Garden Therapy

 "Our gardens are playing an increasingly important role in our lives, offering a place to escape from work, to relax and to play." - says Eve Hacking, Onolla's Gardening Editor


I’ve always felt my bones belonged outdoors and, after 20 years in TV and advertising, and a career I didn’t love, I finally took the plunge and retrained to become a garden designer.

Ironically, as a garden designer, I’m now more often found in front of my laptop designing London gardens, but I’m actually at my happiest outside, nurturing my seedlings and my soul.

My day job involves thinking about the shape, structure and functionality of outdoor spaces, but my real passion is the planting that brings those spaces to life. Whether its focal point is ornamental trees, architectural shrubs for structure or seasonal grasses and flowering perennials for movement and colour, it’s such a joy planning these spaces and seeing them flourish and thrive. 

At the moment, our gardens are playing an even more important role in our lives, offering a place to escape from work and devices, to reset, relax and play. But they are also a place to nurture and grow, to boost relaxation and confidence, and to experiment. My heart lifts a little from its winter gloom when I spy the first tulip leaves pushing their way through the soil in my garden – it’s a signal that the worst is over, winter is nearly done and the most positive and inspiring season is right around the corner. This year, we have needed that boost more than ever before, to harness the power of nature and the wonder of spring bulbs to lift our spirits and get us outdoors.

Eve’s tips

  • Colour can play such a role in our mood and bulbs can be used to paint a little early joy into our gardens at a time in the year when not much else is in flower. If you want some immediate pops of jewel-like colours, have a play with tulips. These are typically planted in late autumn, but it’s not too late to buy them ready potted from your local garden centre. Plant them randomly spaced, as Mother Nature would do around your garden borders, or if you’re tight on space, then layer different varieties and colours in large pots and watch them spring to life! Mix up the fresh tones of Tulipa ‘Spring Green’ with the more dramatic purple hue of Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’. 
  • If you’re keen on scent, then plant some paperwhite Narcissus, or if you want something taller, try Camassia with its star-shaped flowers of azure blue.  

  • Get the kids involved, too – give them their own small section of the garden to play with and let them choose some bulbs or and even some simple packets of seeds, such as sunflowers, carrots or Cosmos, which are easy to grow. It will get them away from their screens and out into the fresh air – and, trust me, they will love watching the progress as things shoot into life. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it just might give you the boost you all need.

  • For some Instagram inspiration, try following Dan Pearson, Sarah Price or Tom Stuart-Smith. 

  • For gardens to visit, check out the bulb displays at Great Dixter or see the kitchen garden at RHS Wisley. The National Garden Scheme has information on hundreds of private gardens open for visitors for charity near you. Don’t forget Monty Don is always available in Gardeners’ World on the BBC, and if you like a podcast, tune in to Gardeners’ Question Time each week or Gardening With The RHS for seasonal tips and advice

By Eve Hacking, Onolla's Garden Editor

photo credit: Annie Spratt