Monday, 9 March 2015

Gardening with ME: lists

I'll confess that I'm a bit of a list person. I like writing lists then crossing things off. Not just for shopping, but also for managing daily life and work. At work in particular I use a spreadsheet to manage tasks, which I update at the beginning of each week. It's always nice to get to the end of a week and look over what I've got done. However, when it comes to gardening, pre-ME I didn't use lists that much. I generally knew what I wanted to do and let the months and seasons guide me.

But recently I've started making lists for gardening too. I came to the decision that I needed to start compiling gardening task lists, for two reasons. Firstly, I was finding that I couldn't as easily keep everything in my head as I did when healthy. Keeping lists in your head uses up quite a lot of cognitive resource energy. By writing a list I free up that energy for something else, such as cooking.

Secondly, I found I often felt upset at my perception of 'how little' I did in the garden. I would say "I only got x done" or "but I have so much else to do", with the implication I wasn't doing enough. This was of course being unfair to myself, expecting that I should be able to do and achieve (a bad word, I know, but apt in this context) the same as I did when I was a healthy gardener.

A list. Obviously.

Being constantly tired not only means I have less energy to do, but less energy to think about doing. Writing lists, crossing off a task, gives me a strong personal sense of achievement. In this case I'm using 'achievement' to mean respecting myself and the context within which my health is situated. In fact I've found crossing tasks off a list, no matter how small, adds to my joy of gardening again. Because now I think "wow, I'm getting a lot done given how little energy I have".

Quite often I add a task to the list after I've done it, and then cross it off immediately! I guess that may seem a little crazy, but it's actually about acknowledging all the work I do in the garden. Take 'sowing Brassicas'. On the surface what might seem simple and obvious isn't. I first have to dress appropriately, adding an extra layer as ME seems to have made me feel the cold much more than I used to. Then it's digging the seeds out of the seed box, unlocking the garage (my shed), getting out the pots and compost. Sowing, watering, putting the newly sown pots into the greenhouse. Tidying up, coming back inside, changing out of gardening clothes and having a rest. So if I hadn't included this task on my list before, I add it later to remind myself of the energy used, and respective value of, even a simple kitchen garden task.

Of course, sometimes it is nice to go out into the garden, throw the list to the wind and just potter. Yes, there are things I want to get done and ticked off, but one of the great joys of gardening for me is pottering. Whilst having ME has meant I have needed to be more focused with how and where I'm using my energy in the garden, it's also good for the ME soul to occasionally go into the garden and have a good potter about. It's nice to get things done (tick), but it's good on occasion to have enjoy some pottering freedom.

Sometimes pottering leads to, well, pottering

I hope to (will) return to health and do away with the gardening lists eventually. But until then, lists help me maintain a positive sense of what I get done in the garden, even within the limitations of a chronic illness. Now, I'll just go and tick off writing this blogpost from my other task list. Tick.

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I welcome your comments and thoughts. And if you blog about gardening with ME/a chronic illness, link to this post in your blog, and leave a comment below with a link to your post, so we can all find each other.

About Gardening with ME

Twitter hashtag: #GardeningWithME

Recent Gardening with ME posts...
  Gardening with ME: gardening in your head
  Gardening with ME: planning the kitchen garden year

Monday, 2 March 2015

End of month view: February 2015

The Long Shady Border from the back

After the Long Shady Border was covered in snow at the end of January, this is the first viewing of how it is looking at the end of winter, and my thoughts on how I might develop it further.

The Long Shady Border from the conservatory

As you can see from the picture above, it's a border of two halves*, and it's the shadier end (top photo) that is more interesting at this time of the year. This is because it has been planted with more evergreens. 

This includes grasses such as Carex testacea and Luzula sylvatica 'Marginata', ferns like Dryopteris erythrosora, an evergreen Epimedium (need to wait until it flowers to remind myself of which one), and a shrub of Sarcococca confusa, which smells wonderful every time I enter this part of the garden.

Damson Border

Next to this is the Damson Border, which has the variegated Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart' growing up the fence. I'm hoping this will take off even more this year and start spreading so that it adds a more colourful backdrop to ferns, sarcococca etc. Under the damson is pulmonaria and some bulbs which I hope to see flowering in March.

Down at the conservatory end the border doesn't hold a lot of interest at this time of year. It has lots of perennials like Astrantia, Tradescantia and Amsonia that are just awakening, along bulbs such as fritillaries, crocus and daffodils that are coming up. I've decided that I need to add some evergreens to this end to add interest and give the whole border a more holistic look. I'm going to add some part-shade loving ferns that like having wet feet, since this part of the border gets the overflow from the Bog Garden in the middle of the border.

The Bog Garden, intensely boring at the moment

After deciding on putting in a pond at the end of last month, I've changed my mind. As I started visualising the pond and the work it would entail I realised that it would be quite a lot of work digging out the area and putting it in. So when thinking about this and what other tasks that I'll have coming up, particularly in the kitchen garden, and measuring this against ME/energy levels, I decided against the pond. Instead I am going back to my original idea of making the whole area a bog garden.

This is going to include some ferns as I mentioned, and after much research, and thanks to Fibrex Nurseries for their advice (I'm putting in my order shortly), I've decided on Dryopteris dilatata, also for it's height of up to 1.5m, and more Dryopteris erythrosora. I'll also be adding some deciduous ferns including Athyrium nipponicum pictum and A. otophorum.

I have also moved Osmunda regalis 'Purpurascens' from the shadier end down to the Bog Garden, putting it in a pot as in the photograph above. I've do this in part as again, I want to build up some height in the border, plus it was hidden away in its previous place and I'm hoping that the height will also add to the pleasure of seeing it's purple fronds. As I cannot grow aconites in my acid soil, I've added a couple to the pot; you can just see the hints of gold if you look closely.

Thanks to suggestions from Angie in Edinburgh, I'm also going to add Primula beesiana, candelabra and vialii to the Bog Garden, along with yellow flag iris and Ragged Robin.

The Long Shady Border is just waking up from our cold snowy winter, and to finish are a few flowers and buds that I'm enjoying.

My first daffodil - flowering even though it has received no direct sun 

 Anemone blanda blue is about to unfurl

I discovered that the buds of  Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' start off furry

Ever delightful crocus (random variety)

So February has been mainly a thinking through and researching ideas and making decisions, not a lot in physical planting having been done. That's to come in March.

*See the January post for detailed information on how the aspect of the border changes as you move further away from the house.

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End of month view is hosted by Helen Johnstone, aka @patientgardener. Visit Helen's blog for her February 2015 EOMV and links to other bloggers EOMV posts.