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  • Sue Matthews

Mind your weeds!


Garden Lesson 1

I moved into my house a year ago. The garden is quite big and had been neglected for some time. There were several large trees which were overshadowing everything and causing the shrubs to lean towards the light and become misshapen. And the weeds …. Lots of weeds, brambles, ivy … stinging nettles in one part. The garden is also an odd shape – not a conventional square or rectangle – it’s got steps up to a pointy bit.


Anyway – we had two of the largest trees removed by professionals – they were above roof height – far too big for a small suburban garden. That was about a month after we moved in. After that… we did nothing.


So for a year the weeds, bramble, ivy etc just took over.


We kept saying to each other- “we must sort the garden out”. But each time we said it my stomach dropped – it just seemed to be such a big task. Where do you start? What’s under the weeds – will I recognise what needs to stay or go? The weeds just keep growing – so what is the point – if we can’t do it properly it’s all just going to become unkempt again.


Lots of negative thoughts – which meant I kept putting off the task. And the weeds kept on growing.


Then the lockdown started. So I thought – it’s now or never.


I went out into the garden, grabbed a trowel and secateurs and started weeding at the top of the steps. I cleared a small area, and as I stood back, I thought how good it looked. So I did a bit more and managed to clear a section where we had been unable to walk before. And it looked good, and I felt good.


It occurred to me that there were some lessons to learn from this:


  1. Start somewhere – anywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s not the most logical place to start. (The steps are kind of in the middle of garden). Achieving something gives you the motivation and learning to move on and do more.

  2. Do it bit by bit. I worked on the garden over two or three weeks – a few hours most days – but not every day. I paced myself and didn’t chide myself for not completing it all in one go. I worked at a pace which suited me.

  3. It’s ok to change your mind. At the start I thought I knew where I would put seats, plants and ornaments. As I worked my way round the garden I changed my mind several times. My plans evolved.

Garden Lesson 2

So, I had worked my way round the garden and removed all the weeks, brambles, ivy and dandelions. I had pruned and shaped the shrubs. I had even moved a few plants around.

There was a large bed under a lilac tree that had a couple of shrubs at the back, but a large area of nothing at the front. It was lockdown – garden centres were closed. So I decided I would leave it empty until I was able to make a decision about what to plant in there.


So, you can imagine my annoyance when after a few days the weeds began to return. I was having to pull up little weeds over and over again.


Luckily one of my neighbours had a tray of geraniums that she had no room for, so she gave them to me and I put them in the bed to fend off the weeds.


It occurred to me that there were some lessons to learn from this:


  1. When you remove something you need to replace it with something else. Nature does not like a vacuum, and flower beds do not like being empty. So if you get rid of something you don’t want, you need to replace it with something you do want. If you get rid of a habit, you need to replace it with an alternative activity; if you have negative thoughts you need to replace them with positive thoughts. If you don’t, those negative thoughts will begin to grow again like those pesky weeds.

  2. Delayed gratification can be a good thing sometimes. But when it comes to emotions – why put off feeling happy, or whatever it is you want to feel. Do it as soon as you can.

Garden Lesson 3

A garden requires continuous work.


I am out in the garden most days checking on the plants that I want to keep; and plucking out the ones I don’t (those weeds!!)


It occurred to me that there were some lessons to learn from this:


  1. If you don’t want to slip back into the old way of things – then you have to keep checking in. Are things the way I want them? Do I feel the way I want to? Do I need to do more work on it?

  2. Sometimes you need some external help. The huge trees that I had taken out were beyond my personal ability to deal with. Some of the heavy work also meant that I had to get my partner to help me. And that’s ok. It is ok to get help when you need it – either using a trusted friend, or calling in a professional.


What are these gardening stories about?

  1. Don’t put off improving your life. Start now.

  2. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want – as long as you know you don’t want to be where you are, it’s time to do something.

  3. Be kind to yourself – you don’t have to do it ALL now – but do start.

  4. Whatever you do choose to do, make sure you are moving towards something, not just away from something.

  5. Replace the negative with a positive.

  6. Keep on going. Don’t start and then stop – keep chipping away until you get to where you want to be.

  7. If you need help – ask for it. Recognise that you may need to get the help from a professional to get you started and moving in the right direction.

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Wells, Somerset, UK

©2019 by Sue Matthews Therapy