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Gardening and MS: 'Gardening helps me to unwind'

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Spring is the perfect time to spend some quality time pottering about in the garden, but when you have MS, the physical nature of weeding, planting, pruning and alike means there may be some obstacles to overcome along the way (and not just those dreaded dandelions!). Iona Creedon, who was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago, has started a new blog all about gardening and MS called Gardening within liMitS. Here she talks about the inspiration behind it, reveals plans for her own garden, and shares some green-fingered wisdom. 

I have found myself writing a blog, having said I was going to write a book! I wanted to write about something that was unique to me, and something that charted my family, our home and images that was inspirational, attractive, sometimes funny, and factual.

So Gardening within LiMitS was born after a few conversations about the things that go round my head constantly. We moved to our current house nearly two years ago: from a 3-storey shoebox on its end in St Albans to a 3-bedroom bungalow in Letchworth which has meant a complete change to our family lifestyle and outdoor experiences as the change to our sense of space has been phenomenal. The house had been empty for a couple of years and we do have to spend a substantial amount to improve it inside (I miss having 2 bathrooms/toilets...) but spending time with my girls planting and making changes outside is making me very meditative and contemplative.

The last few years have seen me trying to get myself employed again: I would like to be part of a work team after so many years self-employed, or as 'mummy', but I find it difficult to know where to place myself, as a former book editor working on titles like The Garden Book, and the work I have been able to get locally is very fractured and based in Stevenage and Hitchin, so I find myself needing wind down time and the garden offers that. Ironically having to get to more distant sites has meant I keep increasing my daily steps so that I am doing in excess of 10,000 when I am working and doing school drop-offs, so the move has kept contributing to my increased health, long may that be the case!

"Spending time with my girls planting and making changes outside is making me very meditative and contemplative"

It is currently ten years since I received a diagnosis of MS - which I don't hide from people - and it is approximately eleven years since I found myself digging a pond the depth of me to my bump, as yes I was that lucky MSer who experienced episodes while I was pregnant and was diagnosed when my little girl was 3 months old. Having dug and landscaped our garden with pebbles and my favourite plants, these things became 'health-and-safetified' in small stages as the children became more active and I became aware of the restrictions my MS exerted on me.

I am enjoying our new spaces but I am developing them with an eye on the (unknown) future. I don't see myself doing as much physically as we did in St Albans (where I had an allotment) but the garden is three times the size so it has lots more area to play with and I would love to look into planting the allotment vegetables in wooden truss. I am also thinking of how it will end up being used, and how we can make it work for us. As it stood, we inherited someone else's ideal garden which needs to become our ideal garden (I'll reduce the four sheds by hook or crook...) with planting and design that makes it enjoyable for years to come. There is a group locally which helps people with problems in their houses or gardens. I might have to enlist their help to help with hard landscaping but who knows what the future holds!

Iona's top tips

1. Take your time to work out what your outdoor space allows for, and prepare the space before rushing out to buy plants! I have lost plants through their inappropriateness for the site conditions and there is no point rushing out and spending lots on signature plants/trees if they will shrivel in your plot.

2 Enlist friends to help with heavy work! Offer them pizzas or food in return for helping you to keep the work from becoming impossible.

3 Draw up lists of what you plant in each area so that you keep track of the size/colour of the plants and what size they will end up. I am using my blog to keep a record of what we plant as it's so easy for me to forget: two boxes of echinacea were discovered in the car, after I reported they had been planted last month!

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