URBAN TROPICALS - SOLANGE SOURIS
From a young age I've loved to be outside with nature. Some of my first memories are being surrounded by plants. I could be found in my grandparent’s English rose garden catching butterflies, building dens in the local woodland, or running through sugar cane fields in Mauritius. But at the time I didn't realise the importance of these green spaces and the influence they would have on my adult life.
In my teens my mental health took a turn for the worse and by my early twenties I became very ill with depression and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was at this time I once again reconnected with plants. I found purpose in looking after them, watching the tomato seedlings on my window cill grow as I nurtured them. They reminded me that life is ever growing and changing and that I too could and would grow stronger again and recover.
Since then gardening for me has become much more than just a hobby; it is the key to my wellbeing, a form of therapy when sometimes help is difficult to come by, given the pressures faced by the NHS and mental health support services in general. I've found when times are tough, losing myself in the plant world and having the opportunity to reconnect with nature and be creative is a helpful escape; this reduces my stress, anxiety and negative thoughts and feelings.
I've been able to create garden spaces at home both outside and indoors, in my own time and at my own pace and have been rewarded with beautiful spaces. Inspired by my Mauritian heritage, my garden is full of tropical style planting including large foliage plants like Bananas, palms and ferns; these bold leaves give the garden most of its jungle feel, with splashes of bright colour throughout the season, highlighting the lust bursting borders.
These are my places to practice mindfulness and meditation; taking in the moments when everything feels too much and reconnecting with nature, through the sites and sounds around me. It could be the feel of soil through my fingertips, the grass between my toes, or even the gentle hum of bees; which brings me positivity and instantly lifts my mood. Most importantly, plants and the garden won't judge me; this is where I can rebuild my confidence and become me again.
There is now lots of research talking about the benefits of gardening for mental health and wellbeing and for me personally, it has certainly helped. I've been using plants to help with my health for many years and it still brings me joy and peace of mind. In this time of uncertainty I've been lucky to have these spaces. I can sit in a little outside urban oasis on a summers’ day in Norfolk, with the sun on my face giving the feeling of being somewhere far away, yet still safe at home, in my garden.
Now more than ever I see the importance of green spaces and time outdoors for young and old. Being out in the open-air can bring all kinds of enjoyment whatever the weather; even a simple rainbow can put a smile on your face and bring hope. Stay safe everyone.