Leigh, aka The Beardy Gardener, is a huge advocate for the power of gardening to improve health and wellbeing.
Having cemented his own love of gardening, he is now on a quest to share this joy with others through The Giving Garden (read more below).
The plants he grows for The Giving Garden all have a connection to positivity and mental health. Here are five of his suggested plants to grow and gift in your own garden.
“Cornflowers symbolise positive hope for the future,” says Leigh. “Intense farming in the UK almost wiped them out, so it’s great to bring them back.”
Because they are annuals (they live for one year only), cornflowers are not a long-lasting gift. But, a pot or picked bunch of these pretty blue flowers will bring beautiful colour to someone’s home or garden.
“I think everyone should grow at least one herb,” says Leigh. “Growing stuff that you can eat is one of the reasons gardening makes me smile.”
“I like Rosemary because it’s easy to grow, tasty and aromatic.”
If you have a large rosemary plant, you will be able to gift a constant supply of rosemary for others to use in their cooking.
You could also gift someone a cutting from your rosemary plant, so they can try and grow their own. They will need to be patient, though – it takes time to get a good size new plant. You could give a good size sprig of new growth from your plant in a small vase or jam jar of water. Once this sprig develops roots, it can be planted into the ground.
“This is the ultimate happy plant for me, it always puts a smile on my face.”
To share the joy with others, Leigh suggests gifting from seed. “I have sowed seeds for friends and given them as gifts to plant in their gardens.”
Another option is to grow lots in your garden and gift a big, bright bunch of sunflowers to decorate the home. It won’t last as long, but should still raise a big smile.
4. Lemon balm
“Lemon balm is a fantastic plant that has been used for centuries in herbal gardens etc. to treat stress and aid sleep. Its essential oils are linked to reducing anxiety.”
Much like rosemary, you could gift a generous bunch of your lemon balm. Or, you could also gift a cutting so they can grow their own.
“This is a great plant to gift someone, with so many varieties.”
“I love the smell and they are great for pollinators. Salvia is also fairly easy to grow.”
The best times to take cuttings from salvias are mid spring, or early to mid-autumn. This allows plenty of opportunity for living gifts!
Leigh will tell you very honestly that gardening has saved him. Growing plants has helped with his mental health, which has been impacted by childhood trauma, depression and anxiety.
His wish now is to give others the opportunity to explore how amazing gardening can be for mental health. This had led to an inspiring new project, The Giving Garden, where his own back garden will become a tool to share on a bigger scale.
His ambition is to create a 'National Collection of Positivity' in his garden. People will be able to dedicate one of the many plants growing to a nominated friend, family member or colleague. Leigh will ‘foster’ the plant in his garden, sharing seasonal updates with the dedicated person as an ongoing positive pick me up.
Follow his journey: