Gardening is the best drug


Gardening, like love, is a drug.

It’s a therapy, a remedy, a cure, a balm, a tingle, an itch that needs scratching, a thrill, a trip, a joy, an inspiration, a bolt of lightening, a jolt that starts the heart, a cornucopia of sensory delights, a phantasmagoria, a rainbow, a shimmering vision…

Here’s why.

Blue and Green Therapy

I just think we need to be outside.  If I’m feeling a bit ‘meh’ with the world, send me outside for half an hour.  Whether it’s for a walk or bit of weeding, it is like the contentment barometer in my head is re-set.  I can’t help feeling better.  There is evidence to suggest that the effects of ‘ecotherapy’ (being outdoors) can last for 7 hours (read more here).  For me it is the feeling of being under the sky.  The light.  The fresh air in my lungs and on my skin.  The gentle breeze on my skin.  The feel of the mud beneath my wellies.  Bouncing off grass, or tree-roots or rocks.  It is a sense of vitality and life.


Gardening for me is about sensory pleasure, and indulgence.  It enlivens my senses and makes me open to all the world has to offer.  There is such a range of colour and texture and pattern and form.  It is like having an art gallery in your back garden.  There is an orchestra of sounds that I am only just beginning to understand.  I once went for an early morning bird walk at my local Sissinghurst Castle, and was amazed at the ranger’s knowledge of birdsong.  He had a whole world of perception that I don’t possess; an ever changing map of what bird is where, in the trees and the undergrowth.  Yesterday in the garden I could hear the buzz of bumblebees to accompany the birdsong.  One sensory pleasure leads to another.  It is a pleasure garden.


Aside from sight and sound, there are wonderful textures and movements, and smells and tastes.  It might be the plumpness of ripe fruit, the flicker of leaf and branch, ripples of water, an imprint of an animal paw in mud, or changing shadows as clouds scud across the sky.  These subtle signals bring out the wild hunter-gatherer in my soul, the ancient knowledge of weather patterns and animal behaviour.  Being in touch with nature; understanding what these signals mean, is what connects us to our environment and makes us part of the world.  We only need to observe it to learn it.

The best workout

We  need to do heavy work.  Our muscles and bones are crying out for it.  We need the challenge of balancing on one leg, getting up from sitting, stretching, lifting, pushing, pulling. I get the perfectly balanced workout from my garden.  I clock up thousands of steps as I go back and forth for my spade, trowel, bucket, watering can.  Being forgetful helps.  Sometimes in my eagerness I break into a little skip.  I often run with my wheelbarrow; I like to pretend it’s a go-cart, as I lean into the bends.  I leap from flowerbed to lawn, and back again.  I balance in precarious positions so as not to damage my plants.  I crouch until my thighs are burning, pulling out weeds (this, I was told years ago by my yoga teacher, prevents hip replacements).  My heavy clay soil gives me plenty of resistance work with the spade.  I build bone-mass by hacking with my pick-axe.  Pruning and deadheading is my cool-down gentle stretch for the end of the day.


I have mentioned before that practicalities are not my strong point.  Gardening has forced me to confront this.  And now I can dig a flower-bed from scratch, remove breeze-blocks and car-parts from the mire, build a zigurat of turves without them toppling over, dig trenches to the right depth and level up a raised bed, and hammer in nails for taut wires.  I have taken accurate measurements in order to draw up plans!  I have ordered the right amount of muck, or wood, and the correct number of whips for a hedge.  These things bring great satisfaction.  Thank you Stevie for your guidance where needed.


There is nothing like plant nomenclature to test your memory.  I do find, incredibly, that I can remember a wealth of not only Latin names, but the same plant’s common name, variety name, and quite possibly a few dialectal variations too.  And that is only the start of it.  There are planting conditions, planting combinations, when to sow, harvest, split, collect seed.  The more you know, the more you want to know.  The thirst for knowledge is something all gardeners talk about, but not in despair.  In a ravenous, rapturous way, like they just can’t get enough.  A drug, you see.


I love to see what other people can do and make.  But I can’t paint, or draw, or play a musical instrument.  Gardening is where I unleash my creativity.  I think in plant combinations.  I imagine swathes of tulips in colour-themed profusion.  I see my favourite roses with exactly the right hardy geranium, or salvia or hollyhock.  I love the challenge of a long season of colour.  Add scent, and movement, and sculptural foliage.  Add the challenge of a particular garden, with its uneven levels, poor drainage, deep shade, poor soil, and now you’re talking.  This is my sort of creativity.  Which breeds more creativity.  I get out my pencil and pens.  I look at colour wheels.  I get out my art books.  I write.  I love it.


I have found people as obsessed by their garden as me!  It is like a healthy and happy AA meeting!  We each confess our little special interests with pure pride.  Hardy geraniums!  Succulents!  Dry gardens!  Unusual edibles!  We are all welcome in this broad church.  Stevie and I are co-dependents in our addiction.  We supply one another with compost and vermiculite.  We compare potting mixtures and seed-sowing techniques.  We inhale scents together.  We harvest in the cover of darkness.  We cook up potions.  Stevie has become a pusher.  He gave a wheelbarrow full of Jerusalem artichokes to someone in the village yesterday.  He showed her how she could grow her own.  We had three more expressions of interest within the hour.

I would love to know what floats your boat.  Are there any other pursuits as addictive and all-encompassing as gardening?  What was your gateway drug?  What highs and lows have you experienced?  Have you ever been in rehab?  How long did it take to relapse?

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors. 

If you would like to join the joy, click on the ‘Follow’ button at the end of this post. You will receive an email each time I post a little pop of wonder. 

Papaver somniferum ‘Burgundy Frills’

54 Comments Add yours

  1. I am in total agreement with you about gardening, and can’t understand why people will spend a fortune going to a gym to work-out, with mind numbing music thumping out in the background and with also possibly more wired to their ears. You can get all the exercise you need in a garden with the added benefit of the satisfaction of seeing a result at the end of it with not only fitness but well-being and contentment.

    1. Ali says:

      I always think a gym feels like a joyless place. Would much rather be outdoors!

  2. rogerandlis says:

    Ah yes, gardening: the very worst addiction and the very greatest cure. No need for rehab, I intend to quite unashamedly be a lifelong junkie! Lovely post, Ali. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      Me too. Thank you!

  3. janesmudgeegarden says:

    A beautiful post and I agree with everything. Wish I could say it all so eloquently!

  4. bcparkison says:

    Of course. After all life began in a garden.

  5. This is such an inspiring and delightful post, Ali! I took a really long break from gardening because of school, and I often to no get outside enough. This post has greatly inspired me to make those two beautiful activities major goals of mine. Thank you.

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, that’s great, Shelly!

  6. annpappas says:

    I find weeding very therapeutic as long as there are not too many weeds!

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, and it does depend on the weeds!

  7. ladyfi says:

    I’m not a big gardener, but I wish I were!

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    I know this feeling, couldn’t have expressed it better myself! A happy addiction. 🙂
    Those fringed poppies are gorgeous!

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Eliza! The variety is ‘Burgundy Frills’.

  9. A good post. I like gardening because in this busy life it is the only time I can put my work phone to one side and have some me time. Also it’s brilliant to get to know nature and very therapeutic.

  10. It is the best drug and teacher in life and it’s free! Great post Ali ☘🍀🍃🎄

  11. Great post, but they all are great! Once while on an extended visit in the Republic of Panama, I was staying in a friend’s condo. After a few weeks, I was feeling more disconnected from Mother Earth, and I could feel it not only in my sense of health, but also in my spirit/soul. I asked a naturalist friend via email, ‘if this is affecting me so greatly, how do the indians cope when they leave the forest and live in a city?’ he said that they don’t; they die a little each day from soul rot.

    For me, I’d disconnect most every day, go downstairs to ground level and just walk in the garden area and reconnect with nature.

    1. Ali says:

      That’s so sad. When I didn’t have a garden, parks and other people’s gardens were really important.

  12. bittster says:

    So many excellent reasons to be out and gardening, or even just plain old out!
    I wish I had another hobby to balance this one out, but so far nothing. I was kind of hoping someone would have a suggestion 🙂
    Funny you have an opium poppy relative on the ‘gardening as a drug’ post!

    1. Ali says:

      It’s true, just ‘out’ is good!

  13. jjspina says:

    Lovely post! Yes, it is wonderful to see the finished product of your labors. I enjoy watching things grow. Unfortunately, I don’t do any gardening at my age with knee and back problems but I do grow a little in the house – like mint to keep the bugs and little critters away. I watch that daily. HA! Happy gardening! 🌱 💐 😆

    1. Ali says:

      I am glad you still get to garden indoors!

  14. Fiona says:

    Lovely post and how true – there are so many good reasons to garden.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Fiona!

  15. Gorgeous post! I so agree with you! The poppy and theme is perfect 🌞🌻

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks, Lisa!

  16. pommepal says:

    This is a glorious post Ali a true symphony about all that is good in gardening. You have expressed all that makes gardening so addictive and pleasurable. The light on the poppy seed pod turns it into a work of art

    1. Ali says:

      That is such a generous comment. Thank you so much. ❤️

  17. Chloris says:

    A great post. Yes gardening definitely does it for me. And books. Both essential.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, books can be just as absorbing. I love reading for hours on holiday. Gardening is more active though!

  18. Debbie Smyth says:

    A great post. Just the image will make us joyful

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Debbie! Yes, that poppy was glorious!

  19. restlessjo says:

    What a very joyful post! I’m so glad I stopped by. Best fish out my wellies and go and jump in some puddles 🙂 🙂 (actually, zumba this morning, so maybe not wellies 🙂 ) Happy Easter to you!

    1. Ali says:

      I am very happy if I inspire you to jump in puddles, Jo!

  20. Great post on the ecstacy of gardening which has me grinning about doing more steps due to being forgetful while the image of an artichoke- pushing addict may never leave me. Really inspiring me to go out and get high with my over neglected supplier! #MyGloriousGardens

    1. Ali says:

      Glad you enjoyed it. Hope you have fun!

  21. So true. For me it’s the seclusion that certain parts of the garden offer, giving me a few moments where nothing else seems important beyond what’s growing, and the birds and bees and butterflies flitting about their business. Tranquillity and a closeness to our origins as a species I think, connected to the environment around us. The only other interest that gives me a similar sense of peace, relaxation and community, is golf! But that’s a whole other story… #MyGloriousGardens

    1. Ali says:

      So sorry I didn’t reply earlier – got lost somehow! Yes, that is it I think, you put it very eloquently ‘tranquility and closeness to our origins’. I like that.

  22. Candelo Blooms says:

    I totally agree with everything you have written in this post! The garden fulfills so many functions- physically, creatively and spiritually. It has kept us sane through difficult times in our lives and is a constant source of excitement and wonder! I love its constant variety, its creative and mental stimulation and all its wonderful gifts from fresh vegetables to bucketloads of colourful flowers and scented roses! Thank you for this lovely post!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. I get so much from the garden (and others people’s gardens), as do all who garden or spend time in a garden. It is lovely that this resonates with others. I’m staying the obvious really, but I would love non- gardeners to have a go. Especially, as you say, when life is tough.

  23. Rinu Bejoy says:

    Can really understand how much you are into gardening. My mom too will like your posts for sure😊 think your posts are quite different from that of other bloggers

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Rinu, that is a lovely compliment! I hope your mum does like it.

  24. Rinu Bejoy says:

    Please do chekout my profiles and give me a review about it. I am just a beginner. I need support of a good blogger like you.

  25. Oh Ali this is indeed a Glorious post for the #MyGloriousGardens linky! Thank you so much for linking. I agree on every point; Gardening is good for every part of me and I love the way you have expressed this in this post. I call my garden, my soul as it truly reflects me as a person s I was lucky enough to create it from scratch. I love that gardening is good for my physical and mental health; being in my garden is such a h for me as well. Experiencing Mother Nature do her work throughout the seasons…sigh. I just wish everyone felt the same way as some people really don’t understand the passion it creates. The only downside I can think of is the obsession with plant sales and garden visits!
    Look out for my round up post at the end of the month.
    Sophie xx

  26. *spiritual thing
    Sorry about that!

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, I can’t imagine life without gardening! It is infused into everything I do!

  27. Nat says:

    Thank you for your blog. I read it today (bit of a low one) and this post reminded me of why I love gardening too. Ecotherapy. I like the term. Will have to return for my plant fix! Your photos are lovely.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Nat, I have benefited so much from gardening, in so many ways, and would just love to spread the word. I’m sorry you were feeling low. There is a really supportive blogging community here, so I hope you feel welcome. Thank you for taking the time to comment too; it is really lovely to know a little about who is reading my blog!

      1. Nat says:

        Hi Ali,

        It feels nice when others reply, thank you for making me feel welcome!
        I’m looking forward to seeing what you post next.

        I’ve volunteered on the BeyondBlue forums for over a year now but felt there was something missing. I wasn’t sure what until I found blogs and realised it was the photos. Where some things are concerned (like gardens) words can only give so much.

        Thank you 🌸

      2. Ali says:

        Yes, I like indulging in shameless flower adoration through photos. When you don’t have the energy to read you can still gaze!

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