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A talk with your plants could prove enlightening

The temple bell stops
but I still hear the sound
coming out of the flowers.
– Basho, 1680

Communicating with her flowers Judy playfully teases her flock of gooseneck loosestrife with a drink of water. See how well they respond! Donald McClure photo

Is it possible to communicate with the plants and flowers in our garden?   The idea is not new and whether we individually are able to get our minds around the concept or not, there are a lot of gardeners who feel there is merit in the thought.

I don’t think there is any doubt that people and plants do communicate.  And what they communicate is really — mutual love.

One of the greatest botanists and plant breeders ever, Luther Burbank claimed that plants tended with love grew faster and more luxuriantly than others. “Plants are unselfish,” he maintained. “If we treat them right, feed and water them they provide us with many months, sometimes years, of pleasure.”

American  poet and botanist Celia Thaxter (1835-1894) once wrote:  “As I work among my flowers, I find myself talking to them, reasoning and remonstrating with them, and adoring them as if they were human beings.  Much laughter I provoke among my friends by so doing, but that is of no consequence.  The plants and I are on such good terms.”

All kinds of studies have been done on the subject of plant feelings.  Do plants feel pain?  Do they sense fear?  Do they react to kindness?  Do they respond negatively to a person’s antipathy or hostility.  Evidence suggests that they do.  But nobody knows this for sure — unless that person is a gardener.

I personally believe that plants are sensitive enough to be able to get positive or negative impressions of the  people who are working around them.   Both my mother and Judy’s used to talk to their plants — and they both could grow a jungle in a tea cup’.

It appears that by stressing a loving, caring and encouraging relationship with a plant does reinforce a beneficial environment which results in a less stressed plant.  Many people who talk to their flowers  fervently believe it not only help the plants, but helps them as well.

Decades ago in The Secret Life of Plants, authors Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, wrote what has been described as “A fascinating account of the physical, emotional, and spiritual relations between plants and man” . This they affirmed by experiments seeming to prove that plants feel the emotions of their gardeners even from some distances away — and respond.

“Some of us are even so sensitive to our gardens that we know without seeing them that they need something, the authors wrote.  “It could be water or more light, or even just our presence speaking with love and admiration for these special beings.”

You only need to look at a tulip bulb and imagine that potentially beautiful flower curled up inside —  awaiting positive readings of temperature and humidity to trigger new life– to suggest that all plants and trees are alive, have a spirit and are aware of their surroundings.   The question is if a plant is alive and aware of its surroundings, does it truly have a soul?

The unique Acquaria Red Fox Tail. Donald McClure photo

Take our Acalypha (chenille or Fox Tail plant) for example.   A gift from our daughter at Easter  we brought it home, put it in some sun.  It began to sulk, its foliage withered in hours and it dropped its red caterpillar-like tails all over the floor.  We kept moving it around until it had only a single red fox tail left.   Then we moved it outside on the veranda onto a table.  It perked up a bit, but progress was slow. Determined, we hung it high under the protection of the roof and it burst into life.  It is currently covered with red fuzzy tails and lush foliage.  And it just loves the high humidity.

Call it what you will, it communicated its needs to its human attendants and they finally responded.   Everyday when we water the little sucker we tell it how well it is doing also.

The real question is :  who is in charge anyway?  I suggest we are working for the plants.

The late Peruvian artist and visionary Pablo Amaringo,  wrote that his aboriginal ancestors  believed  that a spirit inhabits every tree and every plant, even flowers.  “They do speak to us, if we know how to listen.”

Most gardeners soon cultivate the fine art of listening to their own plants’ voices, I think.

Sharon Apt Russell in her wonderful book “Anatomy of a Rose, exploring the secret life of Flowers”  had this to say:  “The more we learn about flowers the less silent they are.  Perhaps all of this listening is a way for the trees to speak to us again.  I can still smell my grandmother’s garden. We are just beginning to understand what we have always loved.”

Notebook Week of July 16 , 2010

One type of Hibiscus Rose of Sharon from Gordon Bevan's garden. Donald McClure photo

The Lord Stanley type Rose of Sharon from Foxglove garden. Donald McClure photo

Thank you readers:  Thanks to my incredible gardening neighbour  Gordon Bevan who confirmed that the hummer he saw last week was a hummingbird moth ( July 20, 2010)

Thanks to Terry Sprague for his expertise not only on the hummer but on providing confirmation that reader Linda Tuck Chapman had seen a rare immature summer Tanager at her feeder.

Note to reader Louisa in Carrying Place.   Alas the Rose of Sharon is another name for hibiscus syriacus. The hibiscus family is confusing for sure.  There are over 200 species of trees, shrubs and herbs around the world in this group with the name Rose of Sharon applied to two types , one of which is the syriacus group. Some flowers in this group look like roses — and others look like…well hibiscus (see pictures).

And thanks to neighbour Ann Lafave for introducing us to John Biggs Ridge Road Royal raspberries.  Really luscious and delicious!   Incidentally John will be featuring more perennials including hostas in his stunning displays this season.

Filed Under: Donald McClureUncategorized


About the Author: He can tickle your funny bone or tug at your heart strings. County people may know him as a chronicler of everything that happens (or should happen) in the garden, but his interests stretch across the natural world. His unique sense of observation takes in a wide expanse of living and may even point out some truths about our own condition as managers of the world around us. With Loyalist antecedents in his family tree his roots go deep into the Ontario countryside.

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  1. Shakespere says:

    Personality traits; cactus [prickly] leave that one alone!

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