As the claustrophobia of the lockdown begins to close in on us with restrictions preventing so many healthy outdoor activities, the value of our gardens as a place to reconnect with nature has become increasingly important.
According to a leading UK-based psychiatrist, author and keen gardener, Sue Stuart-Smith, a small patch of green, the size of a carpet or even a window box, can help us to ward off the worst effects of the lockdowns that are currently imposed by governments to limit movement to decrease the number COVID-19 virus infections.
“There is nothing more nurturing, providing food for the soul, than a well-landscaped garden,” says Cara Smith, founding director of renowned Western Cape landscape design company, Contours Design Studio (CDS).
“A garden, no matter how small, can nurture us during these times of stress, frustration and high anxiety,” says Cara.
“We all know that whatever time we can find to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds us is soul-sustaining. We are very fortunate in Cape Town to be able to see the many faces of our mountain from so many vantage points to remind us that nature is close at hand. Other parts of the country will have their own special nature spaces which their residents will draw on for soul food.
“Those of us lucky enough to have a garden know the pleasure that it can bring simply sitting back and enjoying what poet William Wordsworth called “nature bathing.”
This is supported by Sue in her book where she writes that in times of great upheaval, turning to nature can have an enormously calming effect on your state of mind.
At CDS says Cara, we try as much as possible to make use of the natural environment rather than to impose artificial “designs” on the landscape. We avoid endless lawns, brick paving, and overly formal to create as natural a look as possible.
“We need to visit our gardens at various times of day: morning, noon and evening; find a comfortable spot, clear our minds and listen to what nature and the immediate environment is telling us.”
“What does the wind whisper; how do sunlight and shadows play across the land; what about the soil underfoot and casting our eyes up; how can we absorb what we see and hear to nurture our state of mind?”
“As landscape designers, we need to be aware of the fact that in today’s fast-paced world, creating a design that blends with the contours, the moods and colours of the landscape in which our clients live and work, provides a “safe space” where they can feel totally at home – a nurturing space that feeds the soul – now more than ever in these extraordinary times.”
On Easter Monday, Andrew Marr talks to the psychiatrist and keen gardener Sue Stuart-Smith on our love for nature. In The Well-Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World, she blends neuroscience, psychoanalysis and real-life stories. She reveals the remarkable effects that gardens and the great outdoors can have on us. William Wordsworth was the great poet of the British countryside, celebrated for his descriptions of daffodils and the passing of the river above Tintern Abbey. But in a new biography, Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World, Sir Jonathan Bate shows how Wordsworth also made nature something challenging and even terrifying. The poet drew on shocking revolutionary ideas from the continent, including pantheistic atheism: the worship of nature.
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