There is a reason that so many of us are drawn to the outdoors. The simplicity of it. Its wildness. We are ever more removed from the natural landscape — a world of town and city dwellers, existing between concrete and glass. Modern anxieties are perpetuated by environment and, specifically, by the removal of nature from our surroundings.
And so it follows that reintroducing greenery into our homes and offices can catalyse a sense of wellbeing — lost amongst the sprawl. Because, beyond their beauty, there is increasing evidence to suggest that the presence of plants within our interior spaces can profoundly alter our physical and emotional state.
At the most fundamental level, plants improve the quality of our air; filtering carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen and water vapour. Aloe, Snake, and Spider plants perform this function particularly well, with little encouragement from their human hosts. The Peace Lily is also well adapted to remove the three common indoor air pollutants: formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and benzene, through its broad leaves and cup-shaped flower heads. Ferns, though in need of more nurturing than hardier greens, act as incredible natural humidifiers. All the while giving us something beautiful and delicate to look at.
This, before we even touch on the mood-elevating properties of houseplants.
Microbes in plant soil — M. vaccae — have been shown to positively impact stress levels: acting as a natural antidepressant. Certain plants produce essential oils and their aromas can influence everything from how well we sleep to how anxious we feel. Lavender, for example. The heady fragrance of Jasmine — an unexpected indoor grower — is thought to induce restful sleep while orchids are favoured by those who practice feng shui. Their year-round bloom offering some mood-lifting colour, even in the depths of winter. Lily of the Valley is noted for its ability to evoke happy memories, as is Sweet Pea.
Then there is the symbiosis of our relationship with our plants. Horticultural therapy considers this act of taking-care-of to be an important step towards mental healing. There is a mindfulness required to nurture another life, however simplistic that life might seem. And so, in taking care of something we foster a sense of purposefulness that can be lost between the train commute and the screen. Plants remind us of fragility, and humanity.
Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
— May Sarton