The Generosity of Plants

This week, I’ve begun reading The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature by Sue Stuart-Smith.  The book presents various research findings on working with Nature and draws beautiful parallels between gardening and developing a healthy mindset.  Stuart-Smith is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and her book was chosen by The Times, Britain’s oldest national daily newspaper, as one of the best books of 2020.  I guess you can tell I’m pretty excited about it, as I’m not even halfway through, but already wanting to share!

Early on, the author asserts that our species emerged in the savannah landscapes of Africa, and over the course of evolution, our nervous and immune systems have been primed to function best in response to various aspects of the natural world.  These aspects, she says, include the microbes we eat and breathe, the amount of sunlight we are exposed to, and the natural vegetation around us.  Further, she states, When we work with nature outside us, we work with nature inside us.  

Stuart-Smith shares research done with many subjects in diverse environments.  She’s visited prisons to witness the difference that gardening programs have made for inmates, in some cases offering them opportunities to find work as gardeners post-release, which has been shown to lessen chances of recidivism.  She also writes of a garden project done for inner-city 7-year-olds with a high rate of learning disabilities, which not only resulted in a sense of pride and accomplishment for the little ones, but also transformed their sense of self-esteem and motivation.  Additionally, she addresses the use of therapeutic horticulture for those with depression, trauma, and anxiety, as studies have shown that the benefits of regular gardening are similar to those of cognitive behavioral therapy.  

I am enjoying the book immensely not only because it supports the ideas of Micro of the Macro, but also because of the memories it evokes.  As a small child, I often worked with my grandmother and uncle in our family garden.  No matter what was going on, working in the garden brought me into the present moment, with the sweet smells of tomato vines and dark soil, the intense feel of the sun on my skin, and the sight of bumblebees attracted to the yellow squash and cucumber blooms.  Years later, when I began hiking on a regular basis, I learned to treasure the smells of mountain tree blossoms and spruce needles, Ponderosa Pine bark, and an occasional deliciously earthy whiff of unknown origin.  Being present in this manner provides a calming escape from past regrets and worries of the future, wouldn’t you agree? 

Although we can derive amazing benefits from plants, their compassionate actions aren’t exclusively for humans.  In a delightfully-written article for Bay Nature, a 20-year-old publication advocating for the good of the environment, Endria Richardson brings our attention to the generosity of the California Redwoods.  Their biology, she states, does not require open-heartedness or a daily decision to be kind; it simply is, as a matter of design. This biology, or blueprint for being, can give rise to collective wellbeing: needles drop, bark is shed, a rich duff develops that protects not only one tree’s roots, but the root networks of clusters of trees.  During the time I lived among the Coastal Redwoods of Sonoma County, I was fascinated to learn about their root system; their underground support of each other allows them to grow to dizzying heights and withstand high winds.  On hiking trails, I also witnessed new trees sprouting from old, seemingly lifeless trunks.  Richardson continues her article by writing that acts of Redwood generosity help not only other trees, but also contribute to the lives of a variety of plants, animals, birds, and berries high off the forest floor. 

In an article written for the US Forest Service, we learn the extent of selflessness of the humble wildflower.  They support entire ecosystems . . . Butterflies and other insects, small birds, and animals depend on seeds, nectar, and pollen for their food supply and life support, according to the write-up.  Are you noticing a pattern?

Believe it or not, even weeds can demonstrate generosity!  A Mother Earth News article shares that some weeds can benefit surrounding plants by protecting the soil, pulling up water and nutrients from great depths, and helping with insect control.  (Check out the article to determine which weeds you should keep!)

Nature provides us with an endless array of magnanimous acts.  The plant kingdom supports not only our well being, but also the health of its various members as well as other life.  This generosity seems to be part of Nature’s design of plants. Working with vegetation gives us access to that life-enriching bounty.

Blessings for Generosity,

Lisa

The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.

53 thoughts on “The Generosity of Plants

    1. Thank you for your lovely response, Cindy. Good for you! What are you planting? I will plant herbs, fennel, & wildflowers on Monday. My thumb is not what you’d call green, but I’m still excited & optimistic about my little garden! Hope your weekend is going well! I just came home from a wonderful massage so mine’s going great! 🌞😘🌼

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Always makes my day to see you and respond Lisa!~. Oh wow. I bet you’re safe there. I’m planting tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, basil, pole bean, parsley and peppers. Now the battle with the birds and bugs. ha.
        It’s always fun in action. Surpring Garrett and playing Catan and my daughter pulled out the stops on thge decorations… more cookies next week… A massage?! oh man, we’re not starting to give them until mid June. How awesome for you!! 💖💖💖👏

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      2. You’re too sweet! You must have excellent gardening skills! Beans, huh? I remember sweating profusely every time I picked beans as a child. So now, “I feel like I’ve been picking beans” sometimes finds its way into my conversations! More cookies next week? Wow! They are spoiling you! 🌞😘

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I read your enthusiastic post with interest but while it is good to read many people coming to the same conclusion, it is slightly puzzling that you didn’t notice quite a few of my posts, much earlier, presenting the same findings.

    Still, thank you for the enclosed information.

    Joanna

    Liked by 3 people

  2. A wonderful post, Lisa! Your writing is always clear and informative. You mention that Nature has designed plants to be generous! Indeed they are, and yet somewhere along the road of our own development we have decided only to take what we want without any return of generosity! Have a great weekend 💐💐🙋‍♂️

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ashley, thank you for your ongoing support & kindness. You are spot-on: our species can be greedy & ungrateful when it comes to Nature’s gifts. My prayer is that one by one, our hearts are changed. You have a good weekend, as well, my friend! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a Christian, I have a slightly different POV–that God, rather than Nature with a capital N, designed nature and plants to work for our good and in harmony. 🙂 Whatever you believe, the healing power of nature is wonderful, although I have to admit that those garden photos filled me with envy. Growing veggies in Arizona (or any other desert, I imagine) is very different from just going out, digging in wonderful soil, planting, watering, and seeing the bountiful results. I’ve been struggling here. When I got back from California yesterday, I noticed my six lettuce plants (in a planter) had been chomped by something. Today I brought them inside, as the temperature is climbing and when I looked closely at the devastation, I saw a fat, green worm/caterpillar. Really??? I toss that and cut the lettuce down. Now we’ll see if it regrows. Sigh. 🙂

    Love the photos, LIsa.

    janet

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Janet, nice to see you! Yup, Arizona is much tougher when it comes to gardening. Last year, I yielded nothing, which is heart-breaking. But I’m optimistic about this year! One of the nurseries here offers gardening classes, and I’m planning on attending a couple. Maybe there are similar class offerings near you? Good luck! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Lisa! You’re welcome! Oh, awesome, that’s grand. It will!! 😊 Garden is going fine. Peas are growing well, indoor starts are doing well too! I will probably plant the indoor seeds next weekend. Fun. 🌱🌱🌱

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You are a pillar of good mental health, Suzanne! I have so much admiration for you! Thanks for sharing your gardening experience & kind words! I will be planting my tiny garden today. Last year’s was not successful, but I am optimistic! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing how therapeutic gardening can be and never mind that I still have so much to learn 🙂 I agree with your statement “Being present in this manner provides a calming escape from past regrets and worries of the future.” Thank you for sharing such beautiful images ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Henrietta, thank you for your kind support! I still have a ton to learn, too; I know much more about the philosophy of gardening than gardening itself! I’ll be planting herbs, wildflowers & fennel this afternoon. Hopefully this year will be more successful than last year! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Although I agree with Janet as a Christian regarding the “creator” of gardens, I think the overall message you intended with this blog was to share the benefits and pleasures that result from gardening not only for food that will feed human beings, animals, other living organisms, etc…. but to also provide us with more beautiful plants, flowers, etc…. needed to nourish our planet.

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  6. This is such a great post Lisa! While reading this, it felt as if I’m with you in the garden 🌸.
    There are so many wonderful reasons as to why we should spent more time in the garden (fresh air, sun on your skin, relieving of stress, smell of the flowers and plants, see how plants are growing and little bees enjoying this wonder as well … I can go on and on!)
    Thanks for sharing this lovely post!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. We don’t have a big yard (and all of it is paved) … but that means we have a lot of pots with all different types of succulents. And recently we’ve bought a BIG pot and planted a lemon tree – I’m very excited to see how this little one is growing 😊.

        Liked by 1 person

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