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Green wall lessons: How to grow well

What do you do when it's your 15th wedding anniversary, COVID is changing the way you live and work - and you like being outside?

My husband proposed that we build a green wall in the garden outside his study. We did just that & I've sat looking at the wall for many happy minutes. I've reflected a lot about what it teaches me. So I thought I'd share that here.

So how did this all start?

I'd always liked the huge green wall at the G-Mex Metro station in Manchester, found it refreshing to look at - especially when awaiting a tram, or after a day's work. I marvelled at the creativity and colour and overall feeling of relaxation that it brought.

Martin's idea was that the wall would have the effect of cooling his study - it's in a part of the house that gets lots of sun. Great in winter - not so good in summer.

So - research was done, options reviewed, benefits assessed. Despite supplies being a little slower to come by at this time, the kit arrived. It was unveiled, bits assembled, wall prepared.

Sunny day obliging, the metal grid was screwed to the wall; the small ladder was fetched; the troughs were sorted and attached. Already the wall was taking on a different character and something new was emerging.

Then the fun bit, at least for me. Sourcing plants that would fit that space well, and hopefully last well through the years. In addition to the cheeky pops of colour that would give us pleasure this year - and likely would need others to replace them later in the year, and the next.

Selecting plants at the local nursery and walking them back along the much quieter main road brought smiles to many faces and cheered our day too. Making sure the compost was in place; deciding where the plants would go, filling up the troughs and stopping to see the colour picture grow was really good fun. And fed the soul in the midst of the strange strange time it was.

It was good to take time to gently celebrate - whilst there were new challenges and apparent obstacles to navigate.

The finished picture was brilliant - like a gift and a poem and a painting all at once. Yet it was incredibly simple to do, and a real pleasure. And it has served us very well through these months - bringing joy as well as filling a space & doing what was needed for the study.

What have I learnt from this?

1. Doing something we love at the right time nourishes us

When we are able to respond quite quickly to an opportunity – and we have a chunk of time to do something we've dreamed of which we sense will do us good - then it can really bring benefits. And is worth doing, even when it takes focus and time away from things that may seem more urgent or important.

Actually I think the ability to feel that inspiration, and respond to it well, and effectively - to do something that ties in with our deeper hopes and values - feeds us pretty deeply; and is worth investing thought and time in.

How often do we ignore those things or not even give them time to surface in our thinking?

Surely we are valuable enough to do that for?

Even taking a micro break to observe a small flower growing in a crack in the pavement - and enjoying it while the sun shines on us - can be healing, and replenish us for the next task ahead.

What are the things we love that bring us joy? How do we feed those parts of us?

How do we build in enough time and space to our lives so we can sense and respond to this stuff. And let it bless us. Underused word but it works.

2. Being flexible with what works is healthy

Some of the flowers and plants I bought were different to what I would have chosen if I had had more choice.

Some were new to me and I needed to learn how best to care for them.

Some of those I would have chosen would not fit the available space.

So - we chose from what was there, enjoyed the variety there was, and branched out and tried some new things. Made some different but good choices.

We experimented, and saw what it looked like, and took time to enjoy the process. And learnt what worked. We got a balance between what would work for the longer term with what fitted for the shorter term.

The result was great - and different to what it likely would have been in other seasons. But that was fine. And it allowed us to learn some more. It was a joy.


How many times have I missed an opportunity in the past I ask myself - because it wasn’t exactly as I envisaged it or hoped for?

Did I give up too soon or not explore far enough? Did I take time to imagine what it could be and go from there - allowing inspiration to lead me?

When in the past have I seen possibilities, been glad of them and grabbed them with both hands? I think looking back - that I have been happiest when I have done this, walking forward confidently into whatever those possibilities may bring. In a sense trusting the process - even when the outcome was not yet definite or clear.

How can I make sure I give myself time to do this in the future? Especially when the opportunity seems to resonate with me and correspond to my beliefs, hopes and dreams?

I'll reflect further...

In the meantime - grow well.

This post was first published in October 2020 on Rachel's blog on her website:

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