When we asked the solicitors in our family team what they like to do to relax, gardening emerged as a clear favourite.

Whether it’s planting, weeding or nurturing plants – in their own garden or an allotment – it is clear from discussing the subject that getting back to nature is a popular way to switch off. This article focusses on three of our solicitors – Liz Allen, Mark Chanter and Harriet Wigmore – who all garden as a way to relax and unwind from the stresses and strains of work.

We also speak to Hugo Bugg, garden designer at Harris Bugg Studio and partner of one of our family team solicitors. Hugo exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show and shares why he thinks gardening has become such a popular pastime over the past few months.

So what is it that our solicitors enjoy so much about gardening?

Mark Chanter told us it was “the sense of peace and tranquility it brings”.

Liz Allen said, “It is an escape into a different world to that of the divorce lawyer, where nature and beauty puts me back on track. I love the fact that you observe the changing seasons on a daily basis; there is always something to look forward to, even in Winter.”

Harriet Wigmore told us, “I love that you can be completely absorbed by minor tasks such as sowing seeds or watering or dead-heading and I enjoy seeing the progress of a garden through the seasons.”

We asked – are there any aspects of gardening you enjoy more than others? What is your least favourite gardening job?

Mark said, “My favourite job is picking the vegetables I have successfully grown and cooking with them. In comparison, the worst job is digging out the smelly compost heap to spread on the garden.”

Liz told us, “I love summer dead-heading flowers – easy job but pays great dividends as it always means you get more flowers and a longer season. My least favourite job is probably clearing up after a massive pruning session; I’d rather have a cup of tea at that point!”

Harriet said, “My least favourite job is definitely battling against the free-roaming mint, raspberries and bindweed that were here before we moved in!”

How often and how early are our solicitors out gardening?

Mark told us, “It has to be weekends – it’s the only available time!”

Liz likes to get out early. She said, “For about 20 years I have gardened as early as possible – often as early as 5.30 or as soon as it is light. It is a magical time of the day – just me and the birds and rabbits. It’s great to get some fresh air into the lungs before the working day begins. It is cool too and I’m fresh from a nights sleep so I find I can get a lot done in a short time.”

Harriet agreed, “I love the quiet and cool first thing in the morning when the rest of the world hasn’t woken up yet. Particularly at the allotment; you feel like you have the whole expanse to yourself and the peace, despite being in the middle of a city, is remarkable.”

What are their favourite things to grow?

Mark said, “Any shrub or plant that produces maximum colour within minimum attention.”

Liz told us, “Well, I was so proud of my peach crop last year – amazing juicy peaches – but this year not one! That’s the gardening life; often things are good on alternate years. I’m already hoping for better things next year.”

Harriet said, “In terms of flowers, I most enjoy growing sweet peas – the colour and scent are wonderful and you can pick handfuls every few days. In terms of vegetables, growing sweetcorn is really satisfying – managing to keep badgers at bay until they can be picked is a real achievement!”

We asked them to pick one top tip for budding gardeners…

Mark advised us to “let it be, wait and see as a weed might just be a colourful specimen in the wrong place”.

Liz told us, “There’s an old gardening saying – right plant, right place. If you have a plant you keep trying to grow and it fails, give up! It’s not meant to be and move onto something that does well in your garden and can give you pleasure. It’s a case of play to your garden’s strengths and don’t try to make it something it isn’t; that way you don’t end up frustrated or disappointed because above all gardening should be relaxing and enjoyable!”

Harriet said, “Remember that if something doesn’t work this year, you can try again next season!”

We asked Hugo Bugg the same questions and this is what he said:

“Gardens offer so much potential; sensory benefits, habitats for wildlife, aesthetic beauty and seasonal interest. I love how gardens are constantly changing and evolving and being part of how they change is so rewarding”.

Like Mark, he thinks that weekends are “all about gardening. It gives you time to get stuck in to jobs and the longer you’re doing it, the more you relax. Everyone needs time to de-stress”.

In his own garden Hugo has been experimenting with different plants.

He said “I love growing as many different plants as possible and trialling different associations. Our small garden is the perfect area for experimenting to see what works. This spring I have been growing edibles in hanging baskets with different salads and radishes. One new thing I discovered in lockdown was Claytonia Sibirica which is a lovely shade loving flower with small beetroot flavoured leaves…”

Another lockdown experiment he tried was stewing stinging nettles to make his own tonic for plants. Hugo said, “It’s a fantastic free fertiliser and can also be sprayed on the leaves to act as an aphid deterrent.”

He told us that “being able to help clients develop their dream gardens is a dream job and one that changes with each month of the year”.

The one thing he doesn’t love about his gardening and horticultural career is dealing with the compost. He said, “I have a fantastic compost bin called a Hotbox but it’s a messy job to empty it (worth it though,  for the plants’ benefit)”. Seems the tidying part of gardening is everyone’s least favourite bit!

Whatever size garden you have – even if it’s only a few window boxes – gardening is a great way to unwind, relax and get back to nature.