the healing power of gardening
Lucy Belsey was always a keen gardener, but it took a devastating accident to remind her it was not just a job, but fundamental to her emotional wellbeing
As a child, Lucy Belsey was always in the garden, learning from her mum about the different plants and pottering around in the sunshine.
Those special early years unwittingly fostered a life-time passion for gardening – and became something which would guide her and bring joy through the toughest of times.
“My mum was always a very keen gardener and taught me most of what I know about gardening,” says Lucy. “At school I wanted to become a theatre nurse, but when my mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and sadly died when
I was 17, I suddenly felt that wasn’t the path I wanted. I wanted something I could connect with, something I was passionate about and meant
something, and that was gardening.”
She studied horticulture and garden design at college, and after spending a few years working in the corporate environment, she felt it was time to pursue her lifelong ambition to launch her own garden design business.
Last year, Lucy set up Lucy’s Garden at Surlingham and within the first year found herself exhibiting at the Royal Norfolk Show, winning gold for her incredible garden.
“I had thrown absolutely everything into my show garden and wanted it to be perfect, to prove that yes, I can do this. It was an amazing response and I suddenly found myself incredibly busy.”
But then in September, Lucy suffered a horrific accident playing hockey – shattering her shoulder, breaking bones and requiring three hours of surgery which required several months of recovery.
Unable to drive and in great discomfort and pain, she says she struggled sleeping and as the winter nights pulled in, she began to struggle.
“The consultant said the injuries were like those usually sustained in a car accident. It was a completely freak accident. The sport, along with gardening, had got me through some very traumatic times, like losing my mum, and suddenly I couldn’t do that or work. I definitely got a little bit lost.”
Her recovery left her feeling isolated and struggling with her mental health. It was during one of her rehabilitation appointments when her therapist
likened the recovery of the human body to gardening – the need for nurturing, love and optimal conditioning – that she began to move forward.
“I tried to remember what brought me into gardening in the first place and that was the joy of growing and nurturing things with a purpose, of learning to appreciate the little things, that’s what my mum did with me. It was winter, but there was still so much to take joy from.
“Gardening isn’t always about the physical activities, like digging up weeds or cutting the grass, it is about being mindful of its journey throughout the seasons. The benefits to your mental health can be extraordinary and I want people to see their garden as a place to aid their wellbeing and that it is easy to incorporate things to help that, whatever its size,” she says.
“Sometimes we need to step back from our busy lives, and get outside in the garden, even if it is just for five minutes while you drink your coffee. It is a great way to escape those stresses.”
Lucy has played hockey since the age of seven, playing in the national league for Harleston Magpies. She will need further shoulder surgery this month, but this, she says, is a positive step.
“This operation will try to improve the range of movement I have as it is only about 50% at the moment. I really miss hockey and initially my reaction was to remove myself entirely from the club, like ripping off a plaster, I didn’t want to be there, but now I think you never know what might happen in the future.”
The accident has impacted her work, but she says thankfully she works with a landscaper who can do the difficult physical side.
“I could probably bumble along, but I want more than that. I want to be able to dig a hole and plant a tree, I like to get my hands dirty.”
‘I tried to remember what brought me into gardening in the first place – the joy of growing and nurturing things with a purpose’
Read Lucy’s gardening blog at lucysgarden.co.uk