Yesterday for Daily Stress ReLeaf, I talked about a book that teaches readers how to create a sacred garden space. Jessi Bloom’s Creating Sanctuary talks about honoring yourself and how your garden can be a reflection of that. But what if you don’t have a garden or any outdoor space? Well, one way I honor myself is to display cut flowers in the house. For me, cut flowers equals a better mood. And not only does it boost my mood but it also brightens my family’s mood, if only momentarily.
A Sweet But Destructive Cat
In the past, I was unable to display cut flowers because of our cat. I loved our blue Russian mix Aleksy but he was an enemy of any cut flowers my husband bought me or I brought in from the garden. He loved to chew on the stems. Nothing made him happier than decapitating tulips in particular. It was a sad sight to wake up and see fresh flower heads laying chopped and abandoned on the dining table. So for years, I didn’t keep cut flowers around. If my husband gave me a bouquet for a special day, I locked them in my office or up high on a shelf where I rarely looked at them.
Does Science Say Cut Flowers, Better Mood?
My dear sweet cat passed away last year. Though I still miss his spirited ways, I now take advantage of my quiet still counters and table tops. When I receive roses, I proudly display them in a prominent place in the kitchen and take a moment to breathe in their scent every day. I feel grateful, especially on rainy days in winter. Apparently, a lot of other folks feel similarly. A Rutgers study found that both men and women’s moods are bettered by flowers. We’ve evolved to react positively to them.
To say I react positively puts it lightly. Cut flowers are like a blast of sunshine for me, reminding me that nature is simple and beautiful. Flowers know nothing of life’s complexities or disappointments. They just do what they do best: grow and offer their gifts. Excellent stress relief.
A Question For You
So my question to you is do cut flowers put you in a better mood? Are they an expensive indulgence for you or a must? Do you also have cats that like to chomp on them? Tell me in the comments below or on Twitter.
Jessi Bloom’s Creating Sanctuary is a beautiful guide on how to honor your land while honoring your self. It’s part garden design, part plant-based medicine, part soul-healing. She talks about creating a sacred garden space that aligns with your spiritual self before advising on how best to care for that self, physically and mentally. Though the premise sounds a little woo-woo, I found the book provides both inspiration and information in fair proportions. As she says, we all want “peacefulness, protection from a harsh world, and rejuvenation.” So having an expert like Bloom to help with that makes good sense.
Sacred Space, Sacred You
The first section deals with imagining and building your garden, addressing design elements and meaningful physical objects. She discusses the importance of listening for the land’s spirit before addressing spiritual objects like bells, altars, mandalas, etc. The book’s middle discusses the how-to of garden installation and includes a small encyclopedia of 50 sacred plants, based on medicinal uses and ancient myths. There’s an excellent chart on healing plants, their benefits, and how to use them. Plus, recipes for handy things like skin salve and natural bug repellent. Readers may find the last section a bit on the hippie side with daily rituals and mindfulness exercises but for the spiritually inclined, Bloom offers really useful ideas.
An Aspirational Dream
Like all great gardening books, there are alluring photos and crisply laid out exercises and recipes. Photos of Bloom show her doing yoga poses and harvesting plants. Her life looks of course too perfect to be true but that’s what we all want, right? The life of a relaxed, healthy gardener who lives in a quiet, eden-like setting. Overall, Creating Sanctuary is a helpful book if you want guidance on that, proving that plants really can make us happier.
A couple days ago, I talked about the importance of playing with plants. As I mentioned, play researchers have found play boosts our spirits and deters sadness. So today I thought I’d offer three unique ways to play with plants. There are, of course, many ways to play with plants but I’ve noticed they mostly focus on children, as if play doesn’t apply to adults. So here are three ways to play with plants for adults. I know that kids are our pride and joys, but your well being matters too.
Plant Plants in Weird Planters
You’ve probably seen pictures of planters in old boots and such. That’s cute and what not but planting in footware kinda grosses me out. Having said that, there are so many other items you can grow plants in. (See the crazy head above.) I’ve been messing around with my own unique planters and I’ll write a future post in more detail about what I’ve been planting in. In the meantime here are a few ideas.
What about an old sewing machine with a basket inserted in the cabinet’s opening? It seems every charity store has the sewing table but not machine inside. Also, what about tomatoes in an old trunk? Goodness knows there are a ton of those that have little use nowadays. Especially the broken or curved ones. Or how about a water lily in an old crystal candy dish? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
A Fantasy Garden for Grown Ups
When a friend of mind was a boy, he had a little castle. He dragged it outside and gathered moss, sticks, rocks, and other little plants to landscape around his castle. He played battles and tournaments, even had a dragon. It’s no wonder he became a medieval historian and a gardening nut as an adult.
So how about, instead of a fairy garden that’s for kids, why not create a fantasy garden for yourself? Like a Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings garden? You could buy or build a lego castle and create a mini landscape around it. I even know where you can get a Tormund action figure (email me.) The upshot is if you have kids, they’ll want to play too.
Salty Chips Only With Yummy Leaves
You know how kale chips are all the rage? Or were a few years ago? I’ve made them several times myself. But really, the bottom line is I don’t want to eat kale that much. Potato chips are better, right? But what about drying and eating other plants? Besides root vegetables. What about artichoke heart or brussel sprout chips? You know how they naturally flake off anyway? Also, what about zuccini or carrot chips? Or spinach or butter lettuce? Leeks? It seems to me almost any green leaf that’s not bitter might work. And most leaves are less bitter than kale.
This spring, think about how you can have fun with plants. And if you already have ideas and methods, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Photo by Nick Fewings
Yesterday, in writing about why playing with plants makes us happy, I came across this lovely fractal pattern leaf. So for today’s Daily Stress ReLeaf, I thought I’d do a short post and share it. You may have learned from a previous post about why gazing at these fractal images is so healing for souls. To refresh your memory, their natural patterns fit with the way our eyes naturally scan images, making for a congruent experience that relaxes us. After all of these years as a gardener, it’s still hard for me to understand how a leaf can make itself this way. It’s so spectacular and complex and yet so usual.
The Power of a Close Up
I wanted to write about the image’s photographer but it came from FreePhotosArt on Pixabay. There’s not much information about the person but they seem to be Russian or in that part of the world. In addition to the fractal pattern leaf, they’ve put up photos of forests, fields, train tracks, and other dreamy images of nature. If you need photos for a blog or website, or just want to explore, check out this talented person’s work.
I hope you have a few minutes today to take in this image’s loveliness. It will help lower your heart rate and calm you.
Have a great day!
Today I was thinking about why to play with plants. It seems frivolous and like not something that matters whether we do or don’t. But play offers a host of benefits and since plants can relax us, playing with plants can create a special kind of fun happiness. Here are five healing benefits of play according to play therapist and researcher Charles Schaeffer.
Play elevates the spirit
Because the goals you pursue when you play are ultimately non-consequential, it takes the pressure off. So, when we play, we feel energized rather than sapped of energy. Fiddling with houseplants or gardening or even tossing a ball amidst trees combines the visually relaxing benefits of plants with the lighthearted euphoria that play offers. A great combination.
Play begets optimism
During play we sometimes win or accomplish a little goal, which can be a pleasant surprise, but when we lose or fail at whatever we’re doing, we’re usually not too upset because the goals aren’t consequential. That’s the theory anyway. So because the pressure’s off, we’re more likely to maintain a relaxed feeling that everything will be okay. Plants are similar. If you care for just one plant successfully, you’ll feel more positive about yourself and perhaps ready to take on another.
Play teaches new skills
When we play, we often develop a skill without really trying. Take for instance, guitar. I love playing around on the guitar, figuring out new melodies while also practicing chords and the songs I love. There’s really no pressure. Applied to plants, you’ll learn more about how to best care for them by reading up on what conditions they like and experimenting with what to do from day to day. If you can maintain that feeling of fun for the sake of fun, you’ll get better at horticulture while hardly noticing.
Play betters our physical health
Not only does play provide a sense of optimism and elevate the spirit, if done as a physical activity, it can get us in better shape. We all know that playing a game of tennis will circulate our blood, strengthen the heart, and release the happy drug of endorphins. So, playing physically with plants can do the same thing. And by that, I mean gardening in your backyard or hiking in the woods or even riding a stationary bike while watching a houseplant video. It all adds up to better bodily health.
Play connects us to others
When we play with others, we see each other for our best, most lighthearted selves. We also monitor our feelings as well as other people’s feelings. It’s excellent practice in social interaction. Plus, we don’t feel so alone and make wonderful shared memories. Our family has played a lot of badminton and has shared memories around that. But you don’t need a yard. If you can get into nature and stroll with a friend or toss a ball around in a park, you’ll take in those fractal patterns while building better relationships.
Do you ever play with plants? If so, let me know how in the comments. I’m always looking for new ideas.
Photo by Khamkhor