The sky fell in. Thirty six years ago as I was driving along the M8 in Glasgow during a stormy day, an overhead gantry sign was blown and a small fragment landed on my forehead. Only the skill of the Southern General’s doctors and nurses saved my life.

Together, my wife and I had to start rebuilding our life. With Jane’s love and untiring support, I was determined to cope despite the poor peripheral vision in my remaining eye and the long-term consequences of a partly reconstructed face. After such a close encounter with death, I was so thankful to be alive and I came to value all life had to offer rather than dwell on what I no longer had and could no longer do.

As you’ll know from my Herald Magazine column, I have a wonderful home, bordered by an ancient woodland, with a normally peaceful burn running through the garden and surrounded by fine rolling Borders hills. What better place to start my slow recovery?

The air in the garden was alive with blackbirds, ravens, buzzards, swallows and humble tits. Only the sound of sheep calling their anxious lambs, our cock crowing and ducks keeping in touch with each other disturbed the quiet countryside. I came to love all this teeming life, I was part of this rich tapestry and began to respect all the other players.

READ MORE: A-Z of Scottish Gardens – our guide on where to go and what to grow

During my long recuperation, I simply enjoyed being in the garden, watching how plants grew throughout the year. I saw annuals completing their life cycle, with some like aquilegias self-seeding round the mother plants or I would collect my seed from kale and tomatoes. Birds would ‘steal’ redcurrants, pass the seed through their bodies and within a few years, I’d come across a self-sown young bush.

I began to ask why all this happened, learning that red fruit appealed to blackbirds, so strawberries took advantage of this to use them as seed dispersers.

I enjoyed watching bees and butterflies flitting round and landing on flowers, so wanted to fully understand how pollination worked. Why did I find creeping buttercups, nettles or moss in one part of the garden but not others? It was fun beginning to understand what made the garden tick. The more I looked, the more questions I asked, and that will continue as long as I garden.

And this applies just as much to the weather. We love or loathe it, but who can’t appreciate it in all its moods? The baking sun, releasing the glorious scent of roses or dianthus, a near-terrifying lightning storm or even a still, grey mist silvering a tree or shrub. I discovered that so much of gardening is learning how all this affects the garden and how we should take advantage of it by placing certain flowers in sheltered, sunny places, or protecting plants against raging gales.

READ MORE: A-Z of Scottish Gardens – our guide on where to go and what to grow

Jane and I had originally moved down from Edinburgh, inspired by thoughts of the then fashionable ‘good life’, so had dug up part of our field to create a small kitchen garden. In the early days after my accident, I could do and achieve very little, but I managed to grow some fruit and veg. I sowed seed, cultivated my peas and cabbages and enjoyed the real pleasure and satisfaction of achieving something really worthwhile.

As we savoured my broad beans and broccoli, I knew I’d only get these crops if I provided the right growing conditions, prevented problems and protected against unwelcome marauders.

I came to understand that, however fickle it may be, a garden is fascinating, relaxing and stimulating, and I wouldn’t be without it.