Are the days when people are surprised to see a gardener in a wheelchair gone?
People are still surprised but I’m trying to change people’s perceptions. When I first started doing garden design stuff I was asked about how I’d do all of the physical things like surveying and going on to muddy sites. I said that you just find the right wheelchair to enable you to do things. Plus I’ve got people who’ll help me out measuring up but they were all quite hesitant.
It’s brilliant that through the BBC I can show that anyone can garden and that it doesn’t matter what your ability, there’s always something you can do in the garden, whether it’s digging or sowing seeds in a tray.
Traditionally, lots of older people are into gardening but it seems that much of the focus is on the physical aspects, arguably better suited to younger people.
I keep saying to people that we’re an ageing population and with age, unfortunately you get a myriad of illnesses and conditions.
Furthermore, even when somebody says “disabled” they automatically think of someone in a wheelchair. We shouldn’t just be thinking of wheelchair users.
This year is going to be great because I’m actually going to be presenting from my own garden and I’ll be showing people what they can actually be doing which will hopefully get more people out there and enjoying their outdoor spaces. We all know about the healthy side of gardening both for physical and mental wellbeing.
Do you have any tips for disabled gardeners?
These are the people I want to inspire and help show that they can achieve things.
Everyone has their limits and capacity regarding what they’re able to do. I know that I fatigue and get tired. It’s all about pacing and just making sure that the activities that you do are actually managed properly. If you actually pace your activities, I find that you can achieve more in the long term than if you go for it all at once and try to get it all done.
That’s one of the things with gardening. People think they should go outside and say “Yes, I’ll do all this”. They get stuck in and they’re absolutely shattered after half an hour and they go back indoors and forget about it. Take your egg timer or phone and set the timer for around two or three minutes and work for that amount of time, then break for the same period and go back again – and you’ll be doing more and more throughout the day.
You did mention using the right wheelchair. You like the Carbon Black II…
It’s brilliant. It’s really lightweight and manoeuvrable. You don’t get any burn when you push yourself along which is another great benefit. It also comes apart really easily, so for me when I’m doing TV or garden design work, I can plonk it in the back of the car – and it’s easy to put it all back together again.
It’s a very sleek wheelchair, aren’t you afraid of getting it dirty?
That’s another great thing about it, you can wipe it down really easily…. And it does work wonderfully in the garden.