A conversation with Caroline Quentin is a tonic. I may have been suffering from a cold and feeling a bit lousy, but after chatting to Caroline I’m left feeling energised, inspired and happy.

I’m sure this is the same effect she has on her 150,000 followers on Instagram.

Caroline says people seem to enjoy seeing her ‘leaping about it the garden’, and they do love to follow her gardening exploits as she potters about her home near Tiverton in the beautiful Devon countryside.

‘I genuinely feel I have a conversation with people; they tell me about their lives, they tell me what’s happening. And when I have to go away filming I say, ‘I’m really sorry,’ but they are the first people to say, ‘Don’t worry about it, we understand. You’re busy – we'll see you when you get back!’

‘It’s so generous,’ she says of her amiable followers, ‘but I think a lot of it is women like me, with busy lives and elderly parents or children and grandchildren, or with health issues, or coping with the struggles one comes up against. There’s a community and it’s quite wonderful.’

Great British Life: Caroline’s book features many of her drawings celebrating the natural worldCaroline’s book features many of her drawings celebrating the natural world (Image: Caroline Quentin)

Caroline’s book, Drawn to the Garden feels like another ‘conversation’ with the renowned actor who is well known for her leading roles in the television sitcom Men Behaving Badly and the crime drama Jonathan Creek.

The book is her personal homage to gardening, revealing why it’s played such an important part in her life. She shares tips, little ways to appreciate the natural world, also some of her own recipes using her own produce, or what’s she’s gathered from the hedgerows. It dips into her childhood memories and even includes her own take on a few classic fairytales which, as she points out, ‘are so wonderfully informative about plants, animals and the natural world.’ It’s funny, insightful and also in parts, very moving.

Above all else the book shares an absolute passion for gardening, from someone who is clearly very experienced, but wants everyone to join her and ‘have a go’.

‘I didn’t want it to be starchy. I wanted it to be accessible and not remote.’ It’s ‘a few bits and bobs’, she says. ‘a nice thing to keep by the bed.’

Encouragement is key to this gardening book. ‘I grew up slightly terrified of experts,’ she says. ‘It may be a feeling of inferiority... There’s nothing wrong with experts, but I found them a bit intimidating, and thought I’d never be able to do it. But how hard is it to put a seed in a tray of compost?

Great British Life: 'How hard is it to put a seed in a tray of compost?''How hard is it to put a seed in a tray of compost?' (Image: Sam Farmer)

‘I’m never going to be head gardener at Kew, but most of us can learn the basics. It’s really not difficult - and the fun! The peace of mind! The joy of it! I just don’t want people to feel it’s not for them.’

Caroline’s ‘give it a try’ mantra also extends to drawing. Drawn to the Garden is filled with her watercolour sketches, everything from the weeniest of seeds and red spider mites, to strawberries, lilies, blackbirds and newts – it's a quirky collection.

‘I have always drawn. I painted a lot in my mid 20s, when I was out of work, then work came back and I stopped and then latterly I started doing it again.’

It’s not all straightforward she admits, thinking back to her first attempts to draw a blackbird. ‘It’s about confidence,’ she says. ‘As I did the illustrations for the book they got better, the practice makes such a difference.

‘It was a really big learning curve and I learned so much about myself as a sketcher and drawer but over the period of time I gained the confidence and also the skill set quite quickly, just by doing it.’

‘If you just keep going, something will happen!’

Great British Life: Caroline’s book features many of her drawings celebrating the natural worldCaroline’s book features many of her drawings celebrating the natural world (Image: Caroline Quentin)

Caroline often shares her drawings on Instagram and undoubtedly, another reason for her social media success is the glorious Devon countryside that appears in her photos and videos. ‘People love seeing Devon,’ she says. ‘I’m bound to be biased but I think we have the best of nature on our doorstep’.

Caroline and husband Sam moved to Devon 20 years ago. Their children grew up here and went to school in Uffculme. But Devon was already familiar to Caroline who spent childhood holidays at the home of her dad’s best friend, ‘Uncle Mike’ and his family, along with their assorted pets and animals, at Lee Bay on the North Devon coast.

‘Coming from suburbia it was amazing,’ she says. ‘What stuck in my memory was the high hedges. They are high now, and I’m an adult, but when I was tiny it seemed like a magic kingdom. You go along past a dark hedge and then an opening would come and you’d look down this golden valley. Devon always was a sort of magical place.’

‘Sam and I lived in Suffolk – which was very flat... entirely flat, and we loved it, but when the time came to move Sam said to me: ‘I want to live by a hill.’ So I said, ‘I know where we should go then.’

This year will see Caroline heading off to Wales to film the next instalment of the sci-fi TV series The Lazarus Project.

Great British Life: Caroline’s book Drawn to the GardenCaroline’s book Drawn to the Garden (Image: Caroline Quentin)

Of course she will miss her garden.

Her happiest moments these days are ‘probably when I’m planting out. So I’ve got things from seed, ready to go out, and I put them out on a warm day with the sun shining, and with the birds and the naughty cats and dogs all around, and I’m planting. And that’s when I post [on Instagram]. Even people without gardens love to be there with me on that warm day.’

She says: ‘It wasn’t until I started work on the book, writing and doing the drawings, that I realised what impact plants, gardens and nature have had on me all my life.

‘With depression, low times and sadness, it helps me. I really believe it.

‘I honestly think if you are low and you sow a tomato seed you are making a sort of act of hope. If I was a very religious person it would be like lighting a candle. You are going to a place where you are focused on a good thing happening soon.

‘Even if it feels like you are not doing well today, or ‘I screwed that up yesterday at work’, you look at that little green thread that comes up and think, ‘Well, you’ve turned up, so I’d better stick around to sort you out.’ It’s that. It’s about that hopefulness.’

Drawn to the Garden by Caroline Quentin, Frances Lincoln, £20

Instagram: cqgardens