In today’s blog, Bev from Warwick Library shares her thoughts on the meditative power of gardening and how it can have a positive impact on mental health and well being. She takes us through her gardening exploits during lock down and the ways it has helped her.

Not everyone will be lucky enough to have access to outside spaces, allotments and gardens but even a window box or plant pot can help bring the outside inside and provide a focus during these unprecedented times. As always,  along with Bev’s thoughts about gardening, as this is a library blog and we want to encourage you to read for pleasure, there are a few book suggestions thrown in along the way too!


I can still remember ‘Gardening in Pyjamas’ by Helen Yemm coming into the library and my reaction to it. I exclaimed “that’s me” and then noticed the horrified expression on a colleague’s face and the “Surely not” that followed! But it is true – early morning is my favourite time in the garden. Before anyone else has risen, when everything is still so fresh and the birds singing is all you can hear.

It’s not serious gardening of course, just a bit of dead heading and pulling up of the odd weed that seems to have grown overnight – it is however often enough to muddy the bottom of my pyjamas!

(Unfortunately, Helen Yemm’s book isn’t listed in our BorrowBox collection so you will have to take my word for it for now that it’s a great book and one that you should be sure to look out for in the future – we have physical copies so when our libraries reopen and you can request items again, remember this one!)

I have always had a love of plants, flowers and gardening and as I have found myself unexpectedly back in my childhood home and garden due to lock down, it has become clearly apparent where this love stems from. I have been watching old cine films with my Dad and, in them, I am at little more than three years of age with my watering can and trowel. In another shot, I’m leading my Grandma to a row of lettuces, picking one out and proudly handing it to her.

There is a lot of talk about how gardening is good for the soul and our well being. For me, it is second nature to be out in the garden or on my allotment as much as possible. I love the idea of growing things, either to eat or to enjoy the beauty of the flowers, or to make the fruit into jam. I’ve always thought of it as my hobby – what I like to do – not really linking it to my well being. However, over the past few weeks I have realised just how much it is a need and that without a doubt it is what will have got me through lock down.

When I arrived here nine weeks ago, I planted lots of seeds and now many are ready to plant out. To nurture them, watch them mature, to feel the soil on my hands and then the absolute delight when the fruits or flowers appear – I don’t think there is anything more rewarding!

My Mum and Dad both spent a lot of time gardening, although their individual ideas about it were somewhat different. Mum liked more formal, well planted beds, while Dad’s attitude was more ‘lets see what happens’. It worked as Dad dealt with the vegetable side of our garden and the growing of many of the plants in his greenhouse, leaving Mum to do the planting out and weeding!

Since losing Mum, however, the garden has taken on a bit of a life of its own. When I arrived nine weeks ago, there were primroses and grape hyacinths everywhere, not in the neat controlled areas as it would have been under Mum’s watch, closely followed by an abundance of forget-me-nots covering most areas. They have now been replaced by beautiful yellow and orange poppies. Whilst these all looked very pretty, they, along with a number of weeds, were swallowing up some lovely azaleas and rhododendrons and so I set to work to find a happy medium, unearthing many of my Mum’s garden ornaments along the way.

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A few photos from Bev’s garden – the wealth of colour that has exploded over the last few weeks and a cheeky stone squirrel – one of the ornaments Bev mentions.

My love of all things gardening and floral overflows into my love of reading and I am always keen to read anything remotely garden-related. There are lots of books I wish I could share with you from our shelves in libraries but while they remain closed, I will share a few that you’ll have to wait to borrow as well as a few you can find on BorrowBox, as either eBooks or on eAudio.

Books listed on BorrowBox

A Gentle Plea for Chaos by Mirabel Osler

This eBook describes the way the author’s garden evolved and how, without meaning to do so, she let it take over her life. Part history, part memoir, part reflection on what gardening can mean and provide. Listed as an eBook.

Forgotten Fruits by Christopher Stocks

From the BorrowBox blurb: In ‘Forgotten Fruits’, Christopher Stocks tells the fascinating – often rather bizarre – stories behind Britain’s rich heritage of fruit and vegetables. Take Newton Wonder apples, for instance, first discovered around 1870 allegedly growing in the thatch of a Derbyshire pub. Or the humble gooseberry which, among other things, helped Charles Darwin to arrive at his theory of evolution. Not to mention the ubiquitous tomato, introduced to Britain from South America in the sixteenth century but regarded as highly poisonous for nearly 200 years. Listed as an eBook.

Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister

Mr Doubler knows his potatoes. But the same can’t be said for people. Since he lost his wife, he’s been on his own at Mirth Farm – and that suits Doubler just fine. A book that Marian Keyes called “extremely charming”. Listed as both an eBook and in eAudio format.

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Books to add to your list to revisit in the future (you’ll find physical copies listed on  our catalogue so you’ll be able to request them when our library buildings reopen)

Gardening in Pyjamas by Helen Yemm

This is a light-hearted, informative book with invaluable advice and encouragement to get you started .

The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn

If you’re after a fabulous historical novel, look no further. Following the lives of two women, one present day, the other over a century ago and the one mysterious flower that links them.

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We should also not forget the many brilliant gardens that feature in children’s books. Booktrust have compiled a list of just a few, including Peter Rabbit‘s garden, The Secret Garden and the Queen of Heart’s garden from ‘Alice in Wonderland‘. See what other gardens made the list here.

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Happy gardening!

If you are new to using our eBook/eAudio service, we have a ‘BorrowBox Basics‘ introductory video and a ‘Tips & Tricks‘ to help you explore the titles we have available.

When using BorrowBox, you can make various adjustments to the font, font size and background when reading an eBook and to the playback speed of an eAudio book to ensure that you have the optimum reading/listening experience.

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