Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Gardening when having difficulties

I thought long and hard about a title for today’s post. I thought about calling it ‘Gardening when getting older', or ‘Gardening with disabilities’, but I wanted to make sure I reached all of you and that I didn’t make a niche post for just a few. You see, I think most people can draw some nuggets from this post, regardless of your physical abilities, and even if you feel you have no issues when gardening, perhaps you know someone who has, who could need some tips.

Gardening is often viewed as a hobby for little old ladies who has nothing else to fill their days with. I am neither little (will come back to that one later) and at 48 I don’t feel a day past 25 in my head, only my body screams 85 when I get out of bed every day – so definitely not old then. My son who is 27 in a couple of weeks might beg to differ on the definition of old but everything is relative...And when it comes to gardening, we all know that anyone can have gardening as an interest, young, old, male, female, and at every level of physical ability. Over the years I have had to adapt both my garden and the way I garden to my physical limitations and I have found ways to manage even though my health has declined rapidly the last 10 years. None of my tips require any specialist equipment, just things you can get anywhere, a bit of imagination, being practical and sensible and realise your strengths as well as your limitations. And most importantly, what works for me might not work for you or anyone else, we all have to find our own way - but my tips might give you something to think about.

First tip, don’t bite over more than you can chew. I have a very small garden and since my main problem is walking, the size of my garden suits me very well. I would love to have a five times bigger garden – just think how many plants I could fit in! And I could have a green house and a shed and, and…but I would not be able to maintain a garden five times bigger, and I would probably not be able to walk to the end of a garden that size so I am very happy my garden isn’t bigger than it is. If your garden is too big, think about screening off parts of it so that you maintain the part closest to your house and leave the rest to go native.
I have done a lot of changes to my garden over the years, and one of the biggest was to get rid of the grass and to lay bark mulch in all the beds. No more mowing and no more weeding. I can potter around in the garden when I am able to and want to, not when the lawn desperately needs a trim or the weeds are popping up everywhere. My garden is filled to the rim, the plants are stacked like sardines sideways and on top of each other, but as long as it gets watered the garden is fine on its own for weeks every time I am in hospital or too ill to attend to it.

Next tip, have the right tools. Here are my most important gardening tools. A stool to sit on, as I can’t stand for long and I am unable to bend down from standing or crouch down. When I am sitting on my stool I can reach down to the ground and reach around me. I also use it when I take photos in my garden, completely priceless, I could not do gardening without my stool and I probably do 90% of gardening sitting on this stool. I also have a grabber I use to pick up and pull up things with, it can even pull up things like bind weed (oh, I do sometimes find them in my garden!) I bought the grabber to have around the house but it quickly ended up in my garden as a much more useful tool. And the tray is for anything I cut off or pick up that’s going in my bin, even when it is full I can carry it on my hip and have a crutch in the other hand. I use the tray all the time...

....that is when my cat isn’t hogging the tray. He is very quick whenever I have emptied it, he will come running and see if he can manage to jump in and have a nap here before I tip him out again.


Have things in one place. I bought these shelves earlier this year, they are made of plastic and won’t rot or rust. I have linked them together and attached them to the fence with cable ties and it will take a hurricane or two to tip these over. On these shelves I have all my seedlings and cuttings and also all my spare pots. These shelves are placed on the sunny side of my fence, but in the passage down from my back door, so the house is giving some shade during the first part of the day. That’s great for all the cuttings and seedling, mainly woodland plants, which don’t want to bake in the sun all day (ha! As if that was much of a risk here in London, we haven’t had a ‘baking sun’ summer for years!) Anyway, it’s best to place a nursery shelf like this out of the sunniest place you have, but let it have afternoon sun.

On top of the shelves is my new vegetable garden. I thought I would start a bit modest :-) Well, I didn’t have much choice, this was the only place to put some containers! I have from far left: a herb container with chives and thyme, a container with beetroot, a container with radish and finally a container with mixed lettuce. The two pots in the foreground is a passionflower cutting and an eight year old honeysuckle grown as a Bonsai tree (I try to grow a lot of things as Bonsai, just to see if it is possible, just for fun!) Having your vegetable garden on top of shelves like these might not be for everyone, the shelves are 131cm tall and the containers are 26cm tall, 157 cm in total (5’2”) making it difficult for some people to reach. To me it is just fine, I am 5’9” tall without shoes (175cm) and have no problems looking over and water the containers...

...and if I need a little bit extra height I have another useful tool in the garden, a step. It’s not very high, but it gives me that little bit extra when I need it. This plastic step was one I originally bought for my nieces when they came visiting when they were younger, as they couldn’t reach properly up to my raised toilet. Now the step has got a new life and purpose in my garden and I use it often.

I don’t have a shed so everything I need for gardening is stored here in this corner. Having everything in one place means less walking and carrying around and I sit here on my stool and can reach everything.


My council has a recycling service for composting, I just fill up plastic bags with my garden waste and send them an email when I want them to come and collect. The waste is used to make compost for the council so it’s not wasted even if I have no room for making my own compost. This is my compost bin. I used to have a much bigger one and when it was full the plastic bags became very heavy to lift out and carry through the house and out to the front garden. The bin I have now is much smaller, and fits neatly into this space next to the fence. The bags are manageable even when full. Next to the bin I have a bag of multipurpose compost, whenever it is empty, my son goes and buy a new one for me. Everything has its own place here in my garden :-)

It doesn’t rain all the time in Britain, even if that might be the impression everyone has from last year - sometimes I have to water! I have made this short piece of hose to go into my watering can so I don’t have to hold the can when it fills up. The watering can just stands on the ground with the hose inside it until it is filled and it saves my back and my arms.

I also have a long attachment for watering all the plants on my nursery shelf which attaches to this short hose. When I water the rest of the garden I use the long hose and just unclip this one. I am planning to install a soaker hose in the flowerbeds this year, that will be my big investment for this year and a big help, no more sitting on my stool on the path, pointing the hose in all directions.

Here is another photo of the long attachment, a bit easier to see what it looks like. This piece is just the right length to water the whole nursery shelf.


My garden table is harbouring a secret...


...the rest of my compost. Here I have more specialist compost and I can sit on my stool next to the table, with plants that needs re-potting on the ground next to me. No lifting of heavy bags around the garden. If I need some of this compost somewhere in the garden I take some of it into my tray and carry it to where I need it. I bought this table at Ikea and it is for outdoor use.

And with all the gardening work it is important to have a nice place to rest. A comfortable chair is vital when you have any kind of physical problems and it is important to take short breaks often. It is so easy to get carried away in the garden because it is so fun and exciting, and then feel absolutely shattered afterwards. I have learned from experience!

I also bring my phone with me out in the garden whenever I am outside, even if I am just going for a short walk to see what’s flowering since yesterday. And I have a battery operated second door bell, so I can hear my door bell when I am out In the garden. I do all my shopping online and get a lot of deliveries, often without a specific delivery date. It used to be so annoying when I missed a delivery because I didn’t hear the doorbell outside in the garden. Now I can safely be outside knowing I won’t miss a delivery. The phone is mainly for safety reasons if something happens to me when in the garden so I can call for help. Last summer I dislocated my hip replacement when I was at the bottom of my garden. It was a beautiful summers day, it was warm, I didn’t wear my usual garden cardigan and didn’t have any pockets to put the phone in so the phone was here on this table when I was at the bottom of my garden with a dislocated hip.

I therefore now have a personal alarm. It is connected to an alarm central and works just as well in my garden as it does inside my house. Should anything happen to me again and I don’t have my phone next to me, I can press this button and help will come for me. I hope I never will have to use it but it makes me feel safer out in the garden. This is a service I have to pay for but it is well worth the £8.60 per month I pay.

My most important gardening tool? Definitely my gardening stool, without it I can’t do any gardening or photography and I would be lost without it. I have had this stool for over 10 years and it is getting a bit saggy and tatty, but it is perfect for me. Sometimes I also put a cushion inside a plastic bag and simply sit on the ground and crawl around to get the job done. I have no problem getting down on the ground and stay there, it is just so bloody difficult to get up again! That’s when the stool becomes handy again, so I can use it to lift myself up. I have much stronger arms than legs.

And...remember to chill out! Gardening is also about relaxing and enjoying your garden.


And finally, just a bit about my health issues. I was born with a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disease that affects all my joints, muscles, my digestion, and a lot of other things. In addition I have a long list of other conditions that affect my quality of life, and this has had an influence on my life since childhood although I lived a reasonably normal life until the age of 30. The last 18 years I have been medically retired and my health has declined rapidly. I won’t recover or get better, all the operations and procedures I have been through (14 the last 10 years) has just been an attempt to slow down the decline – not very successfully though. I am practically housebound and only leave my house to go to hospital and doctor appointments and I walk with two crutches when out of the house. At home I try to manage with one crutch, it is so limited what you can do when both hands are occupied with a crutch each!

Over the years I have had to give up a lot of interests and hobbies due to my health problems, but I have taken up new ones instead, blogging being one of them. Gardening has always been an interest and I can truly say that my garden keeps me sane! It is often the reason for me getting out of bed and getting dressed, although I am known to garden in my dressing gown from time to time, something I am sure I am not alone in doing. You know, just popping out for one minute to check on that plant that was about to flower yesterday? And then discover something else that needed doing, and then something else, and before I know it I have been an hour or more working in my garden, still in my dressing gown…and wellies. I am sure I am a bit of a sight, but my neighbours don’t bat an eyelid anymore! Speaking of wellies, I haven’t talked about footwear, but wearing the right footwear for the job is also something many don’t think about. I don’t have a wet garden, but I wear wellies about 8 months of the year and comfortable shoes the rest. Isn’t my wellies pretty?

My garden serves many purposes since I am housebound. It is the most important room in my house and the only place I get to be outside apart from the trips to the many hospital appointments I have. It is also of course where I can enjoy my hobby gardening, but it is also where I take all my photos, another important hobby of mine. Since I don’t get to go anywhere else, my garden has become my sole object of photography, and you might think I would run out of things to photograph but I take 4-5000 photos every year in my garden so I can’t say I lack photo opportunities. Many of the photos end up here on my blog, many of them on my website and some of them have ended up as self published books. I have plans to make more books, just need to find time for it, I have been so busy lately!

There can be many reasons why people have difficulties managing in the garden, anything from just getting older to all kinds of impairments and disabilities. Whatever the reason, I have learned that I constantly have to come up with new solutions as my situation changes. What suits me now will probably not suit me in a few years time and I will have to continue to be imaginative, inventive, practical and sensible. I hope you have picked up a few useful tips here, and if nothing here suits your situation then maybe it spurred you on to come up with your own solutions. Please share with us what you do or use to help you in your garden, this could become a treasure chest of useful tips with all of you contributing too! Until next time, take care.

65 comments:

  1. A really thoughtful post. Your garden would be a credit to anyone let alone someone with difficulties. My sister has mobility problems too so the grabber is probably something she could use.

    The shelving could double up as one of those mini greenhouses - all it needs is some bubble wrap draped over the front when you need a little extra warmth!

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    1. Thank you Sue, my garden keeps me going and is my private little haven :-) I did deliberately not go into too many details about my health issues, if I had my post would have had you all sit here and read for a week! I realise most people won’t have heard about my primary condition but I hope anyone interested in finding out a bit more will Google it and get a bit more info.

      The grabber I have is available from many places, I think I bought mine from essentialaids.com. I have already thought about getting some fleece for my shelves for the winter to attach around it, I think my plants will thank me for that if we get another winter like we had – although I hope we won’t!

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  2. A very interesting post. I hope you get a lot of positive comments it will be a great help to a lot of people. When I was jonger (I am 55 now) I was also dreaming of a garden 10 times the size of what I have now. But I realize that the size of my garden is big enough for me to have fun. You are so wright telling having a garden is great but there also must be time left to relax and enjoy what the garden is showing.
    Have a wonderful evening Helene

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    1. Thank you Marijke, I am still amazed about how many plants I can manage to squeeze into my tiny garden, I keep saying I have no more space, but I am still buying new plants and somehow I always find a place for them so it is not always about how many square metres you have but what you do with the ones you have :-)
      Wishing you a wonderful evening too.

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  3. An excellent post Helene... some wonderful advice. As for me and my pain from arthritis situation... I keep slogging into the midst of new projects, all the while wondering how I will handle all this as I become more limited physically... the latest is more pain in both rotator cuffs, one of which was supposedly repaired. The main thing is to know one's body and in my case, I degenerate rapidly when I do less... as in the case of this past month of very limited allowable activity. I was very discouraged when I started getting into the swing of gardening again, but now I can see some positive gains in terms of the pain and am able to back off on the pain meds.
    I hope your gardening season is going well... most of the magnolias have gone over except Yellow Bird and the two Rose Maries... they are spectacular. The fragrance iust amazing on Rose Marie and the flowering crabs, lilacs, and viburnums add tremendously to this sensual delight just now... last evening with windows open the fragrance wafted in! Unfortunately my large Brozonnii has a problem and I may well lose it... such is the life of a gardener and nothing is forever in the plant world... Larry

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    1. Thanks Larry, as you know from our previous comment exchanges, widespread arthritis is a problem for me too, a secondary condition to my primary EDS. I didn’t go into that at all in my post, too many medical issues with me, too much to go into in one post, but I have it just like you, if I am in bed for a while or inactive due to my frequent surgeries, my arthritis gets far worse. Keeping as active as I possibly can is the best for me too, and in that way, gardening is an enjoyable way of keeping active for as long as I am able.

      I so wish I could have seen your garden on your open week-end, it must have been a sight!!

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  4. This is an excellent account with great tips and is a lovely showcase for your garden. As someone with a disabling health condition I also find a lightweight stool really useful, but I need to learn to become as organised as you so I have stuff to hand! Trying not to do too much at once seems to be key to me, but getting carried away is a big problem, requiring more self-discipline than I have! My partner is a great help in telling me to "Stop Now!" when I have overdone it (and in doing the heavy lifting and digging of course!)Setting an alarm clock to limit the time spent working in the garden and reminding you to take a rest could fulfil the same function. All the very best, Jill

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    1. Hi Jill, and welcome to my blog. Thanks for your kind words and your tip about using an alarm clock. I can hear the bell at our town hall in my garden, it rings every half hour and is a great reminder to sit down for 5 minutes. For anyone else who doesn’t have a great, big town hall bell at hand, an alarm clock is a very useful reminder – if you are disciplined enough to actually take a break when you are supposed to. Gardening is all so exciting and it’s always just one more thing that needs doing...oh I know how it is!

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  5. This is a very helpful post, so many details to remember and think about. I am already concerned about making my garden too big so the part farthest from the house will require the least attention over time and I will keep the fussiest plants nearer the house. That's a good sturdy garden stool, I need to seek out one like that.

    I'm also glad you explained your condition in detail since you have mentioned it from time to time in the blog.

    Thank you for such an informative post.



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    1. Thank you Shirley, it is a post I have been thinking about writing for a long time. Many aids for disabled are very expensive so I have often had to come up with my own solutions which might not require anything else than a bit of imagination :-)

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  6. I've been admiring your garden and the beautiful photos you share of spring emerging. It's because of your gorgeous flowering quince photos that I got one for my parents (when you don't have room in your own garden, you plant things in your family's garden!). I had no idea of your physical challenges and makes me appreciate your work even more. Thank you for sharing how you've creatively worked around obstacles to continue your passion for gardening. Mobility is certainly not to be taken for granted.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, I'm so glad to hear you got inspiration from my photos, the flowering quince is a lovely plant. I have been thinking of getting another one, a pink one, as I like them so much :-)

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  7. Everyone has unique limitations, Helene, but I must say you are truly inspirational. Difficulties or not, you accomplish so much in your garden and the accessories and tools are so organized and attractive, even! That is one thing I really need to work on--getting all the garden tools in one place and getting organized! I like your wellies!

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    1. Thank you Beth, being organised is certainly something that helps me, and is a must in a tiny garden like mine.

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  8. Great post Helene, and I especially like the pictures of your cat! I can see he (or she?)'s a good helper and keeps a good eye on things, haha!

    I also have a cut length of hosepipe attached to my tap, it's so much easier to fill the watering can! I read a good tip recently if you are on a hosepipe ban and have to water by hand - have a tub large enough to dip the watering can in under your tap, and have that slowly filling while you water. Then you can just dip the can to refill it each time, saves waiting for the can to refill! This always annoys me when I'm watering with the can - I dash off to pull a few weeds while it fills, and then it overflows.

    Thanks for this informative post. I'm enjoying the pictures of your garden as always!

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    1. My cat is out in the garden with me all the time, he is 12 years old now and doesn't do much apart from eat and sleep :-)

      Thanks for the tip about having using a tub when filling the watering can, very handy.

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  9. Wow Helene, your storage/utility area is SO organized! I need to learn from you there - I tend to just throw things anywhere, and then can't find them later. I spend probably hours walking around looking for tools, trying to remember where I was using them last.

    Gardening really can be hard work, and my problem is definitely doing too much at once. Several times I have seriously injured my back (to the point where I can't stand or walk for weeks) by doing too much at once in spring. It has never healed properly. Especially frustrating and embarrassing because it was my own stupid fault - multiple times. I really thank you for this post - I need to learn to use more aids like stools and grabbers, so as not to overtax my back.

    It's amazing how gardening can add so much joy and value to people's lives, in different ways. Your garden is really amazing and I thank you for sharing it with us through your photos!

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    1. Thanks Spurge, gardening gives me so many different ways of keeping active, not just physically but I have learned so much the last 10 years or so too! I am definitely not an expert in stopping work in time, I overdo it quite often, but I try not to do so much that I injure myself. I also used to have major problems with my back, have had 7 slipped disks in my back and neck, and 3 operations there, I have learned my lessons :-)

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  10. Such great tips! Such great ways to be able to continue to do things that you love. Gardening is such a physical activity - I consider myself to be young and healthy, but I still have to not overdo things or I will be limping afterwards. Your garden is so gorgeous, and I love, love, love your outdoor garden table that has storage!

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    1. Indie, I bought the table as a storage box for my compost, and then when I rearranged the furniture in my seating area last year I decided to get rid of my big garden table and use the storage box as table instead. The compost just stayed put. I also keep some bottles of fertilizers inside the table, forgot to write that :-)

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  11. Your garden is a credit to you Helene, even more so because of your difficulties. It looks perfectly organised and it is a pleasure to look at, even your practical storage area.

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    1. Thank you Elaine, it is my pride and joy and my reason for getting out of bed :-)

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  12. Helene - you are such an inspiration and what a great blog. I've been showing it to my mother, although she doesn't do much gardening, I've been trying to persuade her to do a little bit. Since seeing your pictures of your hose and the attachments, she has agreed that she will give me a little hand and water the garden and plants some nights if I sort out little hose attachments for her. You have managed to achieve in 1 blog something I've been trying to do for a while!!
    I do hope others take a few tips away from this.
    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Angie, great to be of help :-) I didn’t write much about how I water the rest of the garden, but I actually sit on my stool and use the long hose with a spray nozzle and hold it towards the flowerbeds for the necessary length of time. Once one area is watered I turn around and water behind me, then I get up and move the stool further down. I have to move my stool 3 times to cover my whole garden, that’s it. I have tried using a sprinkler, but although they are great for lawns they are not as good for a garden packed with plants like mine. A soaker hose is next on my plan, that’s going to be lovely, especially if I invest in a timer too!

      If your mother wants to help you with watering, perhaps sitting on a stool and point a hose on your plants is easier than carrying a watering can, even if you make her a hose attachment? Anyway, it’s all about having the right tools for the right person for the right job!

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  13. Good post. Too late for me regarding tip number one. I have ordered a garden stool/kneeler that I have had sitting in a box for about a year because I have some kind of mental block about putting it together.

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    1. Well, you can always make a big garden smaller by screening off parts of it or making it easier to maintain when you no longer are able to take care of it all – much more difficult to make a small garden bigger!

      Hmm...is the mental block about using the stool or actually putting it together? They are very handy :-)

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  14. These are some wonderful tips. Since we all are getting older, decreased mobility is something we will all have to face eventually. You have come up with some wonderful solutions. I am so impressed with your organizational skills, which is something I am lacking. My garden is becoming quite large, and I will have to eventually say enough is enough, even though I would love to be able to garden every bit of it. The main thing is that your garden gives you such pleasure. That is something we all need to remember. It's not just work, it's joy and discovery and beauty every day just waiting there for us.

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    1. Well said Holly, my garden serves so many purposes and even if I only take photographs one day I still feel I have been out in the garden and actively done something.

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  15. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us. It is so wonderful to see how much your garden means to you, how you have created this oasis of magic and peace for yourself. You have persevered and used your passion and ingenuity so that your garden can continue to be a pleasure for you. You are an inspiration Helene!

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    1. Thank you Rosemary, as I have said before, my garden is the most important room in my house :-)

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  16. Useful tips and ideas indeed! Your garden is very neat and tidy and I have enjoyed my read.

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    1. Thank you Autumn Belle, glad you enjoyed the post!

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  17. What a beautiful post . How wonderful you have your garden and can enjoy it. We don't have a garden any more and as we grow older it was a wise dicision. I thought you were a lot younger for the look of your photo. Very nice. Have a nice weekend.

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    1. Thank you Riet, I hope I get to keep my garden for a long time, but eventually I won’t be able to take care of mine either.

      My photo is 2 years old so I look fairly the same, although my hair has gone much whiter lately (blond people go straight to white, not grey), so I might need to put a new photo up soon!

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  18. This is an awesome post, so inspiring. You should turn this into a book slowly; it will help many people. Your wellies are indeed pretty :-). I don't want to be nosy but have you tried acupuncture as it helps in giving relief against pain. Also, aren't there any support group which takes you all for some outing or picnic or anything? Right now I don't have any advice but I have a friend who is close to 80 and is extremely busy in gardening. In face, she is pretty popular here in NJ in the gardening world. Her advice is to do everything for short duration, and stretch your work throughout the whole day. In that way, you will not be tired; you get to spend the whole day outside and complete all the work without injuring yourself.

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  19. Helene,

    Wonderful gardening advice. I too have found that I need to garden smarter as I am not getting any younger either. I am so very sorry to hear about your health condition. I don't think anyone would have known considering your gorgeous gardens and all the work that has gone into maintaining them. Your kitty photos always bring a smile to my face!

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    1. Thank you Donna, my cat is a great companion to me, both he and I are getting older and less mobile, he is spending more and more time in my garden and less time roaming around in the area. The spot on my garden bench is his favourite place to sleep :-)

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  20. Very nice post Helene. It is a challenge for many having disability to garden. I have designed one huge garden for a wheelchair bound gardener ( he also employed three full time gardeners). It was on a ten acre property that he motored around and had quite a few places to stop and relax. He has since passed, yet the garden remains not looking like it was designed for the disabled. His wife, along with two hired gardeners keep it up nicely.

    I always thought is rained much in London. Funny how we get these things in our heads.

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    1. Hi Donna, first of all, let me kill a myth, it doesn’t rain much in London! In fact, it rains less in London than in Rome or Sydney, and when we had our last drought in 2004-2006 it rained far less than in many Middle East countries. The last 12 months however, we seem to have got more than our fair share of rain, and not only rain but if has been very cold both last summer, this winter and also still this spring. We are hoping for better weather soon!

      I would love to have my garden re-designed for my needs, with raised beds and paved paths and all plants reachable from sitting. That would however mean out with everything I got and start from scratch, not sure how many plants would survive that – and I am certainly not sure my wallet would survive that. But I have thought about it, I know exactly what I would need and how it could work, but the cost is holding me back for now.

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  21. Such an inspiring post Helene. Your garden always looks immaculate & designed perfectly. A lot of people can draw inspiration from your various photos, tips & advice and continue to enjoy there gardens.
    I have to ask you where did you get your shelves from. I've been asking Mr TG if he would make me something similar since the beginning of time (that's what it feels like anyway...lol)but I think it's never going to happen. Jane X

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    1. Hi Jane, my shelves come from B&Q, here is a link for you:
      http://www.diy.com/nav/rooms/storage-shelving/utility-storage-shelving/shelving___cabinets/Global-4-Shelf-Unit-Black-9796509?skuId=10187214

      They cost £14 each and I have 4 shelves. You can put them together yourselves, no tools required, you just push each part together, when I can do it so can you, never mind waiting for men who hasn’t got time :-)
      Good project for the Bank Holiday Week-end?

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  22. Helene,
    I've read with pain and empathy for you!
    I admire your tenacity and perseverance, resistance and a thirst for a fulfilling life.
    Those who can walk without crutches and complains of tiredness and difficulties might take the example of your life,Helene!
    I see your rhododendrons are in bloom now, wonderful!

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    1. Thank you Nadezda, yes, things are slowly coming into bloom here, although the last photo of my garden in this post is from July last year, I should probably have made that clear...the first photo is from the day before, but it looked so green and without the usual splashes of colours I have so that's why I put a photo from last summer at the end. My garden will look like that eventually, when we just get a bit of warm weather and sunshine…..we can’t have 12 degrees the rest of the year, can we?!

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  23. Helene - I've said it before and I'll say it again. You are truly inspirational to all gardeners. I'm still trying to grow a bonsai.

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    1. Thank you, I try to do a lot of things, growing Bonsais is a good example! Just because something is difficult it doesn't mean I can't have a go at it!
      What kind of plant is it you are trying to grow as a Bonsai? Some are easier to start with than other :-)

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  24. Helene, the soaker hose is a brilliant idea. Another possibility might be drip irrigation, as you also have a lot of pots? We are gradually installing this system as we work our way around the garden, and it is a godsend. I don't have much energy by the end of the day and it gives me totally labour free watering. It's exempt from hosepipe restrictions too... if we ever have those again!
    Your garden really does look fantastic, I can understand the pleasure you get from it. Jx

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    1. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about hosepipe ban, should we ever have another one, as a registered disabled I am exempt from the ban and can water as normal. But I still want to install a soaker hose both for convenience and to save water, as evaporation will be minimal compared to the way I water now. Not sure how I could implement drip irrigation to my pots as they are on the opposite side as the tap and I don’t want to stretch the hose across my patio area. I am going to look into what I can do there, but it will be a huge help to at least get all the flower beds sorted in terms of watering.

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  25. You are incredible and inspirational! You get more gardening done than many people without any medical problems. Your beautiful garden is a testament to your determination and persistence. :o)

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    1. Oh, thank you *blush*...I always say my garden keeps me sane, how sane is probably best for other to decide, I don’t really mind being a bit on the mad side of normal – but I suppose I manage to keep my garden because I don’t regard it as ‘work’. I go out and do some gardening to relax and keep my mind off my pain and all the health issues I have. It works, should be on prescription!

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  26. I should have read your post thirty years ago . . . too late for me . . . I have already bitten off more than I can chew. ;>) I love your compost table and your boots! Your garden looks so lovely and tidy.

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    1. Thank you!
      You know, you can always downsize if you have too much to take care of. Screen off a part with a lovely hedge and make a meadow behind it. The wildlife would love you for it :-)

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  27. Hello Helene
    I so admire your positive outlook and practical methods of making the most of what abilities you have. No Pity Party for you!! Your helpful tools and aids (bench, long attachment for hose) are things I use myself and would probably help any gardener.
    You have made a spectacular garden in a smaller space and I'm glad that you have that bright raspberry chair to sit in and look around your lovely surroundings. Enjoy!

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    1. Thank you Astrid, I do enjoy my garden, it serves so many purposes for me and gets me out of bed every day :-)

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  28. Hello Helene, such an inspiring post. You seem to cope wonderfully and give hope to others trying to overcome difficulties of their own. As for me, my eyesight is getting poorer due to age related macular degeneration which usually affects those aged over sixty. I look out on the garden and it is a rather hazy view, viewing it through binoculars is brilliant. Fortunately close up work is not bad at all, although I am using magnification when doing computer work. I try not to dwell on it as I dread it getting worse. Hey listen to me, I have a lot to be thankful for.

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    1. Alistair, losing the eyesight must be really difficult, there are so many ways of compensating for other medical issues but when your eyes doesn’t work properly anymore, gardening and photography becomes really hard. I hope you can keep your eyesight on a reasonable level.

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  29. Helene, I was on holiday in southern England the last 2 weeks, so I'm now reading all the blogposts. First I have to say that you made an excellent post, it is so helpful for people with disabilities and other difficulties. Furthermore, it is amazing how you cope with your own mobility problems, despite these problems your garden is a real paradise. My favourite picture this time is your happy looking cat in the tray. Wish you much pleasure and keep going strong.

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    1. Thank you Janneke, I have had so many positive responses on this post, it is very heart warming :-)
      I hope you had a lovely stay in England, you got our fine Bank Holiday week-end with nice weather, but I guess you also felt how cold it was before and after, it is official now, the coldest spring in over 50 years! Back to 13 degrees C today…

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  30. What a great post Helene, and I really admire you for finding ways to make gardening more comfortable for you. My Step-Dad has mobility issues after several knee operations, and has one of those pickers that he uses indoors, but I've never seen him use it outside. I will let him know it can be useful in the garden too. And how wonderful is that last photo of your garden! It looks just beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Paula, that grabber is quite handy outdoors so a good tip for your step-father. The last photo is from July last year, my garden is far from looking like that yet, it is oh so slow still here, but I suppose we are getting there eventually!

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  31. Thanks for the link. I think your vegetable garden shelves idea is fantastic. Absolutely love it.

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    1. Thanks, I have just ordered tomato plug plants - a tumbling sort, never done tomatoes before so hope they will be fine in my boxes :-)

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  32. What a beautiful garden! You are quite an inspiration! Keep up the Good Work! and give that adorable kitty a scratch under the chin from me :)

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    1. Thank you Kate, and welcome to my blog. Scratch delivered and gratefully received :-)

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  33. I discovered your Blog today Helene and it has been such a source of inspiration .Like you I am housebound due to medical reasons and of course love gardening .Having spent most of today going through your wonderful photos you have solved a seven year problem I have had to find an evergreen for a shady damp corner that wont take over .Sarcococca ! Thank you thank you :D

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    1. Happy to have been of help :-)
      May I suggest you look into the different types of sarcocoocas? I have two different varieties, Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna and Sarcococca confusa, the first one has a spreading habit with suckers, the second creates seedlings from its berries. None of them are really a problem to keep in shape, but the first one I had to prune yearly in my previous garden and I could pull up suckers and give away every year. If you don’t want that, S. confusa is probably a better option. Both are equally good in complete shade.

      I wrote this post over 2 years ago, since then I have moved to a new house as I could no longer cope with the stairs in my old house. New house – new garden! You are welcome to follow the progress as I develop the new garden into my sanctuary. Or, you can visit my YouTube Channel and see my garden there:
      https://www.youtube.com/user/Heleneutaylor

      I tried to find a blog for you to make a visit back, but your link led me only to a Google+ page with no blog, if you have a blog, please let me know by leaving your link.
      Keep on gardening, that’s what gets me out of bed every day :-)

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