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Finding hope in nature

One bright side of lockdown is at least it came in spring time. Seeds keep sprouting, new leaves keep unfurling, flowers keep blossoming, and day by day, we can go outside (for our daily exercise), close our eyes, hold our faces towards the warmth of the sun, and feel the hope of spring in the air.

Since we all need a little bit of positivity right now, we recently reached out to a few of our gardening friends – designers, writers, florists and shopkeepers – and asked them how plants, gardening and nature are providing peace and comfort through isolation. Here’s our lockdown despatch, gathered from gardeners nationwide. We hope it inspires you to look after yourself, and your plants, today.

Symmy, L’appartement co-founder

I was currently in the process of moving in, but that has halted. Which meant my house plants have had to be put into one corner. So I turned it into my ‘Plant Corner of Peace’. Plants already give me a sense of calm, but even more so now that I’m surrounded by them daily. This is also the best time to repot them so ‘IF’ I can get them delivered, I’ll make my own potting mix comprising of coco coir, pumice, orchard bark, activated charcoal (horticultural), worm castings, mosquito bits and shell on earth crushed shells. Fingers crossed!

Franky, L’appartment co-founder

The green carers. My plants are standing still, healthy and beautiful as ever no matter what. Uplifting everything they lean on.

I am thinking I am not in isolation, but I am doing an installation.

While taking pictures, and writing notes, storyboarding set design and photoshoots; I realised my indoor greenery are memories of landscapes as well as the land of dreams and creativity.

They are a perpetual reminder of the outdoor beauty, precious treasure that I brought back in. Each of them is a reminder of times, locations, people that I met, conversations that I had. My plants in my isolation are an infinity of creative possibilities by entertaining the space and the mind.

L’appartement are opening a new plant shop in Peckham soon. Follow them on Instagram for updates: @lappartementbytheyard

Ula Maria, Garden Designer

It probably won’t come as a surprise that being locked indoors can be pretty distressing for someone as addicted to getting their daily dose of ‘nature fix’ as me. The tiny bit of outdoor space that we have at the back of the apartment has become a true lifeline. There’s just about enough space for a small planter which, I must admit, I have neglected during the winter months.

The last time I planted something in it was July, when I came back with a single Lilium ‘Easy Vanilla’ bought at the Columbia Road Flower Market. As seasons turned I forgot I ever planted it until a week ago when five new plants emerged reaching for the sunshine on the first day of the spring solstice – a much needed promise of better days to come. I’ve been checking up on it every morning since. Now is the perfect time to plant something, no matter how small…It will bring you more pleasure than ever expected, I promise.

Ula Maria’s new book Green: Simple Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces is out now
Follow Ula on Instagram: @ulamarija

Katie Smyth, Worm co-founder

One of the reasons myself and Terri started Worm was because we simply both love flowers. Worm has always been massively inspired by the wild flowers which grew around us in both our family gardens off the coast of Ireland.

Now that we have had to close our studio for a while, I have been lucky enough to spend some time in my own garden here in London. My garden was overgrown and needed a lot of care and attention. But, with a few days of pulling up weeds and cutting back hedges, a beautiful little sanctuary has appeared. Having this time and doing the physical work has kept me and my housemates sane, giving us a sense of accomplishment.

Sitting outside together in our new space has helped us all feel less claustrophobic and able to manage our anxiety better in this weird time. It’s like another very airy and bright room has been added on to our house. It feels nice to return to the garden. We are lucky to have a garden, as I know so many people don’t.

I think even going on a walk and picking a few stems along the way to bring into your house can really help bring the outside in. I have picked a few stems from the garden and put them in some little vases which are dotted around my house.

In a time of such uncertainty, returning to nature, appreciating it and surrounding yourself with it as much as you can feels like something we can all do in some way. Seeing the beauty in a world that feels very broken is comforting. It is after all Spring, the flowers are blooming, and we too will bloom again.

Follow Worm on Instagram: @wormlondon
Discover Worm’s installation at British Flowers Week 2019: watch our video recap

Matt Collins, Garden Museum Head Gardener

Contending with the current crisis has meant quickly adjusting to unimagined alterations in daily life and routine. But I’ll focus instead on the positive stuff.

Firstly, I haven’t grown seeds on my window sill in years — I forgot how satisfying it is to see seedlings appear in the living room over night. There are a few particular plants I was set on growing this year, like red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), so I’m sowing them at home.

Secondly, the timing could have been worse. Being mid spring there is undoubtedly more going on outdoors than at any other time of the year. This means that, during our permitted exercise breaks, we witness almost daily change in the plants and animal activity of our local parks, neighbourhood gardens, woods (if you’re one of the lucky ones), heaths and commons. Even the city street weeds are making a bid for freedom amidst reduced municipal maintenance! These outdoor breaks might be brief, but I’m finding them less chaotic and hurried than they usually are. Home confinement is also making me pay more attention: to the woven pink and mauve of new-leaf cherry plum trees; how well blue alkanet compliments bright yellow dandelion, flowering together in a neglected garden; seeing golden saxifrage carpeting boggy parkland with its remarkably tiny yet pretty blooms. Even the nighttime foxes audibly flouting social distancing regulations somewhere a few roads away.

I’m finding it helpful to tune out of the news, whenever I can, and into something as monumentally distracting as the natural world.

Follow Matt on Instagram: @museum_gardener

Alice Vincent, Writer

I’ve always loved the fact my little flat opens up onto woodland. It’s a view that is wholly unexpected, that takes everyone by surprise when they walk in the door. I know it’s coming, of course, but never exactly. It’s impossible to predict quite how the light will be falling through the trees, or what birds – treecreeper, bluetit, woodpecker, nuthatch – will be on the branches. During lockdown, this view isn’t just the treat in the morning over breakfast or what I come home to at night, but the constant backdrop to work, rest and play. It has helped to calm me and keep grounded while everything else spirals beyond recognition. I tune into new things, instead. The routine of dawn chorus and afternoon suntrap. I feel very lucky.

Alice’s book Rootbound: Rewilding a Life is out now
Follow Alice on Instagram: @noughticulture

Zena Alkayat, Bloom founder

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I have a big oxalis plant on my desk, right next to my keyboard. She wakes up with me as I turn the computer on and folds up at about the time I can’t look at the screen any longer. Flowers are shooting up now and there’s lots of new growth. It’s more of a joy than usual to share my space with her and feel that very ordinary, but somehow miraculous, rhythm and movement as the day passes.

Bloom is a modern magazine for gardeners and nature lovers: www.bloommag.co.uk
Follow Bloom on Instagram: @bloom_the_magazine

Victoria Gaiger, rakesprogress editor

We are lucky to have a big garden so there’s always lots to do to keep on top of it and usually we are too busy to do much so I have plenty of weeding and repotting to do. I have also been making small ikebana style arrangements for the past week and photographing them. I’ve asked our rakesprogress followers to do the same.

An Ikebana a day (#ikebanaaday #rakesprogress) is our latest project – a way to stay in touch with our readers and followers. It’s a way to give a small amount of time a day to create a flower arrangement picked from your garden or foraged on your daily walk – pop it into a vase a bowl, a recycled bottle, a jar, hang it from a wire, balance it on a stick. You can see some of the results already here. I’ve been adding some of them onto our website every day. I really hope that when this all comes to an end we can exhibit them.

rakesprogress magazine is an independent magazine and journal which looks at the outside world, reconnecting us with the nature through the eyes of artists. See the Ikebana a Day project
Follow rakesprogress on Instagram: @rakesprogress

Young Fronds

This article was originally published in our Young Fronds newsletter, sent out to members of our free under 35s membership scheme.

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