Have a seat with...

Ellen Mary

Ellen Mary is the author of “The Joy of Gardening” and was named as one of the Top 5 Women Influencers in Horticulture by Grow Your Own magazine.

We had a great chat about the mental-health benefits of gardening, her work as an ambassador for trees (yes that’s a thing!) and her favourite plant-based recipes (hemp seed and crispy onions anyone?).

Hi Ellen, great to speak with you, congratulations on the publication of The Joy of Gardening this May! What was the process of writing this book like?

Ann-Marie holding a watering can ready to garden in some colourful heels

It was really good fun!

The publishers at Greenfinch books were so helpful and I soon found out that to write I need the washing up done!!

Seriously, I couldn’t write if there was anything that needed doing in the house so I would make sure everything was sorted before I sat down to write.

I even got to write some of it on the beach in Antigua and now I am already writing my second book due to be released next spring. 

The Joy of Gardening is filled with so many really helpful tips for those who are looking to gardening for some peace and serenity. You mention growing your own food as one of the joys of gardening; what would you say the mental-health benefits of harvesting and consuming your own produce are?

Harvesting gives us great satisfaction, allows us to give ourselves a pat on the back and shows that hard work, nurturing and patience really do pay off. Taking home fresh fruit and vegetables also helps us to eat a more healthy diet which contributes to good wellbeing as well. 

Where can people purchase The Joy of Gardening?

The book is available in most good bookstores in store and online. Please leave me a review if you do buy it online, reviews help authors so much! 

"...my first gardening memories are long before age 7 and I have been hooked ever since."

What is your first memory of gardening?

My parents had a kitchen garden where I would sit and eat the peas out of their pods and pull faces at the taste of fresh gooseberries. My uncle also had a vegetable patch at the end of his garden where he would send me to pick the caterpillars off the cabbages. So my first gardening memories are long before age 7 and I have been hooked ever since. I even have a photo of me aged about 2 years old, using a hoe on my Mums rockery.

It’s truly amazing that you have been named as one of the top 5 women influencers in horticulture by Grow Your Own magazine. What message do you hope to spread about gardening and horticulture?

Always that anyone can do it and to just enjoy what you can but also that gardening and working with plants is more than making your garden look aesthetically pleasing. The act of gardening is one of the best ways to help wellbeing.

Many tasks we do in the garden can be likened to our own lives or used to focus on aspects of life that can help our wellbeing. Weeding can be seen as also weeding out negative thoughts, thinning out can be seen as removing things in our life that are not positively helping us thrive.

Apart from that there is a whole world of physical and mental health wellbeing benefits from fresh air to exercise and being in contact with beneficial bacteria in the soil. It can also be very spiritual, to me, it’s where I connect with the planet and watch eco systems in action that all contribute to the wellbeing on life on earth. 

What was the latest project you ran at Grapes Hill Community Garden? It seems like really rewarding work.

The last event was nature in the garden which was a day of celebrating and learning about nature in the city. From how to look after hedgehogs, to birds, growing your own food - all sorts! We work with refugees and asylum seekers, family groups, team days and more. The garden is a true community garden for everyone to enjoy. 

You’ve done so many talks at prestigious venues, including Blenheim Palace, Vegfest, and Chelsea Flower Show, do any of your talks stand out in your memory as particularly impactful for you or your audience? 

I really enjoyed the talk about careers at both RHS Chelsea and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh because both talks were to the future of horticulture. It’s so important to encourage and inspire further generations and if anything I do inspires someone to get into gardening for a hobby or even a career, that makes me very happy.

What has your experience of The Plant-based Podcast with Mr Plant Geek been like? Do you enjoy discussing horticulture in a podcast setting?

We just bounce off each other and have been friends for years now. We both work so well together and try to inspire people to love plants through various guests that are plant related but not necessarily gardening after all there is so much more to plants than meets the eye! It’s such great fun and being able to chat on the podcast with incredible plant lovers is a privilege. 

As a plant-based person yourself, are there any plant-based recipes you’ve particularly been enjoying recently?

I am all up for easy cooking! A few of my favourites at the moment are smashed peas on toast (as an alternative to avocado), tempeh cooked in smoked paprika on wholewheat spaghetti cooked in veg stock with any vegetables from the fridge (homegrown hopefully), sprinkled with hemp seed and crispy onions. Delicious! 

What is one easy way to practice mindfulness and soothe anxieties in your garden?

Definitely take a step back. Forget the weeds and what you need to do and just feel huge gratitude for what you already have. Breathe deeply, feel the breeze and sun on your skin, walk with your bare feet on the lawn, look up at the sky or the details of petals and leaves. Immerse yourself for a few minutes each day, watch the bees and birds and feel tension slide away. 

What climber would you recommend to compliment a Sitting Spiritually pergola?

Theres so many, it’s such a personal choice from a climbing rose to a fragrant jasmine but how about a grape vine? I love how the vines grow, they are easy to care for and imagine sitting underneath your very own bunches of grapes! 

We at Sitting Spiritually plant a tree for every order, so we’d love to find out more about your work as a Trees For the Future Ambassador- what does your role involve?

My role is to shout about the charity - I am so happy you have mentioned this! I am fascinated and in awe of trees. Trees for the Future help communities to build a tried and tested forest garden method to help poverty, education and the future for farmers who desperately need the help. They work they do across the world is absolutely incredible and I love telling people about it! 

Related articles: 

Book Review: The Joy of Gardening by Ellen Mary

"You can’t help but relax and smile when reading a book as encouraging as this... 
...everything in this book is about harmony and balance, and it’s a lovely little gem as a result."

Have a Seat With: Michael Perry (aka Mr Plant Geek)

The other half of The Plantbased Podcast Michael Perry (aka Mr Plant Geek) takes a seat with us to talk about plants, podcasts and what goes into his fire cider…

Posted on July 24th 2021


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