The Connection Between Gardening and Happiness
In Season 3 of the TV series 'Ageless Gardens,' gardener Sue Ann Gentry, 65, says gardening is "the best thing you can do" to raise your spirits. Above, a photo of one of the gardens from the series. Photo: Mark Bradley
There seems no better time than the middle of winter — this winter, in particular — to start fantasizing about getting back out into the garden.
After all, gardening is one of the best activities for maintaining our well-being, says Sue Ann Gentry, who manages maintenance of the garden at Victoria’s James Bay New Horizons drop-in centre for seniors.
“I think being outside is the best thing. And I think for people’s spirit, gardening is about the best thing you can do. And so we stayed really positive,” she says of how gardening helped her and the centre’s seniors this past year.
Gentry, 65, is technically a bookkeeper for New Horizons, so the garden is purely a labour of love for her and a team of member volunteers. And the work didn’t stop when the pandemic hit.
“It was a place to go that felt safe. And you could think there and not worry about things. Just let go of anything that you were dwelling on,” she says. “And that’s what gardens give all the time — not just during this.”
She is just one Canadian gardener featured in the upcoming third season of Ageless Gardens, which debuts Monday, Feb. 15, on VisionTV (a ZoomerMedia property). Whether it be helping to tend multi-acre public parks or keeping multi-pot vegetable plots, the show explores the benefits of gardening — at any age.
For Gentry, the benefits include helping to build community — and confidence for GIYers.
As for growing it yourself, last spring New Horizons took part in a free seedling program, sponsored by the City of Victoria. In the new season of Ageless Gardens, Gentry can be seen encouraging seniors to grow their own food from the starter plants.
“I get a lot of calls and contact from people who want to grow food in the city. And there’s no way we have enough space — people are on wait-lists for years [for public gardens].”
Her advice? Pot it.
“I don’t even have a garden at home,” she tells me. “We have a deck and we grow blueberries and peas, Chilean guava … you can grow tons of stuff in containers. Almost anything you can grow, except for trees.” Then she adds, “But actually, we have a little lemon tree that we’re growing in a pot!”
Of course, Gentry believes public gardens, like the one at New Horizons, are also essential for connection.
“It’s an opportunity for people to connect. To just say ‘Hello’ or ‘That looks really nice’ or ‘I used to have a garden.’ We have a lot of conversations with people who used to have gardens and are feeling that loss — but they come there and enjoy it,” she says.
“We take these community gardens for granted. We think of them as a luxury, but they’re not. I think they’re necessary. To keep that human connection to nature.”