August 15, 2022 Rhiannon Ingle

Q&A: The Head Gardener

Presented by Untied Artists, check out Jake and Warren Oldershaw’s delightful show that digs deep into why we could all do with a bit more horticulture in our lives.

They’ll design a beautiful garden, tell tales of why gardening is so important for mental health, and even throw a few songs into the mix.

During each performance they’ll design, draught, and bring to life a unique and beautiful garden; share fascinating stories of different plants and species; tell personal tales of why gardening is so important for mental health, and maybe even throw a few songs into the mix.

In the words of the one and only Alan Titchmarsh, the show is “Living proof that gardening is good for you”.

Tell us a little bit about the show and how it came about.

Jake – Last year i got married, and Warren gave the best man speech. He did such a good job we thought we should put a show on! 

The benefits of gardening for mental health and all-around well-being seemed like a good subject, as he’s a garden designer, and so many people have got into it over lockdown. My wife Jo came up with the catchy title and here we are…

Warren – Jake’s worked in theatre all of his career. I’ve done a few Am Dram things and have always enjoyed it, so the chance to bring my experiences in gardening and mental health to a live performance is really exciting. 

Jake – Like any show we want audiences to experience a good night out, have a laugh; maybe get a bit teary; learn something. I really like performance when it gives a bit of space to think about my own experiences.

In what ways is gardening said to improve mental health?

Warren – Personally, time spent nurturing plants and creating a garden, is time spent nurturing the soul.

Jake – There are myriad ways in which it’s beneficial, both physically and psychologically. Plants and gardens mirror the rest of life in that they need care and attention in order to thrive. Simple things like light, water, good habitat and care are, of course, things that are good for humans. By putting yourself in a natural environment, you’re giving yourself a boost. Sue Stuart-Smith’s book The Well Gardened Mind is full of great info on this, right down to the science that there are bacteria in soil that has a similar effect on the brain as Prozac!

What advice would you give to a not-so-green-fingered newbie looking to get into the world of horticulture?

Jake – Get out there and try things out! You won’t always be successful but when things go right you’ll get a great sense of achievement. If you aren’t lucky enough to have your own land why not look into an allotment or even volunteer?

Warren – For me, attending a horticulture course gave me social and educational benefits. We visited beautiful gardens and locations around the country. This is something I still do and it’s always inspiring.

Do you think there has been a recent surge in younger people getting into plants, gardening, and all things green?

Jake – Lockdown certainly pushed people to try out gardening who may not have before – celebrities like Joe Lycett were getting into it and tweeting how much pleasure they’d got from growing a courgette. Thinking back, garden centres were one of the few places you were allowed to legally visit for a while which gave them a strange draw.

Warren – Young people? – I live on the Isle of Wight – we don’t have any of those 😉

In all honesty, please tell us how to keep one of those coriander plants from the supermarket alive!

Jake – I’ve had good success with Mint and Parsley plants from the supermarket! I just repotted in good compost with plenty of sun and water- But Basil and Coriander elude me a bit. 

Warren – Don’t feel bad about just using it! 

Catch The Head Gardener at The Edge on Thursday 6th October 2022 at 7:30 pm.

Blooming lovely!


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