Well, I will be honest, I was going to talk about watering today. The seemingly unending sunshine led me naturally down that path…….a path that is now almost flooded!! When it is raining this much my friend will tell you it is 'bouncing knicker high!'
It feels irrelevant, maybe even a bit cruel to mention watering right now so let’s think about sunnier topics – summer flowers.
This time of year, most of us are knee deep in lobelia and marigolds, planting up our seasonal pots and hanging baskets, preparing for the ongoing battle with the slugs (and yes, daily watering). We can make this easier on ourselves, creating more time to spend with our loved ones and quite frankly saving some money in the long run.
Take a look at what you are growing in your pots and baskets. Some of those bedding plants could be replaced with something more permanent or even productive, while still giving you some fabulous colour throughout the summer.·
Maybe some perennials, things such as lavender, small hebes, ornamental grasses or, depending on the resident slugs in your garden, try some hostas.
You could be even more bold and include some herbs, miniature vegetables and fruit. Nothing beats walking past a hanging basket and picking the strawberries that trail from it. (although the first time I did this I was working in a garden centre and I got into trouble!)
Summer flowering bulbs can be left in your pots all year round. There are some beautiful varieties of dwarf gladioli and allium.
Maybe choose plants for their attraction to butterflies and bees.
A trip to the garden centre to choose the plants (and have some tea and cake of course) is the best part of the process. If possible go together and make it a trip out rather than a ‘to do’ job.
You can then infill the gaps with traditional bedding plants, reducing your work and your costs each year. More importantly, this job becomes less of a chore. Anyone who finds gardening more difficult now or simply concentrating beyond a few minutes at a time challenging, can get involved with creating these pots.
If you are caring for a loved one with dementia the temptation can be to just complete a task for them if they seem to be finding it difficult. Sometimes we need to just adjust how we do that task and our priority regarding the outcome. For instance, if they are struggling with planting up a container –
1. Lay out just the resources you need for the first step, eg, the pot and some compost. Allow them to use the method that they are most comfortable with to put the compost into the pot. It might be quicker to use a scoop, but if they prefer to use their hands and are doing the job slowly, that is more than alright. Use the time to just enjoy each other’s company, comment on the garden etc.
2. When you are ready to start putting in plants, remove the compost out of the way and put the plants up one by one. Explore the senses engaged by each plant – does it have a fragrance? Taste the herbs. How do the leaves feel?
3. As each plant is put in place in the pot or basket, bring the next one to the table until the pot is finished.
4. Return the compost to the table if needed to top up.
(This idea is just a suggestion; you will know each other well enough to know how much support is needed.)
The aim of this task is not to produce prize winning containers, it is about spending time
together, and wherever possible enabling the person with dementia to complete it independently. At a time in their life when they are potentially feeling a little useless or frustrated, this is the perfect opportunity to show just how much they still can do and allow them the chance to feel they have achieved something, because they have. It is also a great time to just be together, side by side, enjoying each other’s company as husband and wife, father and daughter etc. rather than person with dementia and carer.
I often spend time within the groups that I run or visit, planting up pots with those affected by dementia. My favourite feedback, that thankfully I hear frequently, is either “It was nice to spend time together and it not be about the dementia, for a while, I was simply his wife/her son,” or “ I didn’t think I could garden anymore, but I can.”
Most of the conversations I have with these groups can get quite cheeky, so maybe I won’t share that here! Let’s just say that there is usually more laughter than gardening going on…….don’t worry folk, your secrets are safe with me.
I have just finished preparing this blog, and of course, the sun is now shining!! Maybe next week we can chat about watering.....