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Asking for help ~ Horticultural helplines are there for us when we most need them

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When the world as you know it comes crashing down around your family and normal life ceases to be, who do you turn to? This happened to me in June of this year. A very close member of my immediate family became dangerously ill and, in the space of minutes, I had to rearrange everything to become a carer.

Work in all of my gardens came to a sudden end. Summer is one of the highlights of the horticultural year. This year, summer pretty much passed me by.

For the sake of my loved one, in this piece of writing, and in any future pieces I will not be naming names. I will not refer to the specific illness. This is about me, what I did to get by, how this sudden change in circumstances has affected me, how it has affected my horticultural way of life and who I found to help in incredibly desperate times.

All my work in gardens stopped. Work in my own garden had to be reduced to a bare minimum. Fun summer plans, holidays and wedding attendances were cancelled. Activities beyond the four walls of our home ended. Even the simplest of pleasures, gentle summer strolls, were taken away from us.

My own small garden held its own despite minimal intervention from me. Perhaps it knew that it had to support me and not the other way around!

Despite being a mother for fourteen years I have never seen myself in a caring role. I adore being a mother and I love and care for my children above all, but I have always felt that, in my heart, I am a gardener. Throughout my adult life I have had at least one garden other than my own modest plot to look after. I am proud to be a horticulturalist and feel incredibly lucky to have been employed within the horticultural industry from a very young age. That being said, I did not hesitate to give it all up in June to the there, full time, for my loved one.

Help came from all the usual places that one would expect: family and friends provided for and comforted us, however, I needed advice. How do I provide for my family when my main source of income has abruptly ended? It is at this point that I should mention that I am a single mother. It is not something that I shout about because I have the constant support of a marvellous family and a smashing partner but, for the majority of the time, I am on my own with my children.

Dahlia ‘Moor Place’ and Sunflower ‘Evening Sun’ lit up the garden despite going unstaked and relatively uncared for.

My first telephone call to Perennial, a charity dedicated to helping everyone working in horticulture, was back in 2017, when I found myself on my own with two young children all of a sudden. A friendly employee of Perennial came out to my house to help me run through my finances. She gently but firmly steered me towards the financial assistance that I now qualified for and set me on the right track for getting my little show back on the road.

This time it was different. Separation pales in comparison to the situation I found myself in back in June. When an illness poses a threat to the life of someone that you love and who relies upon you, work – even work that runs through your veins – stops right then and there. When it dawned on me that I would be a full time carer for the foreseeable future I contacted Perennial again. I expected nothing but a friendly and supportive phone call. What I received was nothing short of miraculous. Please stay with me for my next blogpost where I will detail precisely how my caseworker, Jo, has helped us and has become a crucial member of the small team keeping us going. Thank you Jo. Thank you Perennial.

Cosmos in containers thrived and raised spirits with their delicate cheerfulness.