Featured Blog by Dr. Kate Neale: Gardening for Wellbeing

Photo: Kate Neale

Ever since it occurred to me how much being in my garden brought me joy, I’ve been slightly obsessed with pursuing research on the links between gardening and wellbeing. As I was finishing my Ph.D., days on the computer were long. I sat mostly idle in quiet spaces, tapping away at my plastic keyboard as I felt the burn of the computer screen light shining back on my face often into the wee hours of the morning.

It felt as though my only release was to escape to my garden. I would do as little or as much as I wanted there. I would talk to myself about everything and nothing. I would let complex ideas float from my consciousness and more often than not, the answers would find me some time later when I was least expecting them.

Time in the garden would sometimes involve hard physical labour. The type that left you so tired by the end of the day you’d want to collapse into bed. But I yearned a different kind of tired to the intellectual exhaustion of finishing a dissertation, so welcomed the aches and pains. I would be at the mercy of the weather. The cold sharp winter winds or the stifling heat of the harsh summer were a welcome change from the temperature controlled sterility of the university library. Birds would sing, leaves would rustle and the sounds of bees buzzing would catch my attention and often my imagination. I’d intently examine a new flower bud or the development of new fruit I’ve never grown before, for no other reason or justification than I wanted to. I’d ask myself curious questions like “Why do plants have hair?” and delight in the sight of lady birds or dragonflies drawing my mind back into some of my favourite childhood storybooks. I’d plant flowers that indulged my secret love of romance and whimsy, otherwise suppressed in a world of order and modernity. And most importantly for me, I planted where and what I wanted, with no compromise or consultation with others – a stark comparison to the constant and necessary negotiation of work, family life, and doctoral supervision.

Photos: Kate Neale  

The Ph.D. is now completed, but the constant companionship and deep love for my garden endures. Determined to forge a research career in an area I’m truly passionate about, I now research the benefits of gardening for a person’s wellbeing and sense of connection and belonging. Harping back to my principal interests in ethics relating to children and people with disabilities, I’m particularly interested in not just why we garden for wellbeing, but HOW we do it.

When working with children especially, there’s a tendency for adults or carers to dictate how a task is to be done, both out of a desire to minimise risk or harm and to help ensure a “great result”. But as with learning, the joy of gardening is often in the unknown adventure it takes us on, and the liminal moments of discovery that happen along the way. And some of that requires mess, confusion, and failure. So although we may be tempted to look for bountiful harvests and an overflowing garden to gauge a garden’s successes, it is worth focusing on what was gained for the gardener throughout the process. To do so, however, we need to authentically support children’s active participation and social learning. We need to relinquish control and accept the messiness that is the discovery. And we need to shift our involvement from that of teacher or leader, to one that sees all participants interacting within a dynamic system of shared knowledge and power.

There are a number of ways we can do this:

  • Ask, do they want to garden? Because actually they might not, and that’s fine. There will no doubt be a myriad of other related activities they can contribute meaningfully in (building, documenting through photographs, cataloguing seeds, researching what to grow in the coming months).
  • Involve them in early planning stages – the sooner they are involved, the more likely they’ll engage and feel like it is their space to enjoy and care for.
  • Build on existing capacity as the starting point – find out what they already now and use it to identify leaders and strategize for gaps in knowledge.
  • Allow access, PLAY and exploration – you wouldn’t want to spend time in your garden if every second involved assigned tasks and structured jobs so don’t expect them to either. Play is important.
  • Be prepared to learn too – as adults, we like to think we know it all, but we really don’t.
  • Celebrate the little wins – you don’t need a punnet of strawberries to feel a sense of accomplishment that comes from growing your own – just one will do!
  • Enjoy – it’s hard to make a joyous space if there’s no joy present when it’s built.
Photo: Kate Neale
Photo: Kate Neale


*Dr Kate Neale is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University in Australia. She specialises in ethical methodologies of involving kids and people with disability meaningfully in therapeutic horticulture programs and research. She has written a number of therapeutic gardening programs, runs workshops on therapeutic gardening for kids and people with disabilities, and researches in the field. She’s happiest in gumboots.

Photo: Kate Neale

Carlo’s Top 5 Designs from the 2019 Philadelphia Flower Show

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Hi everyone! My name is Carlo and I am a social media intern for Bullock Garden Project Inc. Like Teresa, last Saturday was also my first time attending the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Before even getting to look at any of the designs, the smell was the first thing that caught my attention. The smell of the whole venue just reminded of all the times I helped my aunt and mother garden in the summer. Once I started to walk around everything almost felt so surreal. To be around all of the flowers, gardens, designs, and everything else in between, it just put me in the best mood. Inspiration was all around me. With every single design, you could tell how much love and passion each designer put into their creation. While I enjoyed everything about the Philly Flower Show, I have to show extra love to some of my favorite designs. Here are my top 5 designs/creations from the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Honorable Mention:  Flower Power Truck / Flower Peace Symbol / LOVE


Whenever I make lists or rank things, which is often, I always make sure to start off with an honorable mention. My honorable mention goes to the Flower Power theme truck, Flower Peace Symbol, and the iconic LOVE creation.  

For one thing, getting these pictures were actually incredibly difficult just because everyone wanted a picture in front of it or was trying to get that perfect angle to create that picture that you show off on Instagram to your friends and family. Personally, I don’t blame them because I kind of have that same mindset. I’m also not the tallest person in the world so it wasn’t like I could just raise my camera up and take a picture over everyone. Nonetheless, I was patient and able to get the pictures I needed.

I loved this year’s theme of Flower Power acting as a tribute to the impact that flowers have in our lives, as well as celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. These 3 designs hit the home run on the theme and even got to incorporate Philly’s famous LOVE statue. As for the flowers in the hood of the truck and around the peace symbol, they were so just vibrant and meshed well with the design as a whole.

5. Interiorscape


This combination of interior design and flowers/plants is mother’s dream, but I also really enjoyed the design. What I love most about these designs is that I was able to picture people in each of these spaces. In first room, with the striking yellow back wall and sunflower plants, I pictured a young, fashion forward woman who’s ready to take on the world with her love filled optimism and unique fashion sense. In the second room, I pictured a young male who is often judge as a guy who could care less about the environment, but in fact is a huge green enthusiasts. He appreciates the world of plants and furniture made though earth materials. In the final room, which was my personal favorite of the three,  I imaged a much older man who has been an educator his whole life who uses his plants and gardens as metaphors and symbols to teach his students about life as a whole. Yes, that was a reference to Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World. Shoutout William Daniels.

4. Mark Harding, White Rabbit

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While this is just one half of the whole design, this area really caught my eye. With inspiration taken from Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit,” which draws imagery and inspiration from “Alice in the Wonderland,” the design was both wild and beautiful.

Using more dark tones than majority of the creations, Mark Harding really nailed this one for me. Even though this was number 4 on my list, it is my top design when it comes to creativity. Every inch of this design you feel a different vibe. All the way around you felt that this was creation was something special. Finally, I have to show love to hypnotic floral circle. Through Haus’s instagram post he describes it as, “stories behind this element will forever remain in my repertoire of reminders that together we can can do anything.” Beautiful.

3. Katharina Stuart 


I apologize for not knowing the name of the design, but I do know the name of the designer if that makes up for it! Katharina Stuart absolutely crushed it. The pink velvet and white shag pile carpet create such a beautiful combination, while the flowers bring the whole creation to life. Everything kind of just pops out to you when you first catch sight of it.  Also, the letter C is the best letter in the alphabet, so I mean it’s almost destiny that my eyes were able to catch sight of this elegant design.

2.  Hans Zijlstra, Netherlands International FTD Design


The devil is in the details. Being the detailed freak that I am, it was awesome to see how much detail there was in this design.  From a first far away glance it looks like a very simple design (no disrespect intended), but as you got closer, you saw how that it was as simple as you first perceived. From the placement of the flowers surrounding the cups to the orange/rust pink shade of the glossy-like rock, I feel like Zijlstra really made sure the details would be noticed.

Another reason why this comes to be number 2 on my list is because a design like this is so overwhelming by the how beautiful it is, we forgot to see that the small details is what actually creates the final product. That statement doesn’t just go for this design, it goes for really everything in life. Life lesson #231 by Carlo B. Vargas, take time to smell the roses, but take even more time appreciating the details of the roses.

1. Leopoldo Gomez Caf, Geodesics Architectural Design, International FTD Design


Geodesics is a technique Leo discovered and decided to test with his floristry. I’m happy he did, because his design was hands down my favorite design from the whole show. He used wood and other natural sources to create the structure and sphere, and then embodied it with flowers.

With this creation he described it as, “The world is surrounded by flowers, it doesn’t matter which color, shape or race we are, all of us can live together in a happy world!” I love the message created through his floral and architectural artistry because not only does it beautifully fit in with the theme of the whole show, the details,  flowers, and colors combined just blend so well together. Not only was the centerpiece incredible, his table was a part I was not going to leave out of the discussion. His table was a creation of armature, hand made paper with bougainvillea petals to create and evoke romantic emotion. Everything about his design was just incredible. Shoutout Mexico and shoutout Leopoldo.

Overall, the Philadelphia Flower Show was probably one of my favorite experiences. I really recommend everyone try to visit a show either next year or some time in their life. You won’t regret it. Flowers are meant to bring joy to our lives. Even in the darkest moments, flowers find a way to bring a small ray of optimism and happiness. To be encompassed by it last Saturday, I still feel the euphoria.  Much love to Sonya, all of Bullock Garden Project, Philadelphia, and NC.

Peace and Love, Carlo B.


To Every Season…or Welcome Winter?

As my love of gardening has grown, I’ve come to despise cold weather.  Watching plants shrivel and die is akin to watching someone you love walk away.  Sure…you know they’ll be back, but the knowledge of their departure hits you in the feels.  Although I know winter is a time for planning (and indoor gardening), there’s nothing like digging your fingers into soil, warmed by the sun, as a breeze swirls around the wisps of hair surrounding your face…

(*sigh) I miss it so much already.

But as the song says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven, (turn, turn, turn)…”  So as the seconds, minutes, and hours pass…as we change the calendar, and the darkness covers us earlier, I exhale and accept the change of seasons.  Not only in nature, but within myself.

I began this blog as a record of my transition to becoming a gardener.  I was a woman obsessed with shopping for shoes & clothes, but as that season came to an end, a new season including began to rise.  I began to realize that my life was NOT going according to plan. I began to realize that change is inevitable. I began to realize that no matter how much I hate it, there will be cold days. There will be cold days & icy days & rainy days. There will be tornadoes & hurricanes & blizzards…but that it is a necessary happening. I am realizing that this season is only at its beginning, and I will only rise to welcome it.  So, as the weather grows colder outside, and as I cringe every time I look at the forecast (HOPING for an unusually warm day) the clouds are clearing, and the purpose under heaven is making a turn as I encounter this new season as my “…time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.”

So walk into this new season with me.  Perhaps you will find your new season as well…

Turn, turn, turn…

You’re never too busy to garden…6 gardening ideas that don’t take a lot of time

By Teresa Brown

Excuses are like belly buttons–we all have one. The most frequent excuse I hear for why someone doesn’t garden, is lack of time. But, being a busy working single Mom of two, I easily pop a pin in that balloon of an excuse.

Yes, some plants and crops require more attention than others. Yes, some plants are needy and require consistent watering to get established. No, that doesn’t mean you need to avoid gardening all together.

Here’s a few ideas to try if you want to garden but feel you might be too busy.

Meadow or Pollinator garden– This garden is a lazy gardeners dream and often require minimal commitment and investment. Your yard doesn’t have to be just a lawn which lacks the ability to absorb considerable water, doesn’t provide food, and doesn’t provide habitat to our needed pollinators. You can set aside an area as small as 10×10 (100 square feet) and choose not to mow. This area will often repopulate itself with local native plants, simply through you not mowing. If you want to rush the process, and increase the diversity of the plants, you can spread soil directly over top of your lawn (some people choose to use a sod cutter to get rid of the grass, others choose to put cardboard down and pile new dirt directly on top of the cardboard) and sow native seeds. Depending on your area, you can plant various nectar sources and host plants, such as butterfly weed, milkweed, spicebush, yarrow, carrot, fennel, parsley, and coneflower. Once seeds germinate or plants are established, they need little attention, aside from a Spring clean up if needed. Plants native to your area, are likely to need less attention.

Planting en masse–This year we sowed poppy seeds en masse for the first time ever. It was such a striking sight and required little attention.

We spread soil at least 4 inches thick over the soil and grass. We then lightly raked the area and scattered poppy seeds in both the winter and the beginning of spring. Our poppy garden was incredibly striking, and all we did was occasionally put the sprinkler on it, paying more attention to young poppy seedlings. In summer, we planted an array of cosmos and zinnias. There are so many possibilities with planting seeds en masse!

Portable gardens– Our partner Gardenuity offers multiple options that offer flexibility. Do you use lots of garlic? Or maybe you love salad and want to grow a salad container garden? With the temperature extremes in NJ, you can lose crops if you don’t have the right set up for hot and cool weather plants. But if you plant salad or garlic in movable bags and containers, you can keep your crops healthier and assure they don’t die out with a premature frost or extreme weather event. We’re really excited to try Gardenuity’s Garlic planter!

Microgreens–Have you ever tried microgreens? These nutrient packed baby greens are popping up in upscale and trendy food markets and restaurants everywhere. You can literally plant microgreens after soaking seeds, water daily, and harvest for salad in 10 days or less–all from the comfort of a sunny windowsill in your home. We grow our microgreens in our porch pots throughout the summer, adding them to salads, sandwiches, and eggs. Radish and leafy greens are our faves so far!

Hydroponics– There are a ton of hydroponic systems out there! Now, many do require more of an investment up front, but considering it is reusable and does the watering for you, what’s not to like? You can even save money if you prefer to make your own system, but that will require time to research and build to your needs. This can be used indoors or out, depending your set up and location.

Self watering greenhouses– Have you seen our partner Vegepod? They offer self-watering greenhouses of different sizes. We love this option in NJ where the weather can be extreme at times. Our garden club kids sow seeds, water, and harvest food from our Vegepod like pros! The greenhouse helps keep moisture in when needed, but also allows rain and sunlight in. Bonus feature is it protects food from critters and deer.

These are just a few ideas to get the creative wheels turning for Fall and beyond! We can’t wait to show you more! Keep following @bullockgarden across social media for more details!

Learning While Growing | Interview with Sonya Harris of the Bullock Garden Project – THE SAGE

We talked to Sonya Harris, founder of the Bullock Garden Project, to discuss our Garlic Garden Giveaway program and the importance of growing in schools.
— Read on blog.gardenuity.com/sonya-harris-interview/