Christine Wilkie is a former PR professional who re-trained as a garden designer. Here she talks about how gardening can be a wonderful way to de-stress.

Christine Wilkie is a former PR professional who re-trained as a garden designer. Last year she garnered her first show garden award as the 2013 Grand Designs Live London Garden Designer of the Year, a competition judged by Mr Grand Designs himself, Kevin McCloud. Here she talks about how gardening can be a wonderful way to de-stress.

When I was bitten by the gardening bug it was primarily a case of weeding and digging while trying not to kill anything that looked vaguely decorative. Then I realised just how relaxing a spot of gardening could be, and in time what began as a hit-and-miss hobby would eventually turn into a new career. Although I now spend the bulk of my time designing other people’s gardens, I still relish spending as much of my spare time as possible pottering in the garden. Why? Because gardening is restorative. It’s a great way to escape the pressures of everyday life, recharge those batteries and reconnect with nature.

So, is it time to get some ‘horticultural’ therapy? According to the experts, a regular spell of gardening can actually extend your life and keep you fit. Yes, it’s official. Just three hours of moderate gardening will burn up a similar amount of calories to one full-on hour in the gym. And if you’re normally tied to your desk, then a dose of fresh air outdoors will also work wonders for your mood, blow away the cobwebs and generally deliver a sense of well-being. 

But what if you don’t have green fingers I hear you say? Well, the good news is you don’t have to be a tree-hugger or horticultural geek to enjoy gardening. In fact, learning from past mistakes is half the fun. You just have to want to get out there and give it a go.

Bite-sized activities will be easier to tackle and will quickly yield results bringing a sense of accomplishment. Imagine the satisfying thrill of planting a seed and watching it grow. Start small and don’t try to do everything in a day. Maybe there’s a bit of border that could do with a revamp by adding some new perennials, annuals or bulbs? Or have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables? How about planting a herb bed close to the kitchen door? Whatever garden project you pick, little and often is best. Or better still, is there room for a green space at the office so that employees can benefit too. A spot of deadheading or weeding can be a wonderful way to unwind from the day’s stresses and strains. 

What if you don’t have a garden? You don’t need rolling acres to gain from gardening. If you have a small urban garden, or even just a window box, you can still connect with Mother Nature. Think container gardening. Containers and hanging baskets are a great way to get started as they are small enough to install in even the tiniest of spaces yet big enough to grow all manner of things: fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers - even an ornamental tree or shrub! Just remember that containers will need to be suitably watered during dry spells and you won’t go far wrong. Then there’s always the allotment. Allotmenteering and community gardening have experienced a huge surge in popularity in recent years as more people seek to improve their quality of life and adopt a healthier lifestyle with home-grown produce.

Time is a precious commodity. Even if you’ll never have time for gardening per se, just spending a few minutes ‘outdoors and unplugged’ is still a great way to renew and revive. But for maximum benefit, be sure to leave that mobile phone, tablet or laptop firmly indoors! 

To find out more about Christine’s garden design services, visit


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