Cat Stone explores the beautiful blooms that spring bears – and how you can bring a bit of nature into your own home.
Spring is by far my favourite season. The feeling in the air when the turn of the seasons is in the air, the first touch of sunlight on your face after long cold months – spring always seems to arrive, to quote John Green ‘the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once’. For Spring though, ‘waking up’ is more appropriate – its as if the world casts off its lethargy and comes alive.
The most tangible signs of Spring are the flowers: snowdrops and crocuses peeking out from February, daffodils religiously springing up in time for Mother’s Day, primroses, narcissus, anemones, and bluebells carpeting the woods.
It’s the perfect time of year to head out on some walks or spend a day in the gardening, weeding the winter detritus and breathing fresh life with new plants. In our postcard size garden, my housemates and I spent a companionable day planting some forget-me-not, sweet peas, and alliums, as well weeding and pruning the existing vegetation. We are also germinating wildflowers in our shed for planting in the summer term.
Sitting outside repotting many plants which have been desperate for a bigger pot for years is incredibly satisfying…
Many psychological studies have revealed the tangible mental benefits of spending time in nature – it reduces stress and anxiety and lowers blood pressure. It is also possible to claim some of these benefits in your own home by filling it with houseplants. Prolonged and regular proximity to plants has been shown to provide emotional boosts. A study during the first lockdown found that 74% of participants with houseplants reported increased levels of wellbeing. Maintaining plants can be therapeutic and can lead to feelings of purposefulness and connectedness by caring for something other than yourself.
I have long collected houseplants slightly randomly, to the exasperation of my housemates, who patiently put up with plants crowding our windowsill (and then our fridge that is below a skylight that the plants adore). However, I have become much more interested in proper plant care over the past year. Sitting outside repotting many plants which have been desperate for a bigger pot for years is incredibly satisfying, and regularly watering them has become a meditative part of my routine. Recognizing that my plants are not just aesthetic ornaments kept in dainty pots, but real organisms that need to grow, has been a key change in my mindset (even though it does mean I never have the right number or size of pots).
I have a lot of succulents and cacti (some Exeter charity shops sell small ones) but my favourite houseplant is my Chinese Money Plant, or Pilea Peperomioides, which at the start of the academic year was one plant and is now five glorious plants, grown from tiny offshoots that I have sliced and repotted. For this amazing feature, they are also nicknamed friendship plant, as you can gift the new plants to your friends.
This spring, why not embrace your inner Professor Sprout by cultivating some houseplants or getting involved in the garden. The Exeter Community Garden on Streatham Campus is open to volunteers and Exeter Library is running a seed bank where you can ‘check out’ seeds for free!