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GARDENERS can create happy memories of holidays and get-togethers by using plants and accessories to recreate a time and place, says top horticultural influencer and broadcaster Ellen Mary, who co-presents The Plant Based Podcast with her friend and fellow gardening expert Michael Perry.
Here, Ellen tells us why she began to create memories pots using plants , how to try it yourself and why it is a mindful activity.
“I was at a recent houseplant festival and had a lot of houseplants to create a tabletop container.
“It just occurred to me that as I was planting it up it was bringing back memories for me. I asked the audience what the plants reminded them of.
“We ended up creating a crate of houseplants which reminded us of having cocktails in Las Vegas by the pool.
"We had a beautiful, bright orange orchid called ‘Las Vegas’, along with asparagus ferns, and we created this big botanical display of houseplants, including fittonia and little pilea, and when planted all together people were saying it reminded them of a cocktail.
“Then I started creating containers in my back garden for outside plants, picking plants which bring back lovely memories.”
Ellen suggests two approaches to try:
"Seek out happy memory plants: find plants which remind you of a happy memory and plant a container.
"Or use mindfulness to create that positive recollection. Just collect some plants and mindfully plant them up while considering what each plant might remind you of.”
And she offers these three memories pot suggestions:
l Mini kitchen garden
“I often talk about how the humble marigold reminds me of my uncle who got me into gardening when I was young. He had an organic kitchen garden, where the front half was laid to lawn and he used to plant masses of marigolds.
“I used to think, why does he only plant these orange flowers? I didn’t realise then that it was companion planting. I basically recreate that garden in a pot, with marigolds all around the outside, like he would, and then plant lettuces on the inside, creating a mini kitchen garden.
“I even have one that has one runner bean plant growing up a cane! Every time I go into that garden it reminds me of my uncle.”
l Wedding memories
“A lot of people have happy memories from their wedding bouquet. The bouquet might have contained peonies or roses or other bouquet flowers.
"You can create your wedding bouquet in a pot, because the majority of flowers which are in your wedding bouquet are available at that one time of year.
“You should be able to grow a peony or a container rose and add some foliage plants into it to make it look beautiful.
"Then every time you walk by it you will think of your wedding bouquet.
“The container doesn’t have to last a really long time. You could do it for an event or an anniversary and then plant the contents out in your border when you’ve really enjoyed them. It could just bring back a happy memory for a season.”
l Holiday fun
“We can grow plants here which we have seen on holiday. For instance, thinking of the Mediterranean, you could grow bougainvillea here in a big container, along with lavender and sage – a holiday pot.
“Why not add the accessory of a cocktail stick or an empty bottle of tequila to remind you of that big night out on your holiday?”
“For me, a lot of this isn’t just about planting up a display, it’s about remembering those happy memories as you are planting up and having that mindful time to touch and smell the plants and reminisce.
"When I smell marigolds, I literally feel like I’m in my uncle’s garden as a child.
“When I work with people on mindful gardening, you can almost guarantee that their memories go back to when they were a child.
"My mum always says that my dad took her daffodils when I was born, so when she sees daffodils she remembers the day I was born.”
Just make sure you place your memories pot close enough to your home to enjoy it, in a place where you’ll not only be able to admire the flowers but also be able to touch the leaves and smell those evocative scents, she advises.
Additionally, Organic September is the month which encourages us all to make planet-positive decisions – and luckily, there are some easy switches gardeners can do to help the cause.
Fiona Taylor, CEO at horticultural charity Garden Organic, says: “During Organic September we’re challenging gardeners to commit to a few small swaps that will make a big impact.
“We cannot afford to further deplete natural resources or use polluting sprays when tending to our gardens. Many of us don’t realise our sheds are full of harmful chemicals – or that our shop-bought compost contains peat.”
Taylor adds: “The theme of Organic September is ‘Nature has the answer’ which underpins our ethos at Garden Organic.
“Using peat-free compost and green manures will nurture the soil. Growing the widest possible range of plants will encourage birds, small mammals and insects, including predators of slugs and aphids. Transforming our food waste into compost will reduce our carbon footprint.”
The charity suggests these simple swaps:
l Ditch chemicals for organic pest control
If slugs and snails are an issue, don’t throw down slug pellets containing metaldehyde as these can harm beneficial wildlife.
Go down a more natural route, making your garden a welcoming habitat for hedgehogs, frogs and birds which will help you keep slugs and snails at bay. If you need extra measures, a layer of grit to cover the soil in your pots helps protect your plants.
When tackling aphids, swap chemical bug sprays for a strong jet of cold water to dislodge them. Birds and ladybirds feed their young on aphids. If you destroy the pest, you will endanger other species.
l Switch to natural plant food
Rather than using shop-bought liquid plant feeds, packaged in plastic bottles and transported to store, grow some comfrey and make your own from that. Comfrey leaves are full of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, all nutrients needed by growing plants.
l Make your own compost
Producing your own compost is free and easy to do at home, and reduces your carbon footprint.
l Sow organic seeds
Garden Organic recommends organically certified seeds. Alternatively, start saving seeds, which is easy. Peas are a great place to start; simply leave some healthy pods on the plants to mature and dry. Then pod them and store somewhere cool and dry.
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