Published!

There are no words to describe the immense joy I feel about appearing in the My Real Garden book, alongside its creators Ann-Marie Powell and Tamsin Westhorpe, and the rest of the contributors in our My Real Garden community.

Writing a book is tough enough, but when you factor in the pressure of having to crowdfund the publishing costs, collating contributions and an impossibly tight deadline, it’s a miracle that we have it in our hands at all!

I have nothing but pride and admiration for what our community have achieved, together, for Greenfingers Charity. It’s a beautiful memento of a life-affirming year, and I am just so privileged to be bound together with you all.

When I began creating my garden, I never imagined that it would be leading a chapter on Tropical Retreats and the close connections it would bring me, be that on Instagram or the gardening community as a whole.

In these pages I take you on a journey through my garden and discuss my love of lush, architectural foliage, planting for pollinators, my passion for ponds and healthy, happy hedgehogs. I even share my tips for growing space-saving vegetables.

Compassion for my community shines through, be that my love for Leasowes Walled Garden or how a pandemic inspired the Plant a Thought project, launched to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

I am now part of a philanthropic phenomenon, where kindness is king and people in the community send you handmade bunting to help you celebrate this special occasion. WE DID IT!

The book will be exclusively launched through British Garden Centres Group. Retail outlet details can be found on http://britishgardencentres.com. It will go on general release through Amazon from 1st April 2021.

Your purchase will support Greenfingers – the wonderful UK charity that funds magical gardens in children’s hospices, giving life-limited children and their families precious time together.

2020: Covid, Creativity and Compassion.

As we leave 2020 behind us, I choose to approach 2021 ‘without fear’ – a mindset inspired by the title of the stunning Dermot Kennedy album, which I currently have on repeat. 2020 was never going to get off to a good start after losing a close family member, immediately before Christmas 2019, so I already had a sense of foreboding even before we knew that a global pandemic was about to induce panic and anxiety.

However, after developing and recovering from mild symptoms, just before the country went into full lockdown in March, some of those fears were allayed and I was able to resume work after a period of self-isolation. Others have not been so fortunate: lives and livelihoods have been lost, and many people face an uncertain future, so we must sit tight and continue to follow the rules until this modern-day plague packs its bags and does one!

It’s been heart breaking witnessing close friends and family struggle under difficult circumstances, but I’m proud of the strength they’ve exhibited and inspired in me. In the words of Bob Marley: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” In fact, it’s the strength of those close to me, my community and our keyworkers who inspired me to launch the Plant a Thought project, to bring about positive change.

Last, but not least, I cannot thank Ann-Marie Powell, Tamsin Westhorpe and the whole My Real Garden gang enough for the love and support they’ve all shown me since I dared to share my garden live, on Instagram, and found the most compassionate and creative community waiting for me at the other end. We’ve literally grown together, ever since, and I now have a zillion tulips to look forward to, come spring, thanks to their enthusiasm and encouragement.

To everyone who’s had my back, in 2020, thank you for putting a smile on my face during one of the most challenging, but life-affirming years I’ve had both the misfortune and pleasure to experience. I love you all. Happy New Year! ✨

Darren. X

Growing pains for growing gains

Lilium Acapulco

My pond is fast disappearing under a mass of foliage and duckweed. Even Buddha is beginning to berate me for his dwindling vista.

Neglect is neglect, but before you scold yourself for falling short of your self-imposed perfection, it’s worth remembering the bigger picture and that sometimes we have to take several steps back before moving forward, unabated, minus the nagging voice in your head.

The garden is thriving, in the main, thanks to my dedication during the drought, and a lot of encouragement from the foliage fraternity, who keep me inspired and in good company. So, while I reflect on the diverse plant life, which takes us somewhere between success and failure, I’m reminded that your last mistake is your best lesson.

Perfection is intolerant of mistakes and incapable of accepting flaws, but diversity is the result of flaws that have learnt to adapt into myriad forms. Thank heavens for imperfection! 

It’s #timetotalkday2018

Time To Talk

When you don’t get enough sleep it’s easy to let your thoughts run away with you and start focusing on the things that you thought you’d resolved and would otherwise have managed to let go of. Instead, you begin searching for something deep within yourself that doesn’t live there any more, rather than accepting that it’s gone. For some, it’s a bit like when you know you’ve left your cashback in the self checkout, but continue to open your wallet, hoping to retrieve it. For others, it’s an overwhelming sense of despair that you thought you’d learnt to live with, but returns, threatening your peace of mind and ability to function at any level.

Know that this emotion is common to many, even if the reason is unique, and that your affliction, physical or mental, is a valid cause for disappointment and a part of living with the sense of loss associated with grief of any kind. You can’t change what happened, but you can change the way that you respond to it and leave room in your heart for everyone and everything that comes your way. While reminding yourself of your vulnerability, also reflect on the strength that it took to recover from that experience, and the beautiful soul that’s been preserved as a result of your growth. You’ve come a long way, my friend; don’t turn back. We’ve got this!

Darren