Green Gardener’s Guild Chat With: @littlegreengem_

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Welcome back to your fortnightly catch-up with Coco&Coir and our wonderful Green Gardeners here at our Guild! It’s been quite the adventure through summer with our gardeners, and as we swiftly enter Autumn with Halloween on the horizon, we have yet another lovely green and growing garden to take a look around.

In this catch-up, we spoke with @littlegreengem_ – or Gem Willis as she is otherwise known! – about all the ways in which she makes her green gardening space her very own unique haven for all things green-thumbed. Her garden is a truly beautiful space, and we can’t wait to show you all that we have chatted about alongside her fantastic photographs. So let’s get started and see just what Gem has been up to in her garden!

Take it away and tell us all about you and your garden, Gem!

“How to describe my garden? Working progress! We have the most generous space but it is very much a blank canvas which is equal parts amazing and overwhelming. I want to be an amazing gardener but I’m what you could call haphazard. I’m quite early on in my gardening journey and everything is a learning curve. I’ve been learning from a fair few failures this year but have made the little successes into huge celebrations to make up for it.

I’m very much just starting out, building my confidence bit by bit and trying not to run before I can walk but there is just so much I want to do and achieve it’s hard to not go full throttle into it. It’s certainly a family affair. I pretty much do everything with my two children – some of it’s great, some of it is stressful and some things we just abandon until I do get a moment to go solo but everything we are learning and doing is together and I love that. [We spend most our time] having fun! Whether that be fun with the veg patch, planting new flowers and finding creepy crawlies or just using the garden to play in – we quite like frisbee and generally chasing each other in our garden.”

As you can see, Gem has quite the busy life in her garden with her family! It is always important for us to see the many ways that a garden can be used, and not just for growing new plants. Your garden has the potential to be a safe green space for all those who visit, you and your family included. If you have some extra space, invest in some turf or a small decking area to give yourselves somewhere to have fun with the family. Whether that is playing frisbee or admiring nature and kicking back with a book, your garden is your space to do as you please. Though, we have to admit, the excitement of getting the family out with us to grow new plants really is unbeatable. Learn together and plant more – you’ll be surprised what you will see each and every year the more you improve.

We wanted to know what parts of gardening Gem enjoyed most, and her answer was as wonderful as we expected: “The connectivity that I feel when I do it. It blows away the brain fog, the cobwebs and the crippling self doubt and gives me hope and calm amongst the cyclone of craziness in the world at the moment.  It gives me time with my children that things like chores and work and life admin in general try to steal from me. Then there’s the planet, by gardening I feel like I’m giving something back and thanking mother nature for the beauty she has created and that we so fiercely need to protect.”

Isn’t Gem a – well, a gem? We have to agree that there is something that truly makes gardens a special place, and there are studies that prove gardening and spending time in nature do indeed provide an outlet to clear your head and have a positive impact on your mental health. Not just by using it to spend time with family, but by simply having something to nurture and see grow with your care and attention. Protecting our planet by starting in our gardens, too, is another passion that we share with Gem – and believe others should, too. We certainly do need to protect the world around us, and switching to peat-free composts is a great way to do this. Protecting our natural peatlands from being dug up and used in our composts means we leave these natural carbon-soaking sponges alone and avoided excess carbon being released into our environment, contributing to global warming. Who knew that the little changes could amount to such large impacts?

There are always challenges in gardening too, but Gem is certainly taking them one at a time and dealing with many that we all are familiar with: “[My biggest challenge is] believing in myself. I have too many moments of wanting to throw the towel in because I don’t think I can do it and what’s the point, but the reasons I enjoy and garden in the first place soon shed light on those darker moments. It is also understanding and processing all the information out there – the instructions and timeframes, the do’s and the don’ts, the endless tips on the best way to do things. You’ve just got to find what’s best for you and that’s not easy to do sometimes.”

That is the most important thing – as gardeners, figuring out what the solutions are that work for us. Each of us live with different conditions surrounding our gardens and homes, and we all have differing amounts of time that we can commit to our green spaces. Some solutions may be more time intensive while you need something quicker: and with trial and error, you will find the answers you need. Just keep trying and learn to love the process. It will all be worth it.

Gem has been working hard on her garden, but with her trial and error for now, and when held against her idea of the perfect garden, she’d score her garden: “A strong 1 at best at the moment. Like me, it is very much a project. We celebrated our 2nd year at the house in August so we are still quite early days and the space is a blank canvas so it’s very much about knowing where to start. We’ve started planting our ‘orchard’ space and fixed the veg patch. Designated a play space for the children and now it’s for everything else.”

We like to address sustainability in our gardens too, and it’s always good to see the ways in which our Green Gardeners look to be more sustainable. For Gem, she said: “I would consider myself to be more sustainable than some but not as much as others. I try. I am hopefully setting up our compost bin soon which will be one step closer. We installed water butts this year and use peat free and organic compost but I know there are so many more things I could do and I’ve been learning from and inspired by the amazing Instagram community. So I’m looking forward to making greener and more sustainable steps forward in the garden.”

You can find many useful hints and tips across the internet on how to be a more sustainable gardener, including ways to recycle compost and change to greener alternatives throughout your garden. Communities of gardeners have made some fantastic how-to guides around sustainable gardening methods, just like those that Gem has found and used.

Now for our last – and favourite! – question, we asked Gem what sort of exotic plant she’d love to grow if it could survive in the British weather: “Very good question, I’d want to say banana – I know we have them over here but to be able to plant them like an apple or a pear would be a dream. I mean, I actually hate banana’s but when we were selecting trees to plant in our space, my children were consulted, and there was no hesitation in banana – cue the tears and upset when I told them mummy couldn’t!” (Noooooo!)

We are so glad that Gem took the time to speak with us – and we are sure you can all agree that her garden and journey are one to watch! Keep up to date with Gem and her family’s adventures on Instagram. Thank you again, Gem, for your wonderful answers and time spent with us!

If you would like to get involved with the Green Gardener’s Guild, send along your story and we will be in touch to feature you right here!