These are the dark times of the year. Dark mornings, dark evenings, cold, rain, grey skies for days on end. We now know that blue Monday is a thing;  That third Monday in January – the most depressing day of the year. More suicides happen in early January than any other time. It seems a long gloom-filled haul through to the increasingly unpredictable arrival of spring.

The garden is far from most people’s minds. Yet there is extensive evidence that gardens can be a real tonic and have a positive effect on depression, anxiety and stress.

Humble snowdrops and crocuses lift our spirits and whisper of warm days to come

Gardening is about the future

Those of us who are keen gardeners love to spend winter evenings browsing seed and bulb catalogues. By doing this you are transported to sunnier days – when your choices have been planted, tended and are now giving forth their glory.

However there are many who love a garden but don’t want to be doing with actual gardening. It can seem overwhelming, uncomfortable, mucky. There’s altogether too much weather. A garden is for sitting in with a nice cup of coffee and dreaming away the long warm afternoon.

We totally understand that and yet we still say how about giving it a go? The process of choosing, ordering and planting seeds, pricking them out and potting them on and finally planting them in the warming ground of spring is hugely beneficial. It’s a series of small tasks, each of which is simple to do, doesn’t take long and isn’t expensive. Yet each task contains within it the promise of the next stage, leading us gently on to the final fulfilment. The trick is to be modest in all of the steps. Have a small area of the garden you plan to plant in. Or a few pots on the front step. Pick only a couple of easy to grow plants. If you have space for a greenhouse look on local websites to buy a second hand one or get a small cheap one. You can get them from place like Argos for as little as £20. Or find a space on a table or windowsill and get a seed tray. Remember above all that it’s really easy to do.

Ring the changes

Others realise that these quiet weeks are the ideal time to plan and set off a garden overhaul. This is obviously more ambitious and time consuming but those who like to get stuck into a meaty project will enjoy this. There are plenty of online resources and of course, we can help – it’s what we do!

If you do choose to make this the year of redoing your garden then take time to think about how you can enjoy it in these gloomy weeks. Here’s some ideas:

  • Think about covered seating near the house, where you can nip out and enjoy the odd moment when the air is crisp, the sky sheer blue and the birds are singing.
  • Make sure you’ve got good walkways so you can stroll through the garden looking for signs of new growth, even when the ground is wet.
  • Find a small place near the house for a modest greenhouse.
  • Think about winter display plants that you can see easily from your kitchen window when at the sink or sitting at the breakfast bar. The wild pink of cyclamen singing out in the shade and damp will bring a lift to the lowest of moods.

The glorious coloured stems of dogwood bushes will lift your heart on the greyest of days.

  • Plan some bird feeders close to a favourite window – you can spend a happy half hour just watching Blue tits flitting back and forth. Maybe you’ll see the clownlike faces of Goldfinches, or the gorgeous little powder puffs that are Long-tailed tits.

Can you get a bird more cute than a Long-tailed tit?

  • Set up a small area of the garden as your own flower bed, or put some pots close to the door. Here you can plant out the seeds you’ve nurtured through these dull days. Put a hard area around your own small flowerbed (or pots) that you will plant out so that you can work even when the ground is soaking wet.

In all these small, modest ways your garden can bring joy, interest and hope to the dreariest of times. The story of the growth of your plants, chosen and nurtured by you, will keep you turning the pages of your life through to the sunny uplands of spring.

If you want to talk more with us about planning a garden makeover do get in touch.

To find out more about gardens and mental health just do an online search, there are a huge amount of excellent articles and websites out there.

Also BBC’s Winterwatch is back, their website gives some tips on how to help wildlife in your garden and follows one lady who sought help for her anxiety through whale watching – nature really can be restorative!

Our previous post on places you can find impressive drifts of snowdrops could give you inspiration for days out in February.