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The Columbia Press

Columnists & Other Opinions

Senior Moments: Conversations with and about plants and their effects on us

Emma Edwards
By Emma Edwards, Thursday, August 8, 2019

Comic-strip character Maxine says, “The only thing I’m growing this year is older and more miserable.”

Not so. Anyone can grow beautiful flowers! However, I’ve heard many people say they don’t have a green thumb.

I read a quip the other day: “There is one thing God cannot do.” Well, that caught my attention. Reading on, I was reminded that no word from God will ever fail. “For there is nothing that God cannot do . . . except fail. With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Luke 18:26-27)

Even growing eye-catching flowers is possible.

Some say -- especially at this time of year -- that I have a green thumb. I do have some very beautiful violets inside my home, plus a Christmas cactus, all doing quite well. Outside, I have an abundance of dahlias, nasturtiums, roses, geraniums and impatiens plus a few other pretty flowers.

I look at my thumb and it’s not green. So, where did that expression come from?

According to James Underwood Crockett, it comes from the fact that algae growing on the outside of earthenware pots will stain a person’s thumb and fingers if he or she handles enough pots. Hence, a person who is always working with flowerpots has a green thumb.

Some of us older seniors may remember that Crockett, who was born in 1915, was the original host of the popular PBS television show, “The Victory Garden.” He also was an author of many gardening books.

My secret to healthy violet plants is something I learned many years ago: talk to my plants and never water them with cold or hot water, but lukewarm water. Also, I’ll confess to using a unique fertilizer that an “older” woman once told me about. It’s simply called Eleanor's VF-11 and a capful does wonders in that lukewarm water.

Hospital patients with indoor plants in their rooms feel less stressed than those without plants, according to a study by researchers in The Netherlands. The presence of flowers or any type of greenery in one’s home can help reduce blood pressure and anxiety and can improve mental acuity. (Perhaps the same finds would hold true for seniors in assisted living or nursing care settings.)

Plants are natural air purifiers and have the ability to reduce noise from the outdoors, which can further decrease stress. Next time you visit a sick friend, bring a plant rather than a bouquet of flowers. You will be doing a good deed.

Five plants specifically recommended for indoor growing are the peace lily, African violet, aloe vera, spider plant and the Amazon elephant ear.

Over the years, we always had an aloe vera plant indoors for its healing properties (especially for burns).

Another very wise Maxine observation: “Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”


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