Geoff Stonebanks working in his Driftwood garden

My garden haven

I think if anyone had asked me what my garden meant to me 18 months ago, I would probably have answered in a different way than I would today! Back then, I guess I saw it as a fantastic hobby, albeit all-consuming and the bonus was it made money for charity too. 

Fast forward to February 2021, after the challenging 12 months most of us have had, methinks the garden tells a very different story!

2020 started off well, lots of garden events planned, charity fundraising ideas in the planning, garden groups booked to visit. All that started to fade overnight. The love I have of sharing my garden with visitors, through open days and private visits was gone in an instant! Whilst the build-up to an open day can be very stressful, baking cakes time consuming, ensuring the garden looks its best and securing volunteers to help on the day takes time, the actual open days were very rewarding to me and in some ways quite calming. Visitors love to see the plot, chat about their own gardens and ideas they might take away from having seen mine. I find all that quite therapeutic, to know others can learn from what I have done at Driftwood, it is simply quite rewarding! One of the key things I have missed over the last year has been this interaction with visitors, on all levels. 

Those of us that are lucky enough to have a garden (or any outdoor space, no matter how small) soon realised what they were doing for our mental health, even if we had perhaps not truly cottoned on before the pandemic! My own situation was that my partner and I were caring, in our own home, for my 93-year-old Mother, who was deemed extremely vulnerable. She relies on the use of a zimmer frame which got her to the dining room garden door, then we helped her out to her favourite spot in the garden, where she would happily enjoy the view, the ambience, the fresh air and the company of Chester, our rescue dog! We too were eternally grateful, as was she, for my garden haven! Whilst none of us were able, or chose not to leave the house (other than for medical reasons) the garden became a real sanctuary for us all. We have still not set foot in a shop since March last year! 

Mum enjoying her favourite spot in the garden with Chester for company.
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the fine weather and access to “my garden haven” kept us all sane! As the summer wore on and the lockdown ended, the rules allowed us to meet with other households in open spaces, which meant that friends were able to enter the garden and sit, socially distanced, to pass the time of day with my Mum too. I had made the conscious decision back in March not to open Driftwood to the public at all last year. The main reason being its size just would not have facilitated large (or small for that matter) numbers of visitors being able to socially distance themselves from each other.

Friends visiting the garden after lockdown, staying socially distanced from Mum.
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

On the days the weather was not that kind to us, or even on lovely summer days too, I always had the amazing view of my garden from the office window in the loft area of the house. My desk is adjacent to the balcony window I had installed back in 2016 and it is especially pleasant to sit at my desk on a warm summer day and look out over the amazing space. I find it particularly relaxing to sit there and write and enjoy the wonderful fresh air into the bargain!

Geoff Stonebanks working at his desk overlooking Driftwood garden
Enjoying the view of the garden even when working. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Pandemic or not, there is nothing more relaxing, for me at any rate, than to spend a few hours pottering around in the garden. It’s always a time-consuming job to keep the garden fed and watered each year and as can be seen from the pictures, the results gained from over 5 years use of Flower Power has not gone unnoticed! I’m certainly not short of things to do most years but in 2020 my garden haven proved beyond all doubt its ability to aid mental health, calm things down and allow us to enjoy the beauty of plants and the fresh air.

Geoff sat in the garden at Driftwood
Taking time out to relax and enjoy the beauty of the garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

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