Sunshine, food and medicine

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”
Luther Burbank, Botanist & Horticulturalist 1849-1926

Breast cancer and mastectomy are big parts of this blog, but I also want to write more about flowers and seeds and all things horticultural. It’s these little beauties that are aiding my recovery and helping me to move forward in my life.

On those days when I feel miserable or angry or frustrated (and there are more than a few of those at the moment) I find that if I go out and play in my garden these feelings abate, if only for an hour or so. There’s nothing like getting my hands dirty whilst filling pots with compost and coaxing my little seedlings into their next larger temporary homes. If only the weather would improve… a refrain heard in gardens, polytunnels and greenhouses up and down the country.

So, what have I been doing since I sowed all of those seeds? They really loved their home on the heated mats and under the growing lights and grew fast. So much so that I’ve moved them outside. They seem desperate to be planted out into the ground but it’s much too cold for that just yet, and they’ll have to stay in their little pots and seed cells for another couple of weeks.

As I don’t have a greenhouse or even a cold frame my little babies are currently stored in 64 litre clear storage boxes. I can fit two 60 cell trays into each box and they seem very happy in there. Lids come off during the day if it’s not raining… hmm, not much of lids off then recently! Lids go back on at night as protection against low temperatures. When the sun shines, they really do grow vigorously. It’s just that there hasn’t been a lot of sun so far this Spring.

For those of you who are gardeners or love flowers, these are what I have sown so far: Sweet Peas, Cosmos, Bells of Ireland, Snapdragons, Gypsophila, Ammi Majus or Bishop’s Weed, Cornflowers and Poppies. As soon as the risk of frost is past, April 24th in Rickmansworth apparently, the temperature has risen, and I’ve finished weeding my little patch they will be planted in the ground.

Joining them will be all manner of other flowers which I’ll sow directly into the soil. I love that part of growing flowers. It’s actually addictive. I never get past the excitement of seeing the first tiny shoots appear. It seems incredible to me that that little seed contains everything necessary for it to grow into a wonderful blooming flower that will bring so much joy and wonder to me.

Dahlia tubers potted up

I’m hoping that Dahlias are going to be the stars of my cutting garden this year and I’ve been busy dividing the tubers and trying to make them think that it’s Spring, despite the cold. A couple of weeks ago I potted about 50 tubers, which I had divided myself, and to my delight and quite a lot of amazement, about 12 of them have sprouted. A small hit rate I know, but I’m thrilled with them so far. They’re all outside now underneath the remnants of my plastic green house, so they’re well protected from the cold. Today I potted some tubers that I bought from Sarah Raven, the goddess of cut flowers! They included three Café au Lait tubers which I’m told are the must have Dahlias – or at least they were last year!


Sweet pea seedlings

I really am learning all of this flower growing business as I go along, with much reference to YouTube videos and articles in the RHS The Garden magazine. There’s always something to learn, and new growth happening on the plants, every day.

For me, it’s a bit like learning to live again after breast cancer. I’ve put my life back together gradually, one day at a time, learning as I go along. I’ve made real and virtual connections with other women who’ve had breast cancer and they’ve helped me to look at different and new ways of living. I’ve listened to self help podcasts and meditation apps. Some days it seems really easy and I don’t have a care in the world; on others it’s a struggle and I just want to curl up in bed and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy.

I’ll never stop learning about gardening, and I’ll never know all of the answers to how to live a happy healthy life. What I do know is that gardening and flowers make me feel good & I need good in my life.



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