When my sister and I were little and driving Mother crazy with noisy indoor play, she’d shout, “You kids need to go outside and get the stink blowed off.” Turns out she was right, as mothers usually are. Except she had no idea of the benefits of being outside. There’s more than room to run and a dose of Vitamin D awaiting. In recent years concerns about the lack of nature in children’s lives are topics of articles and books, such as Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. Evidence links “unnatural” lifestyles to disturbing childhood trends, such as obesity, attention disorders and depression.
To help get the stink blowed off, I’m launching a new campaign called You H.A.V.E. to Garden. Gardening positively affects you in four significant ways: Your health, attitude, property value and environment. I’ll look at these areas in future posts. Meanwhile, we need to start using science to persuade non-gardeners to take up the trowel and fight for a healthier, saner world by working with plants. I think this is especially important for the “green” industry of commercial horticulture. We all tend to be more enthralled with new varieties and gardening trends, than promoting the benefits of literally greening the world. Something tells me Gen Xers are more excited by the idea of cleaning the air with plants, than the newest variety of pansy I’m trying this spring.
Even a miniscule amount of gardening affects people in positive ways. According to the America in Bloom, the October 2008 issue of HortTechnology cites a study of 90 patients recovering from an appendectomy. Half the patients were randomly assigned to hospital rooms with plants during their post-op recovery. Patients with plants had significantly less pain medication, pain anxiety and fatigue. They also had lower blood pressure readings and heart rates, plus higher satisfaction with their recovery rooms than their counterparts in the control group without plants in their rooms. They also said the plants were the most positive quality of their rooms (93 percent). The patients without plants said watching television was the most favorable aspect of their rooms (91 percent).
If you choose the right houseplants, your air will be less likely to harbor various pollutants such formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from indoor air according to NASA studies. Some are almost foolproof to grow, such as Chinese evergreen, Aglaonema commutatum, peace lily, Spathiphyllum wallisii, Dracaena fragrans; sago palm, Cycas revoluta, and bamboo palm, Chamaedorea seifrizii.
But there’s more. Outside the home, trees, shrubs and other plants are touted for their ability to remove carbon — plus create oxygen. Not to mention the benefits of a landscape for enhancing the value of your home’s curb appeal and energy savings through wind breaks and shade. Even if we garden enthusiasts can’t quote studies and statistics, we know our passion for plants is good for what ails us. Maybe that’s why, despite the aches and pains of a day of garden work, we can hardly wait to go out and start again tomorrow.