"The satisfaction of witnessing their growth became a surrogate for my own change..."ODESSA CHITTY FOR VARSITY

It has gradually become acknowledged among my friends and family that I am strongly attached to my plants. From exploiting every chance to sneak them into an Instagram post, to making ‘plant watering’ a reported aspect of my daily routine, my plants are an established part of my day – and life. Yet, I am most definitely not alone in my obsession with accumulating different plants and filling my small space with greenery. Tellingly, the hashtag #plantlady has over 2 million Instagram posts and #plantlover over 4 million. Why is it then, that especially during lockdown, we have all started to invest our scarce time and money into plants?

Exploring this question takes little investigation. Plants soothe in their ability to be household ambassadors of nature – studies have proven the calming effect of green – preventing us from feeling oppressed by the box-like, white-walled rooms defining our living spaces. Yet, perhaps especially currently, it is in the inherent and reliable growth of the plants that we may fill the gap of our own aspiration for growth.

“Remind yourself that as the plant grows, looking out for yourself will help you sprout your own leaves...”

Lockdown undoubtedly allows for little change, mostly definable through any news of lifted restrictions and changing numbers. For many of us this halt came during a time usually associated with tremendous shifts: entering university means growing up, growing into a new environment and growing as a person. The academic environment presents external forces that may undoubtedly be oppressive, but that are simultaneously catalysts of personal development. It may be the taxing stimuli that we fight against, yet these are precisely what force us to grow beyond ourselves or help us learn our limits.

"We should focus on growing our little plant hearts..."Cara Hanley Illustration Instagram/@caramhanley

Personally, my past few years were dictated by forward-and-backward movements in my mental health, a repetitive cycle that nonetheless forced me to evolve as a person at every step. Now, away from university and thankfully having cultivated my mental resilience, I find myself in a situation more static than ever before. The university work is as hard as always, yet I have learned to deal with the cyclical nature of the term, including the ups and downs that it brings. Pressure is no longer a trigger of change, but rather a perpetuation of the current feeling of immobility.

The only possible response? Taking care of plants.

So, I went out to the local garden centre and bought 6 succulents, a hanging plant (forgive my lack of further specificity), a wood spurge and later my £1.50 mint plant from Waitrose (which has grown massively). Initially, I only wanted to bring life into my flat, yet the experience has been more significant than expected. As I began projecting my desire for growth onto these natural beings, the satisfaction of witnessing their physical growth became the surrogate for my own desire for change. Instant gratification fills me as I see the small succulents multiply, and likewise I experience an emotional rollercoaster at their unfortunate death – I deeply apologise for the ignorance that forced me to sacrifice three succulents and demand an apology for the distress I experienced when my wood spurge became spider and fly-infested.

Isabel and some of her adopted plantsCredit to the author

Slowly but surely, I have become oddly attached to my (surviving) plants. I find joy in their individual, biological needs and anthropomorphise them as I identify their unique characters. Some need more attention, some less. Every day I may take care of another being and witness the growth of this source of life that I nourish. Whilst it appears that I am terribly inflating the significance of plants, it is precisely their daily growth that fills my static environment with movement. It may be minute, but each new day I may discover a new leaf, a new bud.

Besides finding joy in the growing plant, I am reminded of how much the care I give has the ability to exert a positive influence. Just as I nourish my plants and give them love, I can bring about positive change by showering myself and those around me with attention and care. I was always a tall child, and vividly remember my mother, every time someone pointed out my height, saying: ‘Oh yes, I watered her well!’. Perhaps we should take a note from botany and focus on growing our little plant hearts, even when everything else is stagnant.

Whether it is the lack of change or the stress of university, it might be the addition of a small plant to your life that could bring some positivity. Remind yourself that as the plant grows from your care, looking out for yourself will help you sprout your own leaves and bloom your own flowers.


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Mountain View

Not Moving Forwards is Not Moving Back

Here is a list of my personal favourite indoor plants:

  • Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans)
  • Peace Lily (Aracae spaythiphyllum)
  • Heartleaf plant (Philodendron Scandens)
  • Devil’s Ivy/Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)
  • String of Nickels (Dischidia Nummularia)

Enjoy your planting!