Graphic by Nigel Mathias

Many, including students, are gravitating toward plants during these difficult times

Plants are known to have a number of benefits for both mental and physical health. A few of these benefits include reducing stress and anxiety, brightening living spaces and improving indoor air quality

Given all the stress and uncertainty of these last few months and the increased amount of time people are spending inside their homes, maybe it’s no surprise that people are gravitating towards plants now.

“I think planting is quite therapeutic. I think a lot of people that weren’t doing it before started to take an interest in it [during the pandemic] and I think we’re seeing a resurgence of the younger generation getting a little bit more interested in it,” said Kate Psota, a greenhouse supervisor at Holland Park Garden Gallery.

“I think planting is quite therapeutic. I think a lot of people that weren’t doing it before started to take an interest in it,” said Kate Psota, a greenhouse supervisor at Holland Park Garden Gallery.

For many students, the pandemic was an opportunity for them to further delve into their passion for plants. For some, this has meant growing their already sizable plant collections through buying new plants, swapping with friends and family or propagating plants they already had. For others, this has meant gardening in the warmer months. 

When reflecting upon how plants have been part of my life before and during the pandemic, I think they acted as an anchor and sense of normalcy. I still get to water them on the weekends, they still grow and make me happy even though everything has changed,” said Veronica Tran, a fifth-year biochemistry student.

 

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For other students, the pandemic is the first time that they have tried anything remotely related to plants. The growing sense of community around the planting seems to be an important aspect of the appeal for students, particularly during these times when many feel disconnected from others.

Plants can act as conversation starters, giving students something to talk about with friends and family that is not necessarily related to the pandemic. There are also groups popping up on various social media sites, where plant parents facilitate the finding and trading of plants and offer information about how to take care of them. 

“I think from the sudden increase of plants and plant owners throughout the pandemic there have been a lot of Facebook groups that have sprung out due to this. And there’s a lot of trading of plants, of giving away . . . It’s a community but it’s also kind of a game almost like trading, they’re discussing it. It’s become its own thing that I can’t even quite describe,” said Lucy Lin, a fourth-year environmental sciences student. 

“It’s a community but it’s also kind of a game almost like trading, they’re discussing it. It’s become its own thing that I can’t even quite describe,” said Lucy Lin, a fourth-year environmental sciences student. 

However, the supply of plants hasn’t necessarily kept up with the dramatic increase in demand for a number of reasons. Some of the protocols that have been put in place due to the pandemic are affecting migrant workers, who are an important part of this industry. There are also restrictions on the import of plants.

Despite these challenges though, Psota commented that people have been understanding and flexible when shopping for their plants. She also doesn’t think this should discourage people from further exploring their relationship with plants and nature, especially during these times.

“I hope that [customers] would develop more of a relationship with nature, understanding how these things work and how they interact in our everyday life. Plants are such a part of our environment. I think a lot of people just think about them for just strict aesthetics but they do have the ability to reduce stress, working with them it’s been proven to reduce stress. They can improve air quality within your home. So I hope when people come here that they have an appreciation for that and maybe even learn something new that they didn’t know before,” said Psota.

Given the plethora of benefits provided by plants, it seems fitting that people are gravitating towards them during these difficult times. As we move into the greyer winter months and begin to spend even more time indoors, having something bright and green around the house will become even more important.

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