Home Lifestyle Carol Klein: ‘Gardening has been a solace for so many during the pandemic’

Carol Klein: ‘Gardening has been a solace for so many during the pandemic’

32
0
'Gardening has given us the freedom to do something positive without restrictions' - Knickerbockerglory

‘Gardening has given us the freedom to do something positive without restrictions’ – Knickerbockerglory

In this pandemic I am one of the lucky ones – first and foremost I live with Neil, my husband; we get on with each other brilliantly and, over the past year, we have seen even more of each other than usual. We have been together for 50 years. Although we have had little hug-to-hug contact with our lovely family, there were a couple of opportunities to meet up when, briefly, restrictions allowed. Our eldest daughter lives with her husband in California, our youngest in London with her husband and two children. Our grandson was born days before the first lockdown so his first birthday is coming up. How we all wish we could give him first birthday hugs and kisses or read books and play peepo with his sister. How can you miss people so much when you have seen so little of them?

We were so lucky to have been around when he was born and, though we were only there for a few days, what magical days they were.

Neil came up too and we travelled back to Devon together. It was on our return journey that I began to feel ill; I’d had a few symptoms earlier but they were ignored in the general excitement. I went to bed and stayed there for a few days. Neil looked after me wonderfully as he always does but as I got better he began to feel poorly. His symptoms were worse than mine but we both weathered the storm.

Because testing was only just being rolled out, neither of us was ever tested to confirm that we had had Covid but it was pretty clear that was what happened.

It gradually dawned on us, as it must have for millions of people around the world, what a serious situation this was. Needless to say though, as we entered that first lockdown, we had no idea what a long haul we were all in for.

Recovery for us was so much easier than for many – we have our garden and though Neil does not actively participate in day-to-day gardening it is part of his life. It has grown with us and our family and has so many connections and memories. The fact that, as the pandemic struck, primroses were starting to bloom and new shoots were bursting through the soil made it easier to cope with what was happening. It is surely the most optimistic time of the year, and it’s happening all over again!

Gardening was not just a distraction, something to take our minds off the dreadfulness of what was happening; it encapsulated the inevitability of the triumph of nature. The passage of the seasons is inexorable, it happens no matter what. Coronavirus is not – human intervention can change its course.

Being 75, I have needed to shield. Living surrounded by fields, we’re a bit out of the way for home grocery deliveries. Neil has done all the shopping and all the cooking but that is what he has done for many years.

2020 was the first year in 30 years that I missed Chelsea as either an exhibitor, a presenter or both. The amount of work, creativity and planning that this and other flower shows including the joyous Malvern Spring Festival entail, was wasted. It was heartbreaking especially for small nurseries, many of whom depend on the shows. Nobody runs a nursery to get rich quick – people do it for love. The way in which nurseries and garden centres have adapted their businesses to stay afloat is exemplary and it has meant that the gardening public, many of them new gardeners, have been able to source seeds and plants.

Gardening has been a solace to millions during the pandemic. It has opened our eyes to how important contact with the natural world is. We are all part of it yet so many people are alienated from it by the way in which they are forced to live. In a world where we may feel helpless to change outcomes or be there for loved ones, gardening has given us the freedom to do something positive without restrictions – and to share. At one stage I could help Annie in California with pricking-out her veg seedlings and she could pass it on to friends all over the world. Social media has been an ongoing boon to spread and share the word. I’ve tried to improve my Instagram skills with huge help from my daughter Annie.

The only hardship the pandemic has brought for me has been separation from family and friends but it has made me so much more aware of how hard everyday life is for so many people. The pandemic has deflated celebrity culture and reminded us what and who is really important; people, family and friends, the NHS, nursery workers and teachers, the cleaners wiping down the chairs in the hospital foyer and the folk behind the tills at the supermarket and so many more.

We filmed a couple of links for The Virtual Chelsea Flower Show, the coverage was great, but oh how we all missed the buzz of the show, marvelling at the exhibits and the wealth of plants, meeting friends from all over the world and talking plants and gardening. The upside of not being away at shows has meant that there has been more time to garden and that I’ve seen the garden at times missed in other years. I actually got to see poppies and paeonies bursting into bloom.

There were just a few days filming for me for Gardeners World, two of them at Glebe Cottage, filmed by Neil “Ford Coppola” Klein on an iPhone. Our charming director Simon watched live from Somerset. We also got out to two inspirational gardens – socially distanced of course.

Necessity is the mother of invention – in this case the inclusion of viewer’s videos in Gardeners World has proved to be a highlight of the show. It was brilliant that the show went out so successfully – it starts again on March 19 with two more compilation programmes before that.

With Channel 5 we had been filming another series of our award-winning Great British Gardens when the pandemic began to bare its teeth. The show features the gardens in each season. Having already filmed the autumn and winter sequences, we were about to visit for spring when the first lockdown was announced. All might have been lost had it not been for our intrepid self-shooting camerawoman/ director Jess and her assistant Ollie backed by a splendid production team, ensuring that we got the footage we needed to bring the spring to life. By the time summer came, we were allowed, with full social distancing, to complete the story. You’ll be able to enjoy the programmes in late spring/ early summer, hopefully as a prelude to visiting some of them yourself if and when restrictions allow.

Meanwhile the second of our two-part series Gardening with Carol Klein goes out tonight [Feb 25] at 7pm. Thanks to Channel 5 and its controller Ben Frow we were able to make this in the garden here during a two week period over midsummer. This was so enjoyable to film and we hope it shows. Our talented two-person crew were brilliant and the editors and production team all played a huge part in making this a great success. It is remarkable how well like-minded people can work together creatively without any direct contact.

Not only have millions more of us taken up gardening over the last year but our gardening has become more important to us. Throughout the pandemic, all of us have had our autonomy taken away but gardening has helped us cope with that loss.

Yes, gardening is good for us – for our well-being and our sanity and as a source of optimism for the future.

Gardening with Carol Klein concludes tonight [Thursday Feb 25] at 7pm on Channel 5

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here