Gardening post-stroke

I thought I might create a gardening topic for those of us who have one or two green thumbs, or even a slightly verdant pinky. I have enjoyed chatting with survivors like @Pds and @Pontwander about this pleasurable past-time, so wanted to open it up for other enthusiasts to join in on the conversation if desired. Apparently, one of the reasons gardening is so cathartic, scientifically, is because through small scratches and scrapes on the gardener’s hands, microbes from the soil enter and cause euphoric feelings much like endorphins released through eating chocolate. I am not sure about the exact science of it, but it is interesting. I hope people get the chance to post some pics on this thread of their gardening endeavours.

Getting back out into the garden has been an up-and-down process for me. Over the summer of last year, I thought I was steady enough to tackle it head on. I was wrong and, with tail between my legs, I sequestered back indoors for most of the year. The curse I have suffered as a result of my stroke is not being able to deal with lots of visual noise and, of course, the garden is the most vibrant and busy of visual environments. I felt at first, this was a little bit unfair and cruel of the universe but, conversel,y it has given me time to think about it more deeply. I have had a good year to contemplate my garden from a window, and have now a more universal sense of it and I than I had previously.

I was out in the orchard today, and I was delighted that the small number of cowberries I had planted, despite being overgrown with bramble and creeping buttercup, have survived. I managed to weed around them today, and take an armful of brambles to the pigs so they have some winter greens to munch on.

Below is a picture of the Holstein I am currently winter pruning.


Hi Rups you never cease to amaze me! Getting motivated is my bugbear, when I came out of hospital I phoned stroke helpline about lack of motivation. Was told that’s part of stroke, a year on the consultant who signed me off said my vision was not likely to improve and that getting motivated would be an issue, but as all strokes are different, some of us may have to work a bit harder to motivate ourselves. Was told at Stroke Group by survivor who had been nurse on stroke/brain injury ward not to accept what doctors tell you, amazing things can happen and we know more about the universe than we know about the jolly old brain. So there it is. Keep as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as you can.


What a lovely piece @Pontwander - certainly food for thought.

Nature seems to always find a way - when a tree grows through and round a nearby railing for instance, encircling it and almost making it part of itself. Fascinating !

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Hi @Rups - great idea to have a gardening thread as it can certainly be very therapeutic. Getting out into the fresh air and having a good old dig around or lopping a few branches - and then seeing the results of your work. Very good for the soul and stress levels ! Glad you have been able to get back out there.

Our Mum had her stroke in April 2020 and for that first year - I didn’t really touch the garden. Just the odd lawn cut when absolutely necessary. Which was a shame as I’ve always liked being out there and pottering around. I don’t really know what I’m doing but I’ll have a go !

In 2021 I decided that even though I couldn’t spend as much time out there as before - I could still do a little bit here and there. And it didn’t matter if it wasn’t perfect…anything was better than nothing.

It gave me something different to focus on and also provided a reason for Mum to come out to the back of the house, so that she could see the plants and how they were doing. Otherwise she has a tendency to just stay in the one room.

We’ve been rewarded with geraniums, chrysanthemums and a few other plants still flowering in December - providing a bit of much needed colour and relief from the gloomy weather.

Below (maybe…if I’ve uploaded correctly !) are before and after pictures. The first in April 21 and the second from July. I don’t think it looked too shabby…

Best Wishes,


@Pds, indeed, motivation is aso my bugbear. I don’t think it is just a stroke related condition. I had this before the stroke but now it is hampered by neurological fatigue which means just thinking about the effort of doing is sometimes too much. The answer? This is going to sound very strange, but sometimes I need to call up the inner viking in me, and go out on an expedition (metaphorically), and this almost always helps. A pirate who has a wooden leg, an eye-patch, and a hook still needs to commandeer his boat. It’s these kinds of imagery that assist me day-to-day.

My vision is awful, not stable at any minute. Looking around for me is like being hit on the head and then having to endure that disorientation at every minute. I have some sort of delayed vision that makes everything feel like I am at sea. I have at times, wished I could be blind, but when I close my eyes I still feel at sea! That’s the best way I can describe it. Each person suffers their own defeat through stroke. It’s very personal, almost existential.

It is true, the universe is a constant goal for exploration, and yet the brain is taken for granted. However, your posts inspire me to motivate myself further, so perhaps not all is lost. I think good communication is key to learning and developing ourselves post-stroke as human beings.


@Craftchick Oh my gosh, what a transformation. I am all for wild gardens but I love what you have done with this. My advice is, don’t collect your grass cuttings, just spread them around the lawn. You’ve lots of lovely pots, but you’ll also start to get wild flower on the lawn too. That’s glorious, I could fall asleep on a deckchair in that garden. I am not au fait with flowers and I can’t zoom in enough to look at the borders but I reckon there’s space there for some nice herbs. Yea, I think it was Bacon who wrote that one should plant for the seasons, so I get that. Lovely. I hope your mum gets a bit of time out there, the work you have done is astounding.


Oh @Pontwander, a very contemplative piece. Sheesh, I think the expression is. Okay, so you were 47 when you had a stroke. I had mine at 44. Sorry, as is my habit I need to follow this line-by-line. Yes, we are humankind. Anthropocene, an interesting chapter of the earth. Age of trees again, well, one can only inspire. This old man, a friend? Was he looking out for you?

Crab apples are unqiue in the sense that they have a better cultivar system than regular apples. They are much more strategic and aggressive. Ah, you are friends. “Be more tree”, it’s a noble statement. I may adopt this as a mantra.

This is complex now … joy and love, ambition, despair … “what more could we want, we are living”. I love this … and trees feel the same thing but also fear and threat. At the same time, as you say, everything is shared.

“The tree stands still it’s whole life, it’s successes and it’s failures never measured against anything” - poignant but … “it’s needs met and sometimes not, everything its ever had decided by everything it shared its space with, the wind, the rain, the sunshine.” Even more poignant. But also disease, human threat, and also its own internal dilemmas.

“We are made of the same stuff as everything that surrounds us, every element in my tree friend is in my human friend…” Essentially, we feed back into that mycorrhizal network, and hopefully giver back what we took out.

“It’s decided by everything around us”, that’s for certain. it is exact that we choose in the same way that fungi choose what to do in its everyday existence. I like this piece. I think it provides a grounding to what is the relationship to people and the round, bit of earth they consider to be the planet. I look forward to reading more of your posts @Pontwander.

Can I add to this, how do we connect more to our trees? Your thought?

@Mahoney, the secret is, I have “vertigo” on the ground, so post-stroke for some reason heights have been abolished from my prior-stroke fears. What I am really interested to know is how have things progressed with your panic attacks?

And, if you have a little patch. It is gardening. I look forward to seeing what you have achieved with it. A garden is a garden is a garden. I am about to experiment with growing fungi indoors. It’s a garden. It stems from the old Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) word for “yard” which comes from “twig”, so a branch of your own, so to speak. :grin: :grinning:

Thanks for this @Pontwander, I will endeavour to be a bit more tree this year. I think I ought to.

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I have finally obtained some medlar scions to graft onto hawthorn rootstock. It has been a desire of mine to have a few medlar trees in the orchard, but the stroke came along and gave me something else to think about. However, a kind woman, nearby, was able to provide me with some cuttings. I visited her smallholding, and saw a very sad-looking medlar on a lean. I managed to take some good scions, giving the tree a bit of a restorative prune while there, and traded some of my homemade gooseberry jam. I then went about hunting down some rootstock. I see hawthorn saplings everywhere, but on the day I went scouting, I didn’t find a single one. The next day (accompanied), I went walking in the woods, and I managed to find one good rootstock. I also, to my delight, managed to collect a couple of handfuls of mature hedgehog mushroom (my favourite) which I brought home to put in a Jamaican curry I was making for the family. Hedgehog mushroom shouldn’t really be out this time of year, but the weather has been so mild. The walk wrecked me, by the time it was due to be heading home, I was not in a good way. My vision was so out of whack, I just stumbled back with an aching head. Woodland walks used to be my salve but, now, the visual noise really tests my brain. This, I see as a kind of curse, as the one thing I would do to mitigate life’s woes has become a woe in itself, but I refuse to let go of this treat.


Shwmae @Pontwander, gosh you’re looking to have a bright summer. I’ve got betony and rue to go in, come springtime. I’ve got a propagator but not in the poly, does it not get too hot? My poly gets up to ridiculous temperatures and I end up looking like I’ve come from a hot sauna after a short while in it. What’s in your propagator, sand or grit? My partner bought me two apple trees today for valentines, a discovery and a golden delicious, not sure how well the golden delicious is going to do. I’ve managed to graft the first medlar, I have a hawthorn sapling in check that I need to dig up. Stupidly, I should have prepared my own hawthorn saplings before this grafting venture, but live and learn. Those seeds look a tad like vine weevils. What else are you planing on going in the propagator? Do you plant your own vegetables? Salad crops? What do you like to grow? I am still trying to be more tree, and getting better at it, I feel, thanks to your posts on the matter.

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Noswaith dda Al (@Pontwander), fascinating, I considered no-dig beds but never followed it up. I’ve forgotten the methodology behind it now. It’s a very distinctive tree plot you’ve got there, may I ask what is going in? I grow my pumpkins and marrows in the muck heap, the plastic covering has holes. I have three muck heaps, as livestock produces a lot of mulch. So, my pumpkins grow from poo, but they taste great. I too have to approach things in a scheduled manner, but most of the time I am just glad to be outdoors. I collected some laurel shanks today (for walking sticks), I am gradually clearing a massive amount of laurel in this way, albeit, extremely slowly. I’ve given up on time, but the seasons do beckon, and I am trying to plan everything before the year gets away from me. That’s amazing that you grow your trees from seed. I have with a few trees like the strawberry tree (I have three healthy saplings now). A friend of mine does the same, and often turns up with a good-sized young tree grown from seed, and I take it from there.

My partner and her mother are more the flower growers here. I tend to stick with fruits and herbaceous perennials. However, these perennials do flower and I like to plant great swathes of them. I had a lovely border patch of anise hyssop next to the apiary. It was a magnificent display of purple with an aniseed scent. However, I got struck, and the bed was soon overgrown with creeping buttercup, docks, and nettles. I like the idea of netting half the poly, I may think about doing that. I wouldn’t say no to any stock you might like to send, I will message you. I recently sent off some Royal Jubilee scions to a stranger who contacted me on Twitter. I like the plant postal community, it’s a good way of sharing wildlife. If you want anything in return, have a think. Hope you are doing okay this week.

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Hi Rups golden delicious grown in these islands far better flavour than imported and useful as round these parts they can often be picked late into December like Sturmer Pippin. Medlar I was given was grafted onto a pear rootstock. Still only can watch a couple of hours tv a week but reading non fiction country related topics my salvation. Triangle Dominoes which I was introduced to at my stroke group now play at home occasionally and find very useful. Still can’t get my head round how you can research without having major side effects. Will grow toms, beans , courgettes and squash this year and hope to be self-sufficient again next year. May you have a productive year in all departments. Pds

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Bore da Al, (@Pontwander), my father grows pumpkin as a vine. Literally, up a tree. He sent me a photo of all his pumpkins hanging like jack o’lanterns. I have three large muck heaps, converted from three old dilapidated stables. One contains the year before’s fully-composted mulch which is what is now going onto the garden beds, the second is for all this year’s fresh material, and the third is last year’s mulch which is now ready for pumpkins to be planted. The main reason I do it this way is space saving and convenience, but also allows the pumpkins a ready source of organic mulch which they like, and there’s ample drainage. When harvesting, all I have to do is toss the leftover vine into the next muck heap. I guess the only thing you’ll probably need to keep a check on with your soil type, and the cardboard, and our wet weather, is drainage.

Aye, I’m with you on encouraging wildlife. My gardens are not manicured but rather tended in certain spots. I do use a mulcher in the orchard but nowhere else.

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Shwmae @Pds, research keeps me going, and puts me into a comfortable, sequestered space, but give me something bureaucratic to do and it feels like pulling teeth. My fatigue kicks in whenever I have to do something administrative or involving thinking about numbers, especially, associated with finance. I am pleased to hear about the golden delicious in that way because I was wondering how well it would do here. I recently went out and began dismantling one of the horrid laurels in our woodland, I brought in four shanks, so will season for next year’s walking sticks. I’m a little tempted to make some miniature ones, I never attempted previously due to my rather Drude carving skills, but as many indoors projects I can muster makes for time pleasantly spent. I’m fine with telly, but recently watched Louis Theroux’s Forbidden America, and my brain didn’t like it. I usually watch gentle detective shows, mild comedies, and history documentaries. It seems you have a good list of veggies to cultivate this year. I am still picking red cabbage and romanesque. I have horehound, liquorice, and Boliivian fuchsia alba to tray up.

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Hi Pontwander. I live close to a Buddhist monastery and have often chatted to the odd monk as they go walkabout. After being stroked depression had a go at me have managed to avoided pills , mindfullness was mentioned. Who better to ask than a wadering monk. So met one on one of my rambles and asked him his advice. We discussed our youthful quests like Monty Python’s Film ,for the meaning of life. He said “ you mentioned reading a book by jkrishnamurti in your youth look no further, you can go on Utube and a lot of his talks are on there. His approach is refreshing ,and very be more tree. Not a Christian but as a child sort of understood Christ’s

Hi Pontwander fat fingers sent that off prematurely………”consider the lilies of the field…” same as be more tree. Pds

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Hi Alan Still learning to be more tree dont mind which species.notable trees in parish are few big oaks and sweet chestnut that must have been planted well before they planted hundreds of acres round these parts for coppicing. One good size hornbeam an enormous yew that I think grew by a lost church. Wanted to research this in retirement but being stroked changes all the best laid plans of mice and men. Just read this in a wildlife magazine,very short poem by DH Lawrence……. ‘I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself ‘ Pds


Shwmae @Pontwander, lovely lupins. My flowering plant this year will hopefully be Fuchsia Boliviana (Alba). I have four of these plants in the garden already, but they are of the purple fruit variety and red flower. The alba is white and has a dropping green fruit. I made the mistake of planting three of the previous plants too early in their growth, and noticed that the fourth plant does quite well (I cultivated it for a long period indoors before planting out). So, this time I will prolong the indoor period until the plant is more tree like and then, hopefully, it will have a full cycle over our short summers. I hope you are enjoying preparing for spring, it can be rather exciting.

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Prynhawn Da Alan (@Pontwander), for over a year, I have managed to ignore pretty much everything from outside my bubble, and then I got dragged in recently, and have learnt my lesson. My brain is not wired rationally at the moment to filter out histrionics, and the media and people in general are geared up for emotive response, so this is not the stillness and slowness of life that I need right now. I have put the brakes on, I am taking shelter from the hailstones, and with my head buried peacefully in the mycelium, I will carry on with my duty to the wild. On this note, I was thinking of returning to teaching, but have decided to supplement my writing income with honey. My partner suggested it, and after some thought, I considered that beekeeping is relatively cognitive free. I have just made fifteen litres of mead, some of which I can sell, and the rest for private consumption. In my mind, I pictured two scenarios, one was sitting at my desk to instruct a student for an hour, or walking out to my apiary to inspect the hives. The latter imagery won out. I can be anxious around my bees, I can be forgetful, I can be discombobulated, I can be angry, I can be full of disquiet, and the bees won’t care or need to engage with my feelings or abilities. So, perfect.

I’ve had a few of those prescription moments, once going with meds for five days because of a bank holiday weekend. I suspect they don’t provide “lifetime” medication in bulk incase we kick the bucket, and have too much leftover medication.

I have some buds coming up on the grafted medlar scions, so am quite excited at this point. I have been preparing a secret garden with my youngest son, this activity is a good soul-quenching pastime, as it allows for some magical speculation on the plot. I must get trays ready for liquorice and horehound. I have also to transfer my pigs to a field I want managing. The arc is now built but I have to extend part of the fence line, and install a large gate. Oh time, it gets consumed by things like making dinner or getting firewood, and then all I want to do is sit down with a bevvy and read a book.

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