On my 7th birthday I received a copy of “The Secret Garden”. I have many great memories of books I devoured during my childhood, but Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story about an initially grumpy and spoilt little girl arriving in England as an orphan and being transformed by nature and the kindness of those around her, must be one of my all-time favourites. I was enchanted by the relationships “Mistress Mary quite contrary” forged over time with nature, Martha the housemaid, Ben the gardener, Robin the robin and the gardens around her. Her friendship with Dickon that stretched across social boundaries and her empathy yet fierce determination surrounding her neurotic cousin Colin kept me glued to the pages until I had turned the last page. I was so obsessed that I asked my grandmother for some gardening tools and, similar to Mistress Mary asking her indifferent uncle, for a space in the garden where I could dig, sow seeds and watch flowers grow. I even started nurturing lemon and orange pips into little trees, at one point filling the whole window sill of my room with little growing pods. Soon after, I added succulents to my collection and marvelled at the laborious process of growing and keeping an avocado tree. As I grew older, I handed many of my plants to more dedicated family members and forgot about growing things and little Mary’s Secret Garden. I also neglected my patch in the garden and haven’t been keen on getting my hands stuck in some weeds and soil for years. Whilst I appreciate gardens and love nothing more than enjoying a warm summer’s evening spent outside with a glass of red, I am also known to leave the maintenance of said flora and fauna to my partner. However, more recently, when looking around my house, I knew something was missing. It took me a while to work out that my surroundings were severely lacking a touch of greenery and leafy life, different shades of green in colourful and extravagant plant pots. I ventured out and came back with three different miniature palm trees and pots that cost more than the plants themselves. A few days later a cactus, an aloe vera and a selection of succulents joined the indoor fauna. Since then, we have baked a lot of lemon cakes and eaten many oranges to get all the citrus pips. We let them dry for a little bit and then planted them into lots of growing pods. We’ve also planted pepper seeds, cauliflower and herbs, turning our kitchen in a little jungle. Whilst I am ignoring questions of where we’ll put all those new little leafy family members, I am busy exploring manor house and botanical gardens in our area, marvelling at the trees, flower beds, ponds, streams and woodlands. My favourite one is a university botanical garden that is free to enter and a wonderful place to spend some time alone, wandering around at your leisure or to take the kids. When I took my children last time, we spent hours there and only left a few minutes before the gardens closed. Being there, I only used my phone to take pictures, and immersed myself into mother nature. After a while, I could hear my thoughts again, rather than the usual mess of half-started to-do-lists that fly through my head all the time. Being outside or surrounded by nature is healing and beneficial in so many ways. And, whilst I have to stop myself from spending a small fortune on plant pots, I am delighted with how much fresher and happier our home looks. Recently, I even got my hands dirty in the garden again (or to be more precise, my feet). We are making our lawn bigger to potentially have some areas of wild meadow, all in support of our bees. As I walked barefoot on the soil, watering the seeds with water from the paddling pool, I felt glimpses of the excitement I used to have as the girl who’d just read “The Secret Garden”. Just as well, since I am re-reading the book. Sometimes passions lie dormant for a while. But, like the Secret Garden, they just sleep, don’t die.