When I moved down South I studied horticulture for two years and started growing my own fruit and vegetables on an allotment. I worked for a while as a gardener for vulnerable, elderly people with Help The Aged before the magazine work took off. After the birth of my son in 2007 I went back to gardening taking over the renovation of a community centre garden and finding funding to set up a gardening group for people with mental health support needs. I was recovering from depression myself and realised gardening was something that could help build my confidence and lift my spirits. The funding also covered two days training in horticultural therapy at Roots & Shoots in London and I read a number of publications on the subject. I managed this project and garden for one year working with the local community and many service users including adults with learning difficulties. I gained more experience by volunteering at Friary Gardens which is a beautifully restored medieval garden in Hastings, run for and by people with learning difficulties. They propagate plants for Great Dixter Gardens which had belonged to the gardener and garden writer Christopher Lloyd and is open to the public.
During this time I also worked in the beautiful garden of Green & Blacks organic chocolate creators Jo Fairley and Craig Sams. Craig was also chair of the Soil Association. The large garden has wide herbaceous borders crammed with a variety of grasses, perennials, annuals and an incredible spring bulb display. There is a potager, a pond and some very old fruit trees. Craig and Jo are constantly adding to and improving their plant collection. The greenhouse was home to the many seeds that were raised every year as well as tender varieties and a grape vine.
In 2012 I started volunteering at my son's school providing outdoor learning activities and gardening for children as young as four. In 2013 I successfully applied for £10,000 lottery funding to enable the school to develop their outdoor learning programme.
In 2013 my family and I moved back to Glasgow. I really hoped I could carry on gardening and working with vulnerable adults but wasn't sure if any work like this would be available in the city.
Through social networking I found out about community garden projects happening in the city. In the summer of 2014 I was lucky to hear about a position becoming available as a development worker teaching gardening skills to adults with learning difficulties with the organisation CKUK. The people who attend the course become peer educators who go out to colleges and centres to teach others the skills they have learned. The group do a lot of their work at the Woodlands Community Garden. CK stands for Common Knowledge, making the things we know available to all, sharing what we have learned.
In my spare time I enjoy making things for myself, for gifts and occasionally to sell using the needle crafts skills I was taught by my Lithuanian gran. She came to Scotland speaking no English and taught herself the language by listening to the radio.