Throughout Australia, families and friends have been anxious about older and vulnerable family and friends during periods of lockdown. While telephone contact could be maintained and skype and zoom sessions for the technologically savvy, visits and hugs were not encouraged. This was the case in my family, where Mum lives away from all her children. While we had daily conversations, we could not visit her. For many people like my Mum, their garden became their saviour.
Mum has always been a keen gardener and most of her children have inherited her passion. She also loves to share her garden including for fundraising events. Prior to Covid, Mum was a regular visitor to nursing homes taking a special interest in the people who had no other visitors. These people would be bused to Mum’s for high tea each spring. The memories of these days amongst flowers and scents and special food would be a topic for discussion for months. All visits to the nursing homes stopped with Covid.
As a sociable and community minded person, we wondered how Mum would cope with lockdown and we soon realised that the garden was filling the space of her volunteer hours. Our daily conversations had a regular theme – what she was doing in the garden and who she had contact with that day. Mum’s street became a regular walking route for people who might usually exercise in a way that was no longer possible during the pandemic.
People got to know the elfin lady working away in her front garden and would stop to talk. They would bring their cameras next walk to take some pictures, then introduce a walking buddy to Mum. She was connecting more closely with people in her neighbourhood who appreciated the hours of gardening that showed in her arthritic hands.
Hearing the Sustain survey results, I learnt that Mum was not alone. Throughout Australia people were connecting through front yard gardening. These interactions were making people feel good and new friendships were being formed.
Mum’s local community are enjoying the colours of spring in her garden and we would like to share some highlights with you through a video. We also invite you to connect with your community through gardening and experience the positive effects on your mental and physical health.
Elizabeth Docking – Community Greening Officer