Gardening for Mindfulness and Wellbeing

It seems that everyone is talking about mindfulness and wellbeing these days. Not surprising after 10 years of austerity. Perhaps it is a good sign that people want to put it all behind them and be more positive. One definition given for wellbeing is “the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, and a sense of meaning or purpose.” Issues that affect us all. It is sad that depression and stress seems to figure so largely in today’s society. Mental health has also been talked about much more lately with the return of our soldiers from places like Iraq and Syria. Perhaps with the general outcry for better social care we will start taking it all more seriously. I was surprised to be introduced recently to the Buddhist Chaplain of the armed forces and am also impressed with the way that some Tibetan Buddhist centres are developing outreach centres such as Karma Dzong in Bermondsey and Yorkshire. These are branches of Samye Ling monastery in Scotland where I attended meditation training many years ago and seem to be leading the way. They offer help to people on a much wider range of personal well-being issues in conjunction with local Councils, not just spiritual development. One thing that sticks in my mind is the way that His Holiness the Dalai Lama always seems so positive, down to earth, and at times bubbles with joy. Not bad, for an 84 year old man who has witnessed the death of more than a million of his people since the invasion of Tibet by China in 1959. In my first meeting with him in 1992 he stressed that to be happy we need peace of mind and to achieve that, meditation was […]

Cascades Gardens, Derbyshire – a haven of peace

I bought the Cascades house and the surrounding land in 1996. The idea for the garden began that summer when I visited Eheiji a Zen Buddhist monastery (Temple of Eternal Peace) in the western Alps of Japan. I was only allowed to stay there by agreeing to follow the practices of a Zen priest and found myself in meditation sessions at 4 am daily and in other rituals. Importantly, I was able to view the formal monastery gardens set in woodland. It was a deeply spiritual place. On the way back, down to Kyoto, I visited Daitoku-ji monastery and had green tea with the Abbot. I sat by the famous garden of the sub temple Daisen In. I was greatly inspired by its rocks, representing mountains and raked sand – a river. I always felt that the Cascades had the potential to have the natural calmness and spirituality of these Japanese gardens and in 2015 the new conifer rockery was created with a raked gravel path and rocks rising up to the natural cliff.

Cascades Gardens inspired by Japanese Gardens

In the Summer of 1996 in the same year that I bought The Cascades, I visited Kyoto, Japan. I wanted to re-visit one of the most famous and inspiring gardens The Daisen In, at Daitoku-ji Monastery. I arranged to sit with the Abbot at 8.30am to have a tea ceremony and discussion with him on the meditation platform beside the garden. I admired the miniature garden of rocks, raked gravel and miniature trees representing a mountain valley and river going under a stone bridge and was inspired. I was fascinated and my spirit uplifted by the peaceful representation of a mountain valley. The aim of a Japanese garden is typically to create a representation of nature in which human involvement is concealed and the garden at Daisen In was a superb example. Cascades Gardens already has a beautiful natural setting of cliffs, stream, waterfalls and woodland. We don’t have to invent nature but try to manage and enhance it. The garden is designed to blend into the natural landscape.

Cascades Gardens. A celebration of nature- beautiful and soothing

When I get a Trip Advisor review of the garden that claims that my garden is average and that I have weeds in the garden, I realise how much we all have a different view of gardening.I have long since vowed that I would never have a lawn that showed perfectly cut edges or lawn mower stripes, and always said that I would make the most of flowering weeds.  Tulips at cascades entrance April 2016.  There is nothing average about the unique landscape of the 4 acre Cascades Gardens. With an 80 foot cliff, streams, canal and pond and an acre of wild woodland- of course it has weeds!. Actually the woodland has a fabulous array of red, white and blue wild flowers and plants at the moment (campian,foreget me not and buttercup included) which looks beautiful. Yesterday we had a gardening group  from Alveston on a garden tour of Derbyshire. All were passionate experienced gardeners that had been to many of the gardens in Britain. They were all saying the same thing. “We have visited Chatsworth, Renishaw and Hardwick Hall gardens and this is the best garden we have seen on our trip.It is natural and doesn’t look as if someone famous has designed it. It is understandable to us with plants we feel comfortable with, and plantings that we can do in our own garden”

Conifer collection at Cascades Gardens

Cascades Gardens has seen a lot of changes over last autumn and winter.Inspired by Adrian Blooms book “Gardening with Conifers” and the birth of my daughter Sophia in November 2015, I have created two conifer beds on the side of the rocks in the first part of the garden.I have called the main one “Sophia’s Conifer Border”. As most of the miniture conifers only grow about 1 cm per year I imagine she will be going to university about the time that the new borders mature and become the  border designs I envisaged. Cascades now boasts about 85 different conifers, mostly dwarf varieties. From the ones I planted 30 years ago,Picea Glauca Albertiana Conica ( now 3ft tall ) to Metsasequoia Glypstroboides ( now 30ft tall) to my two new favourites Picea Pungens Hoopsii (a blue spruce) and Cryptomeria Japonica sekkan-sugi (a semi pendulous delicate tree) . The most difficult thing I have had to master is all the proper names of the trees and their prononciation. Try Chamaecyparis pisifera Squarrosa Lombarts!

Snow In January 2015

January has been unusually cold and snowy this January. Thank goodness The Cascades guest rooms are warm and comfortable. We have had a few inches of snow in the court yard and garden most of the month and the boy’s snowman has only just disappeared in the first week of February! The garden view was breathtaking on the first morning of snow. All the snow on the branches of the trees and bushes made it magical. Our guests enjoyed walking in the village and garden and found their nights out in the Kings Head, the village pub, particularly welcoming with great food prepared by the new chef.

Great Progress In 2014

Cascades Gardens may date back to 1750 but the 4 acre garden as it now stands started it’s creation in 1996. It has gone through many phases of clearing, landscaping and planting since then and a huge number of trees, shrubs and perennial flowers have been collected and planted. Opening the garden for the Bonsall village open weekend was a proud moment ten years ago but joining the National Garden Scheme (NGS) in 2005 introduced us to a different audience of more knowledgeable and discerning garden lovers. The garden proved to be difficult and certainly exhausting to keep tidy and maintained. Most people thought the garden was fascinating with it’s cliffs, ruined corn mill, canal and waterfalls but we were always conscious that it needed more resources to look after it than we could afford. So in 2010 we closed the garden which gave us time to rest and reflect. In the last two years we have made major changes to the garden. We have simplified the layout, and changed grass verges to wider shingle paths. Unsuccessful borders have been removed and grassed over and others completely emptied, dug over and replanted. After 18 years, trees planted as saplings have become up to 40ft tall and some have had to be removed. Old Prunus and fruit trees have been cut down and unwanted Elderberry trees scrapped. Our vision has been to make the flat two acres of the garden more manageable and maintenance friendly -much less awkward mowing. It has […]