Zöe's Story: Taking a ‘Tea Break’

Zöe Defoe designed and created the ‘Tea Break’ Beautiful Border at the BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair. 

Drawing inspiration from the ritual of conversation over a steaming cup of tea and delicious cake, the Border was a serene haven to immerse oneself in the symphony of bird song, surrounded by fragrant flowers and lush plants. 

Read on to embark on the fascinating journey of Zöe’s creative process, challenges and successes in bringing her ‘Tea Break’ Beautiful Border to life. To find out how to create your own Beautiful Border at a BBC Gardeners’ World Event, click here >

Experience a fresh clutch of Beautiful Borders, first-hand, at the BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair, 3 – 5 May, Beaulieu, Hampshire. 

Written by Zöe Defoe

The Beautiful Border theme this year was ‘My Garden Escape’. 

I chose to use grasses and lots of bright colourful flowers to create the feeling of seclusion, sanctuary and also joy. I also set up a bistro table and chairs laid with a tea set – the perfect place to sit and relax and appreciate your surroundings. 

I called my border, ‘Tea Break’ which ended up being used as a pun by many! I was lucky enough to achieve a Silver Award.

It had been months in the planning, and it involved conquering a lot of my personal fears to be able to do it. I had a lot of anxiety in the lead-up to the show and a lot of fatigue throughout, as well as managing the early September heatwave! 

That said I had an absolutely amazing time meeting lots of other like-minded people, celebrity gardeners and designers and learning lots along the way. 

BBC Gardeners' World Live - Autumn Fair (1st September 2023)
BBC Gardeners' World Live - Autumn Fair (1st September 2023)

A garden is both a place to gently work and a sanctuary. My design shows the beautiful balance between the two – the seating area a retreat at the back of the border, the gardener’s gloves and tools at the front.

Tea Break symbolises the need to pause and take notice of your surroundings – something especially important to me upon my diagnosis with Addison’s disease. A garden is never finished, it’s constantly changing and evolving. As Lao Tzu said, ‘nature does not hurry, yet all is accomplished.’

What better way to escape to the garden than with a ‘Tea Break’?

BBC Gardeners' World Live - Autumn Fair (1st September 2023)

The Border, raising awareness for ADSHG

I was diagnosed with Addison’s disease in 2017 after years of asking doctors to find out why I was so sick and tired all the time. I had already been diagnosed with Graves’ disease aged 10, and B12 deficiency in my twenties. I subsequently developed Hypothyroidism and later also had shingles. 

At the point of diagnosis at the age of 37, I was very unwell but grateful that my persistence had paid off and, by all accounts, just in the nick of time! I wasn’t happy with my first endocrinologist so requested to move to another hospital and my care has been amazing. I was also informed about the Addison’s Disease Self Help Group. The information and social media content from the ADSHG has been phenomenal. I’ve also been able to take part in research projects that have been shared by ADSHG through social media and will soon be doing a Professional Doctorate myself looking at autoimmune conditions.

BBC Gardeners' World Live - Autumn Fair (1st September 2023)

Addison’s and me

I think the hardest thing for me upon diagnosis was getting used to taking medication three times a day and knowing when to up-dose. 

Since then, it’s the weight gain that has been the hardest to deal with, I feel like my body has changed a lot, so it has been about accepting those changes. 

I get bad bouts of fatigue and pain from time to time and have to listen to my body and rest when this happens.

BBC Gardeners' World Live - Autumn Fair (1st September 2023)

Why Gardening?

I found gardening helped me to slow down, process my thoughts and gently exercise. 

It is a great stress buster. It is also a great reward to see something you have sown grow into an amazing flower, fruit or vegetable. 

I am a strong advocate for therapeutic horticulture.

The Tea Break Beautiful Border is raising awareness of  the Addison’s Disease Self-Help Group (ADSHG). To find out more, click here >

BBC Gardeners' World Live - Autumn Fair (1st September 2023)

Be garden-inspired at the BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair, 3 – 5 May 2024, Beaulieu, Hampshire. 

New year, new garden, new trends!

We’re through the garden gate into 2023, with a host of gardening trends blooming throughout the country. From house plants reaching dizzying heights of popularity, to the colour of the year ‘Viva Magenta’, read on for our full list of trends.

To get up close and personal with fresh garden inspiration, new plants, the latest gardening kit and more, join us in 2023.

Colour of the Year 2023

Hand-picked by Pantone, the colour of the year has been named as ‘Viva Magenta. 

Pantone describe the colour as ‘brave and fearless, and a pulsating colour whose exuberance promotes a joyous and optimistic celebration, writing a new narrative.’

Discover a world of colour and scent in the stunning Floral Marquee,  bursting with award-winning nurseries and display.

Sustainable gardening

Whilst your garden might seem to already be very green, it can always be greener!

Discover ways you can make gardening more sustainable, like upcycling common items to make stylish features. What was a pallet, hessian bags, bits of pipe, and tin cans, could become a planter, grow bags, water features, and wildlife habitats.

Be inspired by the BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine editorial team as they’re joined by experts to give tips and advice.

Grow your own food

Looking to go from soil to supper this year? Get brilliant advice from the National Allotment Society at the event.

Peat-free gardening

Learn about the latest peat-free compost from exhibitors who can offer face-to-face advice.

Indoor gardening

Foliage doesn’t just belong outside – bring nature indoors and be inspired by the Houseplant Hub.

Mindful gardening

Beautiful Borders returns with this year’s theme ‘My Garden Escape’ to give you space savvy ideas.

Gardening on a budget

Discover different ways you can let your garden bloom under a tighter budget, with advice from expert gardeners.

Fermented foods

Visit the BBC Good Food Summer Show (with free entry with your ticket!) and discover the latest foodie trends.

Feeling inspired? Find out what else is happening at BBC Gardeners’ World Live this June!