The Gardeners’ World presenter talks to us about his passion for his garden, how to use yours to complement your home and more.

Mark Lane is a household name in the gardening scene, a landscape designer and an ambassador for many charities, he loves expressing his passion for his garden as well as trying to help others engage with theirs. Mark is also a full-time wheelchair user, and enjoys being able to show those with their own disabilities that getting outside and involved with gardening is still possible, no matter the obstacle.

Mark, like many with a passion for nature, discovered his love for the outdoors and his garden as a young child: “I have always loved gardening and gardens. I used to follow my grandad around his garden as a young boy, pulling a small blue wooden truck that contained a ball of twine, a pair of blunt scissors and a few packets of seeds. My grandmother, who was a floral arranger, taught me about colour, texture, shape, scent and form. This has stuck with me all these years.”

Re-engaging with gardening

However, Mark did not pursue a horticultural career and after to University spent time pursuing a career in publishing. It was only when he became wheelchair-bound that he re-engaged with gardening and pursued it as a career after encouragement from his husband, as well as a horticultural therapist. “In fact, I’m the UK’s first garden designer in a wheelchair. My new career started in 2002 and from that point, I started writing regularly for the national and horticultural press. It was one of my articles that was read by a gardening researcher from the BBC that launched my television career. And I found myself in front of the cameras as the garden expert on BBC Morning Live, on BBC Gardeners’ World, the RHS Flower Shows and QVC, the shopping network” Mark says.

Mark has taken the gardening world by storm and is well-renowned within the industry. He has also won several awards for his landscaping work, including most recently the 2023 award for Best Landscape Architecture Firm: “It’s always a great honour to win any award. Of course, it’s not just me, but everyone involved in the project, from assistants to contractors to horticulturalists. The thing I love about gardening and garden design is that you are always learning something new. Every day is different.”

One of the charities Mark works with is Green Fingers, helping children in need to get access to healthy, green outdoor spaces. Mark spoke about his love for using his influence and gardening skills to give back to others: “I love my philanthropic work. All my charities have gardening at their core. It’s amazing seeing how gardens and gardening can positively change people’s lives. Sitting back and watching clients and the public chatting about plants and gardening is so rewarding.”

Work-life balance

“Since covid I think many people have looked at their work-life balance. It took an accident to make me realise that changing careers can be a great thing to do.” Mark talks often about the benefits of gardening for both mental and physical health, and wants to spread the message to those who could benefit from gardening as much as he has done: “Getting outdoors, whether it’s in your garden or the countryside, can positively help and change lives. Also, gardening in bare hands is a great way to feel better. Getting hands into soil can help release endorphins and serotonin in the brain, which are the feel-good compounds.”
Mark even describes his time in his garden as a necessity, and views its benefits as one of the things that helps him keep ticking over and dealing with stress from day to day: “The research now shows that gardening and gardens have an immeasurable effect on both our physical and mental wellbeing. I call it my ‘green pill’ Without it I would certainly be a different person. If I’m stressed at the end of the day going outside helps lower my blood pressure, my shoulders drop, my breathing slows down and my mind starts to wander.”

Benefits

Mark is vocal about the benefits of using your garden to complement your home, and urges people to view their garden and outdoor space as another room that they can take pride in. “Matching materials, colours, shades and layout can really help complement the spaces. Also, adding indoor plants close to windows and doors helps blur the boundaries. And outdoor lighting can create mood and enable you to use your outdoor space at any time of the year.”

Mark also explains how house plants can be used to purify the air in your home, and the green natural tones are beneficial to have present to add natural flair to the interior of your rooms. “My favourites are Monstera, Philodendron, Pothos, Sansevieria and Howea forsteriana.” Mark lists, when asked about his favourite plants for use within the home.
Mark has advice for those struggling with their own disability or hindrance when it comes to gardening, and getting outdoors. Mark believes practically assessing your limitations is the first step to realising what you can do and unlocking the freedom to pursue the benefits that gardening and spending time outdoors can bring. “How far can you stretch, can you raise your arm(s), how far can you twist your torso, can you kneel on the floor, do you need help/arms that you can lean on to get off the ground. Once you are honest with yourself and fully understand what your body can do then you can adapt your garden and gardening tasks so that it is fun rather than a chore.”
“Perhaps raising planting will help. If you use a wheelchair then perhaps a raised table is better than a raised bed, as you can get your legs under a table, whereas a raised bed with a straight side means you have to twist your torso. Perhaps you like the idea of long-handled tools. I always use a tool caddy/trolley on wheels that I push in front of me. I put all the tools I need for that day into the caddy/trolley to reduce the number of times that I have to go back and forth to the potting shed.”

Seasonal trends

We also asked Mark about his favourite seasonal trends, for both his outdoor spaces and his interior design. “When it comes to trends, of course I love decorating the house at Christmas time. We have recently moved to Lincolnshire to a converted duck barn, so we have really high ceilings in the centre of the barn. Therefore, I’m looking forward to getting a tall tree this year and decorating it with lots of natural products, such as spray-painted seed heads in silver and gold, fresh holly from the hedgerows and handmade baubles.”

“Of course, we love entertaining outside, so we have a new corner sofa unit and have added garden lighting and heating so that we can enjoy the outside for longer. Our new house also has a covered veranda at the front and rear of the property, so creating quiet seating areas has been great fun to do. Soft furnishings, from cushions, throws to rugs, bring the spaces to life.”

For those who are starting out owning their first home and garden, Mark had advice on what gardening trends may be accessible to beginners, as well as how to make the most of available space for those with limited outdoor resources. Having a garden is important, but for some people outdoor space is restricted or possibly not viable. “If you’re limited on space, then think about adding a vertical garden. You can buy vertical garden products online. Also, cover bin stores with a living roof and add a mix of pots and containers filled with everything from, bulbs, herbs and perennials to shrubs, climbers and trees, that you can take with you if you’re renting or moving to a new house.”

Mark also discusses being able to use hanging baskets to not only preserve space, but also turn plants into eye catching decorations for the interior or exterior of a home: “Hanging baskets free up space on the ground and add an additional planting area. Mix edibles and ornamentals and select plants for year-round interest.”

There are also several benefits to ensuring your garden is healthy and natural, if you wish to prioritise a feeling of natural growth and a healthy environment over strictly aesthetic appeal. “Naturalistic gardens are really on trend now. Adding a mix of different plants is better for biodiversity and creating different environments, such as a water garden, a bog garden, or herbaceous border, a shrubbery and even an area with trees will create a garden full of life, attracting birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial pollinators and wildlife,” says Mark.

Prioritising a natural end goal with your garden will help to not only create a unique appearance and provide natural charm to your garden, but also help to positively benefit the environment by helping to regulate heat and purify air amongst other benefits.

Mark released his book earlier in the year, Royal Gardens of the World: 21 Celebrated Gardens from the Alhambra to Highgrove and Beyond, where you can read about Mark’s exploration of the worlds most celebrated royal gardens.