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  • Writer's pictureMartin Steel-Brown

6 Things I've Discovered In My Garden During Lock-down

As a professional garden designer and small space landscaper, I spend most of my day in other people's gardens, visiting nurseries or working on new designs for clients. So like most of us, the lockdown has had a dramatic shift in how my days are spent.

I've often found my mind drifting off over the past weeks, wondering how certain plants are performing in clients' gardens, often feeling overwhelmed that the lawns are most definitely out of control, the weeds are probably winning again and the summer flowering perennials are in desperate need of a haircut! But, while I certainly miss my time wondering the plant aisles looking for inspiration, I am committed to the lockdown experience and know that we are working towards a safer and strong post lockdown community.

It's during these times though that I remind myself to find solace in my own space and reflect on the positive things I get to experience that I otherwise would not. A big focus for me during these weeks is taking the time to experience and enjoy my own garden, something which often takes a secondary priority to the rest of my business. As such, I have reflected on what I have discovered in my garden while experiencing lockdown and there is a lot that I am grateful for.


Time is the real winner in all of this! With so much of it concentrated on the home environment, it really has allowed the capacity for me to consider things I either haven't previously had the time for or to discover new things altogether.

Designing My Own Garden

Having only just moved into my new place at the end of January, the back garden is a blank canvas and it's a project that I eagerly looked forward to designing over the next 12 months. I wanted to take my time with this space, as while it was still a very small yard it was the largest garden I had to work with for quite some time. Plus as a garden designer, the pressure to get it perfect is real! Lockdown has allowed me to allocate time to design my perfect backyard and so far, I've already created two alternative designs with a third one on its way! Because of this, it's highly likely that I will have my backyard project underway much sooner than I had first expected.

Camellia in Bloom

Because of my grand plans for the garden, I don't currently have many plants in the space. One plant I do have however is a Camellia "Paradise Pearl" in a pot. As an early flowering Camellia, it has burst into bloom over the past week and every day I get to see more and more buds opening in their magnificent and fragrant elegance! As its one of the very few plants in bloom, it is grabbing a lot of my attention these days and really does force me to stop and smell the flowers.


I've never been one to grow much from seed. For me, I have always lacked the patience and the time required to allocate to taking care of young seedlings. My past efforts were therefore always big failures. Prior to lockdown though, I saw the perfect opportunity to dabble in seed production once again, so I snatched up a collection of autumn vegetable seeds and got planting the day after lockdown started. Most of my choices were leafy veggies I could incorporate into larger spare pots I had around the house, but I am also preparing myself for post-lock down when I can transplant my success into my local community garden patch for a bountiful late autumn and winter crop.

African Violets

I'm always finding ways to learn about new plants. It has literally taken over my life! Prior to lockdown I caught the African Violet bug and purchased a few plants online from other growers. Thankfully they arrived well before the idea of lockdown was floated here in NZ and very quickly I became obsessed with my new hobby. For those that are not familiar, African Violets are plants that can be grown indoors and will also flower prolifically with colorful blooms, when exposed to the right amount of light and other growing conditions. They can be fiddly to keep happy though, and so I am very thankful that I have had the time to observe them closely and learn what conditions and care they need from me. I'm pleased to report that my first flowering African Violet is showing signs of good health and has begun putting on a gorgeous display of deep magenta flowers!

Welcoming Autumn

When we entered lockdown, Autumn was just starting to grace us with its presence. Now, it feels like it has well and truly turned with the mornings and nights getting cooler and the leaf fall picking up pace. In fact, it's quite possible that Autumn will have all but passed by the time that lockdown restrictions have truly ended, so I am trying hard not to let it slip past my consciousness. As this is the first Autumn I have experience in this house, I am enjoying the experience of watching the changes occur around me, especially the colour change of the big plane tree right outside my property and the others that form the streetscape. Each day I am finding more and more large brown leaves in my backyard, having drifted over the roof of the house. It's simple, it's slow but its these observations that are really grounding me in this whole experience.

So I encourage all of you to take stock of your own surrounds, find a moment to pause and reflect on the positive changes in your day to day life and ask yourself - What am I grateful for today?

Stay safe. Be kind. We're all in this together.

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