Tom Shakespeare

Having moved into a new house, I am starting afresh with gardening. A new compost heap, bulbs to plant, flowerbeds to plan. In some ways, gardens are inaccessible to disabled people. From my wheelchair, it’s more difficult to tackle the weeding (too low) or the pruning (too high) or the mowing (too much). I cannot easily carry a watering can.

So, I need to organise my new garden to fit with my mobility limitations. I will reply on others to get their hands dirty and mainly confine myself to directing operations from the patio. I am planning raised beds, and tubs, and shrubs and complicated irrigation systems, and a row of fruit bushes which should require minimal maintenance. Pathways will run between. Perhaps the rest I can leave as wild flower meadow, and so encourage more wildlife. So far, we have made a small bed which runs alongside the new wooden ramp that I have had constructed, turning it into a feature of the landscape. I will wheel out into the world past lavender and verbena and blue grasses: scent and colour and the movement of flowers in the breeze will welcome me each day.

Looking differently, disabled people are natural gardeners. Being a gardener means being patient. Much like being disabled, as I have discovered since becoming paralysed. Waiting is now second nature to me. I have learned to take the long view. And flowers are worth waiting for, unlike some humans.

Gardens mean different things depending on your disability. Texture and scent, for the blind. Horticulturak therapy, for the troubled in mind. For people who cannot move far from home, or maybe cannot do more than gaze through the window, a garden offers an ever-changing drama. It teaches us that, even though things sometimes go wrong, there are always compensations.