Sarah Raven on combatting the January blues

Expert gardener and author Sarah Raven is a fierce advocate for spending time outdoors in nature to boost one’s wellbeing.

Sarah Raven carrying bunch of dahlias. Dahlia 'Urchin', 'Berner Oberland', Karma Fuchsiana', 'Bishop of Llandaff', 'Mambo', 'Bacardi' and 'Karma Choc'
credit: Photography © Jonathan Buckley

It’s no secret that spending time outdoors can considerably improve mental wellbeing. Health professionals acknowledged this fact by introducing social prescribing to the NHS’s long-term plan in January 2019, with the aim for at least 900,000 people to be referred to a relevant programme by 2024.

Raven shares her own thoughts and tips on how to cultivate wellbeing through being outdoors amongst nature, garden planning, enjoying the fruits of your labour, and creating a truly serene space. Since moving to Perch Hill 30 years ago, she has carefully curated various spaces for quiet reflection, alongside busier areas teaming with wildlife that are a feast for the senses.

Being outdoors amongst nature

“I find the briskness of this time of year really cleansing. A few deep breaths of cold, fresh air always help to make me feel somewhat renewed. I find that I can reset my mind, let go of my worries, and reduce my anxiety levels just by being outside. There are always the calls of nature to listen out for to bring my mind back to the present moment. One of my favourite things to do is listen closely for the sound of birds, it’s quite a wonderful tonic, one that I would highly recommend.”

Garden planning

“The early months of the year are the perfect time to start planning your garden projects. There’s something about the planning process that gives me a sense of purpose, and if you like the idea of a full and bustling garden, there are a few jobs that can be done now. I use this time to plan my garden, work out good combinations and planting schemes, bed in any bare root plants, and tend to my roses. I also dig out the mountains of catalogues and settle down with sticky notes to bookmark pages I love. Planning for the year brings a sense of excitement for what’s to come and I’m filled with anticipation for the months ahead, something I find to be a real wellbeing booster.”

Enjoying the fruits of your labour

“The sense of achievement and accomplishment that occurs when the fruits of your labour start to sprout is something that will never grow old. I feel a real sense of pride when I step outside and see my Perch Hill garden thriving with different colours and textures, and when we have a successful plant trial, I couldn’t be happier. I love our borders to be jam-packed, as you might get in nature, which is why I have a real love for the visual results of plant trials.”

Creating a serene space

“The sense of calm that washes over me when I enter the Farmhouse Garden at Perch Hill is something unbeaten. The soft pinks, mauves, blues, and the delicious scent from the various perennials immediately rest my mind and bring me back to the present. I think it’s important to have an area of outside space where you can go to rest and relax, and I find a few moments spent in the Farmhouse Garden works wonders for my mood. The flowers that I find most soothing and bring me the most peace are tulips, they are just everywhere at Perch Hill in springtime! If you don’t have room to plant them, you can pot them and dot them around for additional bursts of colour.”

Headline image photography © Jonathan Buckley.