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Jean

Jean won the Blind Gardener of the Year award in 2008, a competition run by Thrive in partnership with RNIB. She lost her sight through macular degeneration but still loves to garden.

Find out more about the Blind Gardener of the Year Competition and the Thrive's membership for blind and partially sighted people

Jean tell us her story:

Jean picking beans
"I am 82 and live by myself and try to be as independent as possible, despite being registered blind and deaf. I started gardening with interest when my family had all flown the nest, but I started loosing my sight rapidly with macular degeneration in 2001. I live on the Kent, Sussex border and usually have either family or friends visit at the weekends. My son now cuts the grass for me, but otherwise I do all my own gardening.

"My garden, which once housed the local flour mill, now has mature well-fed soil. I have a variety of shrubs and small trees, a number of perennials, spring bulbs and tubs with annuals, and lastly a vegetable patch. I like to grow vegetables which I can enjoy fresh during the summer and have some left over to freeze or give to friends and family. I have leeks, peas, runner beans, broad beans, Swiss chard, leeks, courgettes and tomatoes, parsley and mint as herbs. Taste is a very important sense to me.

"My top tips for other blind gardeners are to put bright yellow insulating tape around tools to make them easier to find. I also keep tools well organised for the same reason. I choose flowers that are bright, particularly white and yellow as I can see these easier – for example Rudbeckias and light leaved plants like variegated buddleia. I have also increased the number of plants that have a strong scent like orange blossom, hyacinths, narcissus and sweet peas in my vegetable patch.

"I enjoy feeding the birds with seeds, peanuts and bird cake.  Though I don’t see them I do sometimes hear them and my visitors tell me there are quite a variety. I use mountain clips in bright colours to re-hang my bird feeders, they are easy to clip and see – this might be a useful hint for other blind gardeners.

"I would also say to other blind people – don’t worry if something doesn’t work out, it might be nature’s fault, not yours, and by trying again you will probably succeed with next years’ plants."