Feed Me, Seymour

I’m really into plants. My collection of almost 50 plants started with a Monstera deliciosa (a pretty common house plant that has beautiful leaves with an arrangement of holes, or leaf fenestrations) that I got before school resumed in August. I wanted to add a little life into the room I would be doing my online classes in. About 4 months later, I can definitely say there’s a lot of life in my room.

While potting plants indoors may have been practiced for thousands of years, an article from La Residence by Léon & Georgeit, titled, “A Brief History Of Houseplants,” states it wasn’t until the 17th century until house plants were used more for aesthetics. Later, during the Victorian era, plants were used to bring life into homes during the winter. House plants have been gaining popularity in the United States since the 1970’s

Indoor gardening and potted plants can be traced back to early Greece, Rome, and Egypt. The use of plants in homes has grown greatly over the past 200 years, and now collections are growing faster than ever due to everyone being at home. Not only has collecting plants become quite addicting, but they have improved my mood, stress levels, and productivity, so it’s easy to see why people have gravitated towards them while home quarantining during the pandemic. There is a plant out there for everyone, and so many great local businesses where you can find them. Even if it’s one, five, or fifty, I think everyone should have plants at home.

On an Instagram poll, I collected data from 78 people. 45% of people have grown their plant collection since the start of this year. In another question, 60 said house plants improve their move and/or motivate them, which is roughly 80% of the people I polled. 

While I thought I was one of the only students at Oyster River who developed a plant addiction this year, it turns out I’m not alone. Ellie Koener (‘22), has also been growing her plant collection since the start of 2020, now owning 20-30 plants. Once I started, I was like “Oh, my room would look better with just like one more plant, and I just kept getting more.” 

Koener explained why she decided to introduce more plants into her house. “I feel like just being stuck in your house or apartment and not being able to go outside as much, it’s good to bring the outside in. It just brings life into my house,” said Koener. 

Even though it’s a lot of work, Koener enjoys the result of her hard work. I feel like [plants] definitely improve my mood,” said Koener. “When I wake up, just seeing the plants makes me happy.”

A study titled “Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress,” from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, proves that boost in mood Koener is referring to. While just looking at plants can help reduce universal stress, touching, smelling, and repotting plants reduces even more. These actions stimulate the autonomic nervous system, and have a positive effect on stress. Touching foliage or dirt reduces sympathetic activity, which increases when people are stressed. In other words, it works against the nervous system to stop stress from occurring. I agree that repotting a plant and getting your hands dirty reduces my stress. These simple tasks that come with taking care of plants block out stress, and offer a break from my day. 

“It’s proven that they just give you peace and calm,” Andrea von Oeyen, the strings orchestra teacher at both ORHS and ORMS, agreed. “What they release into the air we need, and what we release into the air they need. It’s just a really needed symbiotic relationship.”A symbiotic relationship is exactly how I describe it. Giving your plants a little water every week is a small price for the calm energy they bring into your home. 

It’s easy to see how people have become attached to houseplants. Not only do plants create positive spaces, but they definitely have a large effect on my mood and stress. Waking up, I immediately have a task to start my day with. Whether it’s simply opening the shades or diligently watering each plant, having to take care of another organism ultimately will make you feel better about myself. Plus, there’s nothing better than being able to look at all the colors and textures of your plants everyday.

Cindy Mauchi, who has been operating a small succulent and terrarium business called Love Green Terrariums for five years now, finds joy in growing and succulents. She uses glass containers, succulents, stones, and other materials to create terrariums for decor in homes and work spaces. Mauchi explained more and more people started purchasing her terrariums for their offices, as they found them calming to have on their desk.

Due to recent circumstances, people have been left with more time at home. As a result, Mauchi has seen a change in the sales of one of her products. “When I started the business, I started do-it-yourself kits but they were not that popular. During the pandemic, I’ve been selling a lot more of those, and I guess people have more time to build them at home.” These “do-it-yourself kits” allow people to build their own terrarium from scratch with plants and materials provided by Mauchi.

Another person who’s seen a change in the popularity of house plants is von Oeyen, who has been growing her collection of around 45 plants more rapidly this year.

For von Oeyen, she’s definitely seen a shift in Wentworth Greenhouses collection of plants. “Since I started going there I’ve definitely seen more [variety of houseplants]. The people there are so wonderful too. I think it’s probably all them. It’s probably all ingenuity and them talking to each other, and “we should bring this in”. Von Oeyen has been shopping at Wentworth Greenhouse for the past nine years, and has first hand been able to see them grow their collection of house plants.

Photo taken from the collection of Cindy Mauchi

Switching back from the shopper to the supplier, Information about Mauchi’s succulent and terrarium business and all of the current products can be found here. Mauchi’s business will also appear in the New Hampshire Homes Magazine in January. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with getting your first plant, succulents are a great place to start, and Mauchi offers a large variety to choose from. 

“I am obsessed with succulents,” explained Mauchi, as she talked about her history with plants. She continued on to say, “when we moved to New Hampshire, I had more space so I started getting succulents and propagating them. It got to a point where I started making terrariums that I brought to friends and to the office, and then I started getting orders and that’s how the business started.” Not only are succulents fascinating to look at, but they are probably some of the most easy care plants. 

Now that you know about the benefits of having plants, it’s time to go pick some out. Remember to be mindful about where you are getting your plants. Family owned greenhouses and local growers are great because you know where your plant is coming from and that it’s not going to die once you bring it home. Big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s may have a decent selection, but it can often be a struggle to bring these plants into your home. They don’t do as well with their plants and aren’t known for taking great care of them while in store. I shop for the majority of my plants and Wentworth Greenhouses and Woodbury Florist & Greenhouses.

“When I moved to Rollinsford and discovered Wentworth Greenhouse, it was just a very calming presence to be in the greenhouse, and I decided that I really wanted to have that in my own home,” said von Oeyen. I too enjoy shopping at Wentworth Greenhouse for my plants, as they have a great selection and the people are very kind and helpful. 

There are also other ways to purchase plants at an even more local level. There are plenty of social media platforms where local people sell and trade plants. This is a great option because these plants are already established and should transfer into your home smoothly. Koener often purchases her plants off Etsy, another great option. While I buy plants online in the summer, I would refrain from doing so in the winter, as plants don’t travel or grow well in cold climates. 

When the weather does get warmer, I would encourage everyone to add a plant to their home. A plant gives you responsibility. It’s your job to water it and make sure it’s growing. These tasks help to add small breaks whenever we need to get away from our busy lives and just let us escape. Even between my online classes or when I’m anxious about due dates, I take 15 minutes to check up on my plants and make sure everything is healthy. I can walk away after and feel renewed and ready to get back to my work.