By Siobhan Searle
Author and Environmentalist
Society’s downward spiral continues, and with it go my spirits. As the chaos of the global pandemic persists, it has become harder to step away from the fear and uncertainty and take a breath.
Now (more than ever) is the time to be thankful for the simple things in life: for food, family, shelter, nature and life itself. People are dying, families are being parted, and those of us not deemed essential are on lockdown, while trying to juggle working from home, social distancing, being both parent and teacher to our children, and other responsibilities.
The world has lost its colour. All that’s left is grey. There is no escape and it is difficult not to be swallowed up by it.
Are you struggling with it all?
We need to stay strong. To do so, it is important that we take care of our mental health.
As the weight of the crisis affects my life, even my writing, and threatens to pull me under, I have latched on to anything positive to help keep my head above water. My fail-safe resource for this is nature, and it is one we can all share, no matter where we live.
City slicker or country dweller, take a moment and smile at the sunshine, listen to the birds sing and smell the fragrance of the flowers float in on the breeze. Spring is in the air, and with it comes rebirth. Our humane world may seem dull and depressing, but look outside and watch nature’s colour reclaim the Earth.
Growing up, I never understood my mother and grandmother’s obsession with gardening. They’d spend hours toiling in their flowerbeds, planting, weeding and watering. Heaven forbid a ball accidentally rolled into one.
Sure, the flowers were pretty, but I couldn’t understand what the big deal was. I was always the grim reaper of plants. It became a family joke. Someone would gift me a flower, and then take bets on how long it took me to kill it. When we moved to our house with its existing flowerbeds, I did not even rise to the challenge.
The Secret Gardener
It is amazing how overrun gardens become when you leave them unattended for a year or two. Finally, I couldn’t take any more. When my husband came out of the house and found me ripping weeds out of the garden, he thought I had gone mad. It was rather therapeutic. I felt like Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden.
Since then, my gardening skills have mushroomed. I not only weed the flowerbeds, but water and nurture them. I have even purchased plants, seeds and bulbs to add to them; my favourite of which are my roses.
The first time I saw a seed I had planted grow, I knew I had reformed. I was no longer the flower-killer I had once been, but a garden gnome with a green thumb. Best of all, I finally understood my mother and grandmother’s delight over gardening. It is relaxing.
I have since found that even when a person stops and takes a moment to enjoy a plant’s beauty, they feel better. It is almost as if plants have a calming power over us. Gardening, whether it’s tending to houseplants or sculpting flowerbeds, provides us with a break from the noise of the world. It gives us a chance to breathe and get in touch with ourselves.
Moreover, pulling weeds is a great way to get rid of frustration. Best of all, this meditative therapy is available to everyone. All you need is a bit of dirt, water and sunlight, and a plant or seed.
If you have doubts, start small. Build up your skills and confidence. Most importantly, don’t despair. Nurturing takes time, but it is worth it. Whether your goal is to create a focal flowerbed, a window box or a balcony piece, or to simply have a few potted plants around the house, begin with easy-keepers and work your way up.
Ten Low-Maintenance Plants
To kick you off in the right direction, here are 10 low-maintenance flowers, five indoor and five outdoor, and tips for how to grow them.
A hardy, easy-to-care-for perennial, which comes as a bulb and is best planted in the fall, just before the ground freezes. Daffodils bloom in the late winter or early spring, and do well in full or partial sun, only needing to be watered in dry conditions.
These beautiful annual flowers come as seeds, and should be planted in the spring for your summer beds. They like to be moist, so water them often and keep them in a somewhat sheltered or shaded area.
This flowering shrub prefers lots of sun and a moist environment. Hydrangeas bloom in the summer or early fall.
We all know this large plant, if not for its recognizable flowers, but for its tasty seeds. It is no surprise that these high-tolerance annual flowers love sunlight. They bloom in summer, and survive well when they’re watered infrequently.
These are a plant-killer’s best friend, which I know from experience. These sun-loving, colourful annuals come as seeds and need little maintenance. They can survive in hot conditions, but they need regular watering.
A delightful little houseplant that does well in low-to-medium light, when kept moist in warm conditions.
An easy-to-grow plant that survives well in moist conditions, with moderate sunlight. But beware, despite their beauty, these lovely plants are poisonous if ingested.
I can attest to this plant’s hardiness. My cat has made it his life’s mission to destroy it. Not only does he continuously try to eat the plant, but once he pushed it out of the window onto the heat vent overnight. It survived, and after being relocated to a cat-proof location, has thrived.
Kalanchoe plants are best kept in warm conditions, in a sunny spot. They need to be watered only sparingly, as they are succulent plants.
It isn’t hard to become an expert in orchid care, once you learn the basics. They are a relatively easy plant to deal with when they’re kept in warm, moist conditions with indirect sunlight.
No doubt, you’ve seen these long-lasting blooms in someone’s house over the holidays. When watered regularly and kept in a warm (not hot) environment with indirect light, these cacti will do well for you.
For more information on these plants and others, check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Garden Therapy Works
These are just some of the easy-to-grow flowers out there. I am partial to plants with blooms, but if you are like my mother and enjoy ferns, spider plants or ornamental grasses, then your options are practically endless. If you are a fantasy lover, there is even a plant called the Dragon Tree.
So even though we are in a period of social distancing, if you do not already have plants or a garden, the next time you make the inevitable trip to the grocery store or to another essential business that supplies seeds, bulbs or flowers… buy one or even two. Take it from this reverted plant-killer—you won’t regret it.
Despite the COVID-19 anxiety that builds around me, I smile when I look upon my roses, and this helps me get through it. I still can’t tell an annual from a perennial, but garden therapy works.
- Beaulieu, D. (March 13, 2020) “10 easy-to-grow plants for outdoors; low-care plants that are high in visual interests.” The Spruce: https://www.thespruce.com/easy-to-grow-outdoor-plants-2132285.
- Coulter, L. (n.d.) “13 can’t-kill flowers for beginners.” HGTV: https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/flowers/13-cant-kill-flowers-for-beginners-pictures.
- Picard, C. & Springen, K. (Dec 9, 2019) “30 gorgeous indoor plants that are almost impossible to kill.” Good Housekeeping: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/advice/g1285/hard-to-kill-plants/?slide=30.