Make time for what you love

With work, gardening, friends and family, my life can quickly be filled with wonderful things but it often means the seemingly less important pastimes get reduced. How can I explain to my loved ones that I need to spend time on my allotment or revising over seeing them… again? It never goes down particularly well and I feel so guilty about it that more often than not it’s horticulture that I drop first.

Me with that week’s cut flowers from my allotment.

This year I’ve taken on too much, what with setting up my design studio alongside a demanding job in education, studying,  writing, weddings and two NGS open days, seeing my friends, visiting family. It’s felt like a treadmill – a very fun treadmill admittedly. I’ve spent no time at all just sitting and dawdling in our own garden this year. The allotment and garden have been chores – a to do list of planting, watering, supporting and harvesting. The opposite of what they’re supposed to be.

Of course, I haven’t helped matters by adding amateur botany and wildflower hunting to the mix. Yesterday I went looking for the last native orchid to flower in the year, Autumn Lady’s-tresses, Spiranthes spiralis. I’d been down in Brighton for the week and felt like I should be spending time with Chris having not seen him for a few days. Burning in the back of my mind however was my last opportunity of the year to see our wild orchids in flower, having missed most of them this year due to all my commitments.

Spiranthes spiralis, Autumn Lady’s Tresses, one of our smallest native orchids and one of the most beautiful plants I’ve ever seen. Finding one was a magical moment.

Thankfully Chris knows when I need to get my head sorted before I do and said I should go. So off I trotted feeling guilty about not seeing him, not sorting the garden, not going to the allotment, not doing everything else…

An hour later and I was in the countryside marching toward rare chalk grassland meadows through ancient woodland. The stress that had been building up snapped and I felt relaxed and my head was returning to normal given the space to process everything that has been going on.

The point is I suppose, that like many people, I get stressed when I can’t resolve or finish something. You don’t realise it but in the back of our heads is a subconscious todo list that manifests itself in feeling overwhelmed without you understanding why it’s happening or what that feeling is.

Our garden is not just a place to look pretty and filled with colour, it represents me and is the result of much time and thought. Its look has a really deep meaning for me linked to dealing with stress.

Having a pastime is not just a fun activity, it’s ‘you’ time and a break in the treadmill that gives you not just a breather but time to form a plan of action for the next sprint.

In life you have to make time for the things you love, not just for you but because by looking after yourself, you’ll handle everything else better, improving your time with everyone else. People talk of gardening being good for health, and it is, but I’m learning that it’s more about the time and space than the activity itself, at least for me.

How you guard this time I don’t know, but perhaps by talking about its importance the next time you or I say we have to do some gardening or go for a walk, perhaps there will be a mutual understanding that that time is perhaps as important as everything else.

Photo of me in the garden this week taken by Chris, I can see I look tired and this was the only 3 mins I spent out there all week.
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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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