For the Love of Plants!
Afiqah Abdul Hamid shares her new lockdown hobby and suggests a change for the future to keep the ‘trend’ going.
Whether you have natural green thumbs or have no inclination to garden, it has become a new mindful hobby for many during since the lockdown early this year.
Among other effects, Covid- 19 has led to many struggling with mental health. This period took a toll on my mental health, which includes anxiety and stress from being indoors with ongoing exams. Recently, with my own declining mental health, I have been searching for coping mechanism to learn especially during this time. My mother – a natural green thumb – introduced me to home gardening for anxiety relief.
We mostly tended to potted plants -especially succulents- to keep the air fresh in the house. Succulents have been trending for a few years and for good reason. Natural air purifiers, they ionise the air and work just like humidifiers. They are also great for those who have no prior experience taking care of plants. Besides succulents, we also grew money plants and peace lilies. Even without direct sunlight they grow very well indoors.
Home gardening for mental health has been explored by Sue Stuart-Smith in her best-selling book The Well-Gardened Mind. She is a psychiatrist and is married to a well-known garden designer and gardening enthusiast Tom Stuart-Smith.
“A garden gives you protected physical space which helps increase your sense of mental space.”Sue Stuart-Smith, The Well-Gardened Mind
With the halting of the fast pace world, our underlying sense of emptiness and loneliness may start to become unbearable. Gardening and horticulture is a mindful hobby anyone could pick up for themselves during times like these especially when one is living alone. My brother living in London started growing herbs and chillies – even uses them in cooking. Home gardens help us appreciate the space that is given to us, the ground and the air.
The act of working with your hands to nurture the plants, the hyper focus on this activity and watching a plant grow from a seed to fully bloom gives us a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for life. Pruning and caring the plants also helps as feel like we are pruning and caring for our own minds. A garden gives us the space and peace of mind. Not only does home gardening help my mind to be at ease but I appreciate the nature in my own city more now.
Most people underestimate the healing power nature has. While the natural trajectory of capitalism is to progress by urbanisation; the cost of it is often cutting down trees and building over it and consequently most society we also begin to take nature for granted. The value of business hubs and condominiums seem to have more importance and rights to take up space than a whole forest or natural plot of soil.
Growing up in a city made nature a thing of luxury. In Singapore where we have no countryside, so nature reserves became a substitute. The Botanical Gardens and other nature reserves are popular for people to be and socialise amongst nature as a way of relieving stress on the weekends. The architectural landscape is also always mixed with nature.
The buildings in town and even at the airport have plants indoors and outdoors. Including Jewel – a shopping mall with the largest man-made waterfall surrounded by various horticulture, a popular attraction in the middle of Changi Airport. I grew up with appreciation for horticulture in the city because Singapore embraced and appreciated it from the beginning of its independence due to our lack of land. The air and environment would not be as clean and fresh without it. The atmosphere would not be as lively or aesthetically pleasing.
So, incorporating nature into any living area definitely makes a colossal difference to our mental state, especially when you are living in a city. By the same sentiment, incorporating nature into our own home by gardening we achieve the same effect of a peaceful and clean home and mind.
One thing the coronavirus pandemic should teach is that, no matter how much we believe that urbanisation has priority in this world, in the end, the world itself is not man-made and nature is part of our natural human life – and we best not take it for granted.
Finding a way to co-exist with nature – not just by building parks and planting sporadic trees along streets, but maybe allowing and creating more space within and out of homes for nature to encourage home gardening – would encourage horticulture in cities and indoors. Spaces such as community gardens as well as teaching the importance of plants in our daily lives in circular education. This also helps to emphasise and raise awareness of practicing mindful activities for maintaining mental health. Horticulture is gaining popularity and hopefully it is not just a trend.