As we enter into a long period of physical distancing and in some cases, isolation, we as a community are starting to become more aware of the necessity to connect to nature in some way.
In our normal day-to-day lives, some of us are perhaps less aware that we need this connection and take it somewhat for granted or are ignorant altogether of this need. Of course, some of us connect with nature much more explicitly and have lives centred on that connection – and probably end up working for botanic gardens – whilst for a great majority this need is much more implicit and maybe never thought about too much.
Of course when it is removed, as is happening now, we start to recognise this need to get outside and commune with the environment – in some cases to the detriment of trying to keep this virus under control such as we have seen on beaches in Sydney and Melbourne. Exposure to plants, and a green environment, have many beneficial outcomes for our wellbeing and mental health.
There is now substantial evidence that the presence of trees and our contact with them, especially in urban neighbourhoods leads to improved mental health outcomes, reduces stress and decreases the incidence of crime. Views and outlooks that contain trees are associated with less-pronounced ADHD in children, lower domestic violence in public housing communities and reductions in sick days in workplaces. Plants are also fundamental to how we celebrate the good times and the sad.
The other thing we are seeing at last is a recognition that plants are an important part of what we eat and consume in all different ways. Along with toilet paper (made from plants) and hand sanitiser (mostly made from plant products) it is currently very difficult to buy vegetable seed and seedlings along with all the other requirements for gardening at home.
Hopefully this is not just a whole heap of doomsday preppers stocking up for some imagined apocalypse but rather the general community recognising that nurturing plants and producing something will inspire them, and especially children, of the resilience of nature.
There are still lots of things you can do to get your “green” fix. If you are lucky enough to have a garden then there is no better therapy for you, for children than to spend some hours being productive and creative in the garden. If you don’t have access to a garden it is amazing what you can do with a balcony or windowsill growing potted plants for pleasure, sanity or productivity.
It doesn’t have to be expensive either – by exchanging bits of plants between friends you can create almost free plants (and you can sterilise the cuttings or plants to ensure no passing on of the virus with a wipe down with diluted metho or bleach). Or just design your allowable exercise times to include exposure to “green stuff” or some other facet of nature to keep you levelled.
Over the coming weeks and months follow us on our website and on all our social media channels where we will highlight the joys and wonders of plants, highlight the science behind plants, our Community Greening and Horticulture teams will have lots of practical videos on how to garden and our fabulous Education team have been putting together lessons and activities for children (and the whole family) to get stuck into with wonderful learning outcomes. There will also be digital exhibitions like PL❤️NTS and more virtual tours of our Gardens like this walk through the Cumberland Plain Woodland at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan.
So we might be stuck as home but that only gives us more chances and reasons to get out and talk to the plants!