Healthy, Happy and Surrounded by Food
How growing your own can make life better - LUCY HUTCHINGS
Health and happiness have always been my ultimate goal in life. Success, status and money may be common modern goals but frankly what’s the point if they don’t fill your heart with joy and make you feel bloody amazing? For me I’d rather live a simpler life and try to seek a level of fulfilment in everything I do, and luckily I have found that a life focused around growing my own food gives me the ultimate warm fuzzy glow.
Plants have been found to have a positive impact on health, productivity, creativity and general stress levels. They have even been proved to be beneficial to our physiological wellbeing.
Plants are capable of filtering harmful toxins and general pollution from the air, creating a cleaner, oxygen rich and naturally humidified environment. Phytoncides, antimicrobial compounds released by trees and plants to protect themselves from rot and discourage animals from feeding on them, have been proven to actively boost the human immune system for up to 7 days. Even the natural microbiome of the soil can positively benefit the human body. Medical studies have shown that Mycobacterium vaccae a harmless soil bacterium, increases serotonin production in the brain, making people happier and better able to deal with stressful situations, it functions in short like a natural antidepressant.
Growing edible plants offers additional benefits. What could be more rewarding than sowing a seed, nurturing a baby plant to maturity and reaping the subsequent literal fruits of your labour? In this time of plastic-wrapped intensively farmed, chemically laden produce, to have complete confidence in the provenance and security of your food must be the ultimate luxury. Not only that but the nutrient level in fresh fruit and vegetables begins to tail off from the moment it has been pick meaning that home grown produce has substantially more of a nutrient kick to offer than store bought produce.
So, plants in general enrich our lives in a whole host of ways and growing our food has additional benefits to offer, but what about if we take a look outside ourselves to what benefits it could offer to the wider world? So much of our fresh food is flown in from other countries giving it an epic carbon footprint. You’ve heard of the concept of food miles, the lower the food miles of your diet, the less impact your diet is having on this amazing planet we live on. The simple fact is that if we only ate what is seasonally available from our immediate environment the world would be a far healthier place. Being conscious of the distance our food travels and how it is produced will always steer us in a better direction and what better way to instantly reduce your food miles than to start producing some of it in your own home?
In a time when so much of the population is concentrated in urban environments and when we are spending ever increasing amounts of time glued to screen-based technology, the escape from the man made that plants and especially edible one’s offer is vital to our wellbeing. It is then understandable and very right that, as our dependence on the manmade inevitably increases, our passion and drive for surrounding ourselves with nature should increase exponentially too.
Flower Power - Ruth Goudy
The old term ‘Flower Power’ has taken on a scientific meaning now. There is scientific research into the power of flowers alongside historic flower uses and meanings in society. Let’s not dismiss the sixties message of peace and love because flowers are more powerful and restorative than we might realise.
What do I mean by flower power?
As scientists are taking our mental health and wellbeing more seriously they are discovering that flowers really do have the power to reboot our brains. Structures of flowers, their petal and leaf formation, their mathematical patterns and colours have all been analysed and are shown to have a direct positive impact and stimulate areas of our brains. Mention symmetry, fractals and the colour green and these attributes have all been researched and their positive results quantified. All this only serves to reinforce what many of us have known in our hearts for years. Flowers have power and that explains why for generations we have utilised flowers to communicate, share emotion and ‘say it with flowers’.
Flower power in the past.
Long before we had scientific proof people were using complimentary therapies such as herbalism and aromatherapy to make them feel better. In Victorian times people communicated using ‘The Language of the Flowers’ by sending pictures and bouquets with messages written in flower code. Many of the meanings were derived from longstanding folklore. This would have been passed by word of mouth and gave significance many wildflowers in our hedgerows or fields. There were suggestions for cures and warnings about superstitions. Back in the middle ages the ‘Doctrine of Signatures’ required that people observed a plant carefully. They believed that its appearance contained clues as to what part of the human body the plant could help to cure.
I am in no way suggesting that we take all of these practices or beliefs literally but they have one major thing in common. People who used them took time to get to know plants. They were aware of the seasons, the cycle of life, the new growth, the dying back in winter. They spent time really observing the flowers and plants and becoming familiar with their qualities. In our world of ‘instant’ response, consumerism, screen time and virtual living we are having to re-learn how to slow down, breath deeply, listen to the birds, appreciate the dirt under our nails and wait for seedlings to germinate.
How did I learn about flower power?
I am so fortunate to have spent many hours with plants and flowers for my work. My husband and I set up our plant nursery and garden centre twenty years ago. At that time it was just a field and we built everything from scratch. At first we potted, weeded and pruned every single plant ourselves. As I worked I noticed that each type of flower or plant had a different ‘energy’. I use this word in the sense that they all seemed to have a different personality. A snowdrop makes me feel very differently to a sunflower. I would sometimes laugh about how weird I was and how I talked to my plants . . . . and then I discovered that so many of our gardening customers did and felt the same. Over the years I was drawn to study how flowers have taken on meanings and messages. I have become aware of how much of this knowledge has been lost in the last couple of generations.
How can you bring flower power into your life?
I feel blessed that I am not alone in recognising the power of plants anymore. At last flowers are being given the scientific credibility they deserve. I would encourage anyone who has the chance to enjoy a garden or any outdoor spaces to do so. Garden mindfully and allow the stresses of the world to disappear as you concentrate on the plants, digging and nature around you. On your walks in green spaces take your time. Make the most of the sights, sounds and smells on your path and let go of your worries. The more you look, the more you will see the flower gifts that are around us and are given freely. Take time with flowers and they will reveal their power to you.
Youtube: Ruth Goudy – The Flower Writer