Painting with plants


In the week that the colourfest that is Chelsea Flower Show is filling our tv screens, its seems appropriate to wax lyrical about my new love – gardening!  For almost a decade, I’ve made do with (at best) a scruffy turf-patch and (at worst) an overgrown bomb-site as a “garden”, although the plan to “do something about it” has been cooking on the slowburner for years.  Two years ago, the new fence went up and the horrible, thorny shrubs (mainly pyracantha) were completely removed, the out-of-keeping cordyline australis taken out.

Last year, the long hard slog (having come up with a working design) of reshaping the borders and digging in tonnes of manure took up most of the summer months.  This year, finally, I got to “play” with my blank canvas, planning schemes of colour, texture and scent to fill its empty spaces and making the most of its limited dimensions by introducing illusions of depth, “secret” seating areas and complimentary structures of willow, wood, stone and metal to complete the picture.

After weeks of writing lists and sourcing plants, and with a certain amount of impatience brewing, I finally set to work in the spring of this year and found – to my joy – that gardening has much of the same appeal as painting; its all colour and composition, only working in the 3D and with more requirement to be able to imagine the finished result as this is generally not instantaneous but requires faith and patience.  I have also found that kneeling in the dirt and spending long hours planting, structuring and weeding takes me to a similar place as my painting, where I become lost in – not thoughts – rather “the zone” and come away feeling zen-like and calm, like I’ve had hours of the most productive therapy possible.

After all that – and as if that wasn’t enough – the most delicious part is yet to come, when plants tentatively positioned fill out, grow tall and hardy and then come into bloom, bringing all the satisfaction of feeling vindicated in decisions to place that over there, this over here, those two plants next to each other and so on. Already the garden has attained a certain maturity as tulips have been replaced by aliums and poppies and the sheer fullness of the border makes it look as though plants have been here forever.

The feeling that the garden has become another room, part of the house, or a continuation of it, is one of the best outcomes and the sheer enjoyment of strolling around just noticing the changes is priceless (quite aside from the daily “therapy” I am still getting as I spend time weeding and watering, tying things up and, yes, fighting off attacks of aphids and caterpillars).  Finally, it would seem, I have found somewhere within myself the family gardening gene; but it occurs to me its not an entirely new development, its just painting with plants!

About Helen White

Helen White is a professional artist and published writer with two primary blogs to her name. Her themes pivot around health and wellbeing, expanded consciousness and ways of noticing how life is a constant dance between the deeply subjective and the collective-universal, all of which she explores with a daily hunger to get to know herself better. Her blog Living Whole shines a light on living with high sensitivity, dealing with trauma and healing from chronic health issues. Spinning the Light is an extremely broad-based platform where she elucidates the everyday alchemy of relentless self-exploration. A lifetime of "feeling like an outsider" slowly emerged as neurodivergence (being a Highly Sensitive Person with ADHD, synaesthesia, sensory processing challenges and other defecits overlapping with giftedness). All of these topics are covered in her blogs, written from two distinct vantage points so, if you have enjoyed one of them, you may wish to explore the other for a different, yet entirely complimentary, perspective.
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