spirits it brings.

Now, as today marks the launch of the RHS' National Gardening Week, there are campaign calls to take a 'daily dose' of growing.

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Last year saw a sudden boom in garden centre sales as people suddenly spent more time at home, replicated over recent months with reported shortages of garden gnomes.

Russell Watkins, floral team leader at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, working within the grounds. PIC: James Hardisty

Now, as a rainbow hue of blooms flourishes across Yorkshire following weeks of glorious sunshine, gardeners say such joys have never been more celebrated.

"There is an inherent sense within us to feel a 'one-ness' with nature," said Ali Goding, garden manager at Harrogate s RHS Harlow Carr, which almost ran out of bulbs last autumn.

"Gardening has lit a blue torch paper for so many people, and they've carried on, bitten by the bug.

"It has felt a very long, grey winter," she added. "Now the sunshine is here, it really does make a psychological difference."

This week's campaign is calling on people to get a dose of 'vitamin G' by taking a few moments each day to connect with nature.

At RHS Harlow Carr, said Ms Goding, the gardens are a hive of activity. Spring buds began with the Hawthorn trees, now the primulas are beginning to flower as tulips bloom.

Late frosts have left the team on 'tenterhooks', she said, with the magnolia hit as well as the rhododendrons, while they are anxiously watching for the coming fruit blossom.

"It's that time when a lot of things that were in the greenhouse are coming out and need to settle in," she said. "Everything is bursting forth."

The past year, she said, has seen a "bonkers" boom in gardening interest, with the RHS receiving some 800 applications for its 40 apprenticeship posts - more than ever before.

With people spending more time at home they have been enhancing their immediate environment, she believes, and finding they enjoy it.

For many families, it has also meant more time growing, and she has often heard "little voices" in the Harrogate gardens over recent months pointing out plants they now recognise.

Furthermore, she said, there is a massive interest in house plants as people brighten up kitchens and living spaces with a flush of green ferns.

"Many people have picked up this houseplant revolution, it's become very artisanal," she said. "It can really lift your spirits.

"Gardening can reach people in all situations - you can still grow sprouting seeds, chillis or tomato plants on a windowsill."

An RHS study with the University of Sheffield last year showed that adding plants to a paved front garden can reduce stress levels as much as eight weekly mindfulness sessions.

Recent Harvard research, meanwhile, has shown that 30 minutes of gardening can burn as many calories as playing badminton or practising yoga.

"Gardening can relieve depression and anxiety, it releases serotonin, gets the endorphins going, and it just feels good," said Ms Goding.

"It brings people together, whether it's discussing how your parsnips are generating or swapping seeds.

"There is a lot of pressure, to always feel like we're 'doing things', and this last year has given people permission, almost, to look at their gardens," she added.

"They have embraced it, and grabbed it with both hands."

FACTFILE

Under National Gardening Week, until May 2, the RHS is urging people to celebrate the power of green spaces, and take a few moments each day to connect with nature.

A daily dose can improve a sense of personal wellbeing, according to RHS director of science Prof Alistair Griffiths, while plants and gardens can make a difference to mental and physical health.

Among the ideas it suggests are to take a 'mindful moment' in green spaces, pausing to appreciate new green leaves or listen for birdsong and enjoy the scents of spring blooms.

It also suggests bringing the outside in, adding a leafy houseplant to desk or work areas, pepping up plates with homegrown herbs or salad leaves, and planting something to make you smile.