8 Horticulture and Mental Health

Jessie Richard

In class, we spoke about the use of plants in terrariums during the height of the industrial revolution, with the immense pollution in the air botanists found that no plant was able to survive; so, in response, Dr. Ward created the first glass terrarium. In class, we spoke about the immense pollution and how it was so bad people feared they may get trampled in the street due to the thickness of the fog, we also talked about the mental health implications that may have been tested during a time of stress and the unknown, much like in a severe environmental situation. The invention of the terrarium began the process of allowing people of all economic states to have access to growing their own plants, and unbeknownst to them, access to sustainable and affordable mental health support through plants.

Much like in “The Social Dimensions of Therapeutic Horticulture” article, we read that these acts of “Green Care” which is the process of gardening, interacting with nature, and or interacting socially involving nature proves to lower anxiety, depression and improve social functioning. The article explores the concept of using plant therapy as a sustainable and positive driven method, and even today when the world went down with COVID-19 we saw people hoarding to the basics of humanity, we baked bread, we brought ourselves comfort with new animals and we all bought a plant or two dozen. Instinctually, humans know how to bring themselves back into a space of safety and comfort in a time of uncertainty, and we see that now as we saw that with the access to terrariums.

In Lindsay Wells’ article, it is mentioned how the advertisement for these glass spaces instruct the buyers to place the terrarium near an open window to “Form the most beautiful blinds that can be imagined”. I wonder if the people who were experiencing this pollution wanted something more, they wanted to look out and see green trees and forests. That desire was reflected through the sellers and advertisements, simply because they wanted it to. This idea of blocking one’s window with a healthy green-filled glass box, invited imagination and the idea that things could possibly change and that humans don’t need to be so separated from nature and in fact, humans should be embracing the effects of the natural world around them.

It is hard to know for certain what kinds of impacts the 19th century fad for indoor gardening had on individuals. One thing we know for sure is that innovations like the Wardian case changed how many people interacted with plants as well as the types of plants they could grow. As we learned in this class, the 19th century was a time marked by much social change. Perhaps there are important parallels that can be made between this phenomenon and the growing interest in cultivating indoor plants during the COVID-19 pandemic, an unsettled time also shaped by many unanticipated changes.

References

Harris, Holly. “The Social Dimensions of Therapeutic Horticulture.” Health & Social Care in the Community 25, no. 4 (February 22, 2017): 1328–36. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.12433.
Wells, Lindsay. “Close Encounters of the Wardian Kind: Terrariums and Pollution in the Victorian Parlor.” Victorian Studies 60, no. 2 (2018): 158–70. https://doi.org/10.2979/victorianstudies.60.2.02.

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