Growing up there were two main topics of conversation around the dinner table – gardening and rugby union.
While I successfully tuned out to the male majority of the family discussing football (I still can’t tell you what a scrum half or lock is), the gardening talk wormedits way in; the long debates about the best variety of wisteria, the current state of black spot on roses. Fascinating.
There was no point resisting it - rugby I could escape, plants were everywhere. Certainly in the vast gardensurrounding the house that needed constant maintenance, but also in the family business, Heritage Gardens nursery, that my parents founded on the outskirts of Maitland.
We lived and breathed gardens.
Pre-school I was alottedmy first patch of earth, and had just as much fun planting vegies as I did creating fairy rings of stones around them. By primary school, I could correctly identify a good dozen flowers on spec.
And before long I didn’t want to avoid them.
Just like my grandmother who gardened well into her nineties, Mum would come in from an afternoon amongst the roses with spider webs in her hair beaming. “I couldn’t survive without a garden,” she would tell me. It was more than a hobby, gardening was… life for us. Wellbeing.
While managing a large nursery wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for my parents, it was for those who visited.
“You’re so lucky to work here,” customers would often say during the times I worked there casually. Although I grumbled they were right.
It wasn’t just a shop it was a garden, a place of beauty and inspiration, an opportunity to wanderaimlessly breathing deep the myriad fragrances, letting the busy mind untangle and unwind. I was proud of them for creating this gift to the community.
However when my sister and her husband decided to quit their jet-setting corporate jobs in Sydney to take over the business last year my scepticism was not inconsequential. This was a literal tree change of seismic proportions. Still, a year on and swapping the Gucci heels for blundstone boots seems to have suited Liv and Dwayne.
Although not without its challenges, Liv is surprised by how little she misses the high life.
“Once we had the opportunity to catch our breath, it has literally been a breath of fresh air.”
It’s great to see her young family thriving.
While I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of gardening on the mind, body and soul, it is only recently they are being more publicly lauded.
This weekend (March 7-8) sees Beyond Blue teaming up with independent garden centres around Australia for a ‘Releaf’ event - raising awareness about the physical and mental benefits of gardening.
At Heritage Gardens there will be mini-gardener sessions for kids, blue cupcake decorating, blue lemonade stalls, facepainting, bee hive demonstrations and free garden talks. As well as a gold coin donation to Beyond Blue, 10 per cent of anything ‘blue’ sold will go towards the cause.
If you can’t make the festivities, I encourage you to find a patch of garden and sink your hands into the earth. As a wall hanging at the nursery reminded me recently, “One is nearer God’s heart in a garden, than anywhere else on earth.”