Growing Flowers is Good For Your Health

Man has lived in the company of plants since time immemorial. If we were to seek in the annals of history we would find plants playing their roles in man’s life from the very beginning. Chronological dates, however, could not serve as the sole guideline, for the evolution of different cultures in the various parts of the world was marked by great diversity. Many civilizations could not even have arisen without plants. It is well known, for instance, how important agaves and cacti, and in particular opuntias, were to the Indians of Central America. No wonder, then, that many of these plants were regarded as gods. At the Museum of Bogota, capital of Colombia, the many gold, gourd-shaped vessels of pre-Columbian days, which were unearthed at the archeological site at Quimbaya are sure to attract the visitor’s notice. One can easily surmise that the fruit played a very important role in the natives’ diet. However, it was not regarded merely as a utilitarian object; the shape was also valued, in other words the aesthetic aspect of the fruit. Floral motifs can be found in dozens of primitive cultures, and there they are well established as a matter of pure aesthetics. In the life of mankind flowers have often figured as symbols. The lotus blossom of the Buddhists, for example, is used for offerings and is the traditional companion of birth and death, as well as a simple decoration for the home. Even in our modern world one can find people living simply, close to nature, and it is interesting to note that, as a rule, they have a very sensitive feel for plants and flowers. The author found flowering orchids in the simple huts of Indians in Ecuador’s Rio Pastaza region, and also in the pile-dwellings of the Muongu tribe in Vietnam. But let us go back to cultivated flowers in the history of civilized mankind.

The Gardens of Semiramis in Mesopotamia were built by Nebuchadnezzar more than 2,000 years ago. Bills for thousands of floral arrangements for the feasts of Egyptian pharaohs have survived to this day. As for the ancient Greeks and Romans — no feast or ceremony was complete without flowers. Gardening in southern and eastern Asia also has a thousand-year-old tradition, particularly amongst the Japanese and Chinese. One would be hard put to find a single important poet, painter or architect for whom plants and flowers are not objects of prime concern. Further development of this tradition has yielded such aesthetic forms as the landscaped Japanese garden, the art of bonsai and of ikebana.

What, however, do plants have to offer man living in the fast-paced world of today? First of all it is a well-known fact that a plant in the home provides a man who is alienated from nature with the necessary contact with greenery. This psychological effect must not be underestimated. The modern urban interior is above all functional, and without flowers, which add supplementary colour and form, it would be too austere. Besides this, genuine health problems are beginning to play a significant role. Plastics, though hygienic and aesthetically acceptable can have an adverse effect. Coming into contact with them man is ‘charged’ with static electricity and functions like a condenser. Plants have the opposite electric charge and contact with them causes man to be ‘discharged’. The importance of this effect would be corroborated by any physician but sufficient for most of us is the feeling of relaxation, the easing of tension we feel when we go for a walk in the woods, for instance. Many species of plants secrete substances that destroy micro-organisms in their vicinity (this phenomenon is best known in the case of conifers and eucalypts, but occurs elsewhere, too).

Plants also greatly reduce the amount of dust in the atmosphere (a single hectare of forest captures 40 to 70 tonnes of dust a year); they act as humidifiers in a room, in other words moisten the air and make it easier to breathe; plus many other advantageous things. Noteworthy, also, is the educational effect of plants. A child that grows his first beans at the age of five and in the ensuing years regularly tends his own plants in the home is more likely to develop into an adult with a creative bent. Furthermore, it cultivates his sense of aesthetics as well as regard for life. Gardening has always been an art in the true sense of the word and it is a pity that we often lose sight of this fact in the fast-paced, commercially-oriented world we live in.

So in conclusion, let us reiterate what was said in the title of this section — grow flowers! They will not only improve the look of your interior décor but will also benefit your physical and mental health.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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