Bits and Bites of Everyday Life
Personal matters have forced Alberte to offer our readers a classic column, originally present in the June 26, 2009 edition of True North Perspective. We are pleased and proud to re-present it, with new illustrations. If you have read this before, we feel sure you will enjoy paying another visit to Alberte's garden; if you missed it the first time around, we are certain you will be glad you had a second chance.
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.
I have good news to share! News that gardeners have always suspected ...
An extensive survey, financed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, has shown the numerous benefits of plants, flowers and gardening on the environment and on peoples' physical and mental health.
It has been observed that plants possess anti-stress characteristics. Having plants in your home can lower blood pressure by one to four units! While I was on vacation, my neighbour watered my indoor plants and outdoor flower pots. Her daughter accompanied her one day and commented, "Alberte sure has a lot of plants." She's right! Plants are my friends. I feed them, prune them and repot them when needed. My plants are often a conversation piece. For example, I have an orchid that flowers generously, despite being in a tiny pot.
I've had many compliments about that orchid. Next to it, I have an old begonia that flowers all-year round. They enjoy the morning sun in my kitchen-dining area and I enjoy watching them. My daughter asked me how come my plants live long and happy. I tell her, "Plants are like children; they need love and attention; they also need a routine." As a mother of five, she understands only to well and now applies it to her plants.
Back to the good news! Another study done in the United States shows that gardening is a hobby which can increase our level of satisfaction with life and improves our general state of health. Gardeners have a better appetite for life and show more determination faced with every day problems. I can vouch for that!
In the summer of 1979, my first marriage was on the brink of disaster. My husband's mental health had deteriorated to the point where he attempted suicide for the first time. (There would be two more attempts, the last one being fatal.) That summer, he refused to till the vegetable garden. My precious garden went up in weeds. You can read all about it in the "Neglected Garden" as the novel is based on my first marriage. This was honestly the worst summer of my life! I had no way to de-stress. Even the flowers didn't do well, as if they sensed something was wrong...
Back to the study! It also mentions that gardeners have better temperaments, are more optimistic and happier. They are more positive about life! In "The Neglected Garden", Anne (the main character) heads home from her first vacation in Barbados, a year after Andrew's suicide. It's been a voyage of self-discovery, self-acceptance and forgiveness. The last paragraph of the novel touches on gardening.
"Anne was flying high, sailing through the early evening clouds. A most beautiful song spilled over and filled her heart with joy. She remembered her beloved garden. Vegetables and flowers would grow bountiful. She would never allow herself to neglect it again — for anyone's sake. No matter how trying the circumstances, her garden would never be neglected again."
Gardens ground you! Researchers have found that plants have a calming effect. They also help people to renew their bond with nature. This is so beneficial, especially under trying circumstances!
And the physical aspect is just as important as it requires us to walk, change position constantly and expend lots of energy outdoors where we can benefit from the sunshine. Your gardening spot doesn't even have to be big; a small backyard lot will do. So enjoy! Gardens feed you, body and soul.