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A widow who quit her job to grow bonsai trees following the death of her husband is sharing her love for the craft and how it has helped her mental health.
Gail Gill left her teaching job after her husband Paul died of cancer in 2022. Instead, she set up GG Evergreen Bonsai, selling the miniature trees.
She said during his illness, the bonsai trees helped her husband with his mental health and he encouraged her to do something with the craft following his death.
Speaking to ITV Tyne Tees, Mrs Gill said: “He said ‘Gail, I love watching you do your bonsais. It’s really, really good for my mental health. It’s very calming. It’s very relaxing’.
"That love of bonsai and, as I say, that way we used to chill out and relax and have a laugh together, that’s how I started bonsais.
"Every time that I make a bonsai, I think about Paul. It’s his legacy. It was him who started me on my journey.”
She said tending to the trees can have a soothing and spiritual impact on her and as a result, she has started running bonsai workshops to help people with their mental health.
“Bonsai is about longevity," she added. "It’s about creating something over a long period of time. About patience. It’s about being one-to-one with that tree and that love of that tree, wanting to nurture it, bringing out the best. All these sort of things are good for mindfulness.”
She now has a stall at Cherry Hill garden centre, in Acklam.
Owner Peter Wilkinson said the bonsai trees offer his customers a different experience to his other plants, flowers and trees.
“It can be a soul thing that they do on their own and it’s their thing, their baby, their pet," he explained. "On the other hand, it can be a social thing, where they enjoy and compare with other people.
"The customers who come here are ranging in age, right across the spectrum and I think it offers something to everybody.”
Samantha Hart, a visitor at the garden centre, said just spending a little time with the trees can bring you positive feelings.
She said: “It feels really peaceful this end of the garden and you’re looking at them and you’re thinking, where could this go? What can you do with that?
"I was almost imagining a different world looking at these trees, and which tree would be in a different kind of world, so even me just being here for five or ten minutes has kind of took my mind elsewhere.
"So for people who may be struggling with their mental health, I can see that it would be a form of escapism.”
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