Quarantining in Canberra and gardening for mental health..

At the end of two weeks of self-isolation in our home in Canberra, our neighbours sent us this lovely, and much appreciated card.

We recently visited our daughter and family in Melbourne, Victoria, during a time when Melbourne’s Covid numbers were on the rise. In order to do this we agreed to self-isolate in our own home for two weeks once we came back to Canberra. We had regular police visits during this time to check that we were doing just that. We also had a Covid test at the end of the fortnight.

All went well, but I’m glad we could open the gate at the end of a fortnight

The yellow Wattle bushes were flowering and the Manchurian Pear trees have pretty white buds. The pink almond blossoms can be seen in the distance.

Spring growth in the garden was just beginning when we left for Melbourne.

By the time we got home, thanks to the frequent rainfall this year, everything had grown and the garden was full of lush greens and yellows.

The tulips in the front garden were a lovely surprise, and even impressed the police who came to check on us. We couldn’t go into the front garden, but could view them from the window, and that was enough.

Unfortunately we missed the lovely apple tree blossoms, but here is a photo from last year…at almost the same time.

Canberra has an abundance of busy birds visiting gardens in spring, and our plum tree attracts various parrot families at this time of the year.. The plum tree is near the house, and so it is easy to take photos and watch them all day ……instead of looking up exercise programs, and/or de-cluttering the cabin.

The King Parrots eating in the plum tree
A Juvenile Crimson Rosella

On rainy days the cockatoos fly in to check on the almond tree….they love almonds, especially if the shells have been softened by rain.

I have read that cockatoos spread out their crests when they are happy, active, annoyed, or purposefully going somewhere. Perhaps active and happy in this photo.

While we were weeding all through the garden (Paul did 90% and I did 10%) I listened to a podcast on gardens, gardening and our mental health.

Geraldine Doogue on Radio National was interviewing Sue Stuart Smith, the author of a new book called The Well Gardened Mind. As a psychiatrist the author was interested in the connection between gardening and mental health. Her grandfather, Ted, had been a P.O.W. during the war, in a camp near Gallipoli. He returned home malnourished and shell-shocked.

His wife took great care of him on his return to England, but he still remained traumatised by his experiences. In 1920 he was able to enrol in a government program, a Horticultural Rehabilitation scheme in Hampshire. This program taught people the full range of horticultural skills, tending the soil, growing vegetables, seasonal changes. Ted became a keen gardener, and lived a long and full life, growing his own vegetables.

Sue Stuart Smith writes about cultivating the land, and the enormous benefit human beings have when connecting with the land. The gardener is drawn into the rhythm of the garden, the structure of the seasons is stabilizing, and we are pulled along by its growth.

The garden doesn’t let you procrastinate for too long, the seeds have to be sown in autumn or spring, the weeds have to be removed!

I haven’t yet read the book, but everything Sue Stuart Smith said in the interview was interesting and so true.

While we were self-isolating we received regular messages from ACT Health to check on any Covid symptoms, but also on our mental health during this period of isolation.

Over the two week period we had a few friendly conversations with the police who visited daily. Each time they mentioned that most people self-isolating in Canberra, are returning from overseas, and have no choice but to quarantine in small rooms in hotels or motels, often with small children.

During our two week of quarantining we had enough living space in our house, and plenty of gardening jobs to fill four weeks rather than two.

One of the young policemen said ”well you’ve got your garden…you’re okay!”

I bet he comes from a family of gardeners!

Ixias ..another spring surprise

As well as the garden, the cockatoos provided a bit of every day humour to our lives. This cockatoo doesn’t look impressed with his pick of the crop…

I’d trade this for an almond any day

Our garden was very important during this period of isolation, along with the birds, family, friends and neighbours. I will definitely buy Sue Stuart Smith’s book to read further on this interesting topic.

Here is a lovely quote from her interview:

When we sow a seed, it is an action of hope”

Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and may you have a few rays of hope in your garden today.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

23 Replies to “Quarantining in Canberra and gardening for mental health..”

  1. However tiresome the social isolation, it must have been worth it to see your new grandchild! Loved the postcard your neighbour sent you and enjoyed all the beautiful photographs in your garden. Australia seems to have the right approach to dealing with Covid, I wish we did. I am having a cataract removed next month and will have to self isolate for 10 days as a result. I am sure that no policeman will call nor will anyone official be concerned about my mental health!

    1. Yes, self-isolating was definitely worth it to see our grandchild. I think people in Lockdown and those self-isolating get annoyed about messages and police visits, but it is really for our benefit, and nice to know someone is checking up on how we are feeling, I agree it is a good thing for the government to do. Good luck with your cataract removal, I’m sure you will notice a big difference in your sight once it is done. However, it would be very nice to know that someone official was keeping an lookout for you!

  2. A wonderfully inspiring garden as usual, Geraldine. All the % of work has certainly paid off – you have a veritable paradise. I can quite understand why you have found it so sustaining.

    1. Thanks Theresa, even though everything was looking green and lovely, the amount of weeds was amazing! Some I had never seen before, and would not like to see again! You would have enjoyed the interview re the health benefits of gardening.

  3. What a difference between Australia’s response to Covid-19 and the U.S.’s. No friendly policemen would be coming to check us, that’s for sure. Of course, the U.S. is a complete and utter mess right now because of the lack of good leadership. Devastating! Your gardens are beautiful. And those birds. Many thanks for this delightful post.

    Glad you got to spend time with the newest member of the family. Also very glad that you are healthy and well.

    1. Thank you Laurie, I think we are lucky to have friendly policemen and health checks to bring peace of mind. I don’t think it is appreciated enough in some parts of Australia.
      We are watching the US election getting closer, our very wishes for a calm and peaceful future for your beautiful country.

  4. I love the card from your neighbours. 😀 Yes, you really have a beautiful place in which to quarantine and plenty to keep you both busy. It looks really gorgeous. The podcast on gardening and mental health sounds very interesting. Our granddaughter in England works for the NHS and has had to quarantine four times after people she works with tested positive for the virus. She lives in a very small apartment, so no gardening to do and not so much fun for her. She was very appreciative when friends dropped off care parcels for her, one of which contained a jigsaw puzzle of The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ cover. That kept her occupied for days. 😀 Have a splendid weekend, Gerrie. xxx

    1. Well your granddaughter is really doing well to manage four quarantine periods, not to mention the hectic life she probably has working for the NHS. I think having friends/family nearby who thoughtfully dropped off small gifts of food or flowers (or care parcels) are ”like gold”…as my daughter would say! Puzzles are a great idea, I’ll remember the Abby Road one!
      We had a neighbour who emailed every day to see if we needed anything. So kind!

  5. If one has to self isolate, it sure helps to have that beautiful garden and those truly amazing birds. I look out and see black crows. 🙂 I always enjoy your bird photos so thank you and I’m happy to hear you got some rain. Impressive how the police check on you. I applaud the way your country has responded to the threat.

    1. Thanks Judy, having police visits and health checks gives peace of mind, and any COVID cases can be traced quickly. There are always complaints about the rules…. but as I know from teaching, you can’t please everyone. I’m glad we have those rules in place.
      The birds are lovely, although when I hear the flocks of cockatoos overhead, I do run to hide some of my flowers, they are such opportunists! I wish the cockatoos were as peaceful and sweet as the other parrots.

  6. Oh the cockatoos! I do love them.
    Australia knows how to do quarantine. It’s nowhere near as disciplined in the UK and, well, the numbers speak for themselves. It’s going to be a very hard winter here without the gardening, it’s kept me sane so far. I couldn’t agree more about the benefit to our mental health. I shall just have to keep on tending the kangaroo paws in the greenhouse.. all still alive so far!

    1. Yes the cockatoos are such characters, but deafening when flying overhead!
      Yes, I agree re Australia having strict Covid rules, and also how important gardening is during times of stress. By the way, the author, Sue Stuart Smith, of the book I mentioned, is married to the well known English landscape gardener Tom Stuart Smith.
      Oh well done keeping Kangaroo paws alive, I hope they will be ready for display next summer.

  7. It was very interesting to read your post Gerrie, especially the part about quarantining. I had no idea you would be visited every day by police! It seems as though you were well looked after by the Health Dept and thank goodness you had your lovely garden to sustain you. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be to quarantine in a hotel with small children.
    You birds must be a joy. We were very excited to have a sacred kingfisher in our garden recently. He caught rather a large lizard and gobbled it down.

    1. Hi Jane, actually we had no idea they would be coming every day…the information provided said ”occasional visit’! The whole quarantining experience was very interesting, but would be dreadful without a home and garden, and I agree, imagine having children in a small space for two weeks!
      You are very lucky to have a sacred kingfisher visiting your garden, we have only had one in our garden in all the time we have been here. Amazing to see him catching and eating a lizard. I hope you are getting as much rain as we are, the garden is flourishing. However, today it is freezing here in Canberra, it feels like winter again!

  8. That card had me smiling! Good to know you are well and that your quarantine is over, it would be difficult without a garden, I couldn’t agree more, green spaces are vital for our mental health. Your garden and spring flowers look lovely, and it’s always such a pleasure seeing your exotic birds. The king parrot is so vibrant and I could watch those wily, intelligent cockatoos forever. How I wish our resident rosella could go home where it belongs.xxx

    1. Thanks Dina, yes, a wild bird in the wrong place/country is quite sad. My brother was always rescuing parrots from markets near where we lived in Africa, and the poor birds were hard to rehabilitate. However, a warm home and food provided is good too.

  9. Your garden is looking so bright and colourful, Gerrie! Ours is looking barer by the minute because of the high winds and heavy rain. October has been such a gloomy and wet month! I am so glad you’ve been able to visit your daughter and new grandchild and that the quarantine wasn’t as unpleasant as it could have been.

    1. Thank you Clare, yes, we are feeling sorry for you all facing Lockdown in such dreary weather, hopefully the rain and wind decrease. We are getting a lot of rain this year, which is much needed, however, it is always lovely to see the sun. Best wishes for the next few months.

  10. Oh my, this post is just full of wonderful bits. First off, your garden looks magnificent–all that color from the blossoms and the birds! I would have loved to have heard the podcast, but it would be preaching to the choir for those of us who love gardening. No doubt for me that my gardening, weaving and spinning have kept me sane and happy during this difficult year. Finally, I almost laughed to hear about your daily police visits–we would have violence in the streets if anyone tried to institute something similar here. Stay well and enjoy your lovely spring.

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