The Real Reason We Need Plants

What do you think is the reason we need plants? I have talked a lot about plants on the the blog.

I recently featured interviews with local, Cleveland small businesses: Recreational Pots & Plants and For The Love of Foilage.

One of my earlier posts, talks all about Lavender and Patchouli, two iconic “hippie aesthetic herbs.” This continues to be one of my most popular posts and I am working on a follow-up.

And while they are technically in their own kingdom, you know that I haven’t missed opportunities to talk about mushrooms. Just a Girl in Love With Mushrooms and Welcome to the Mushroom Kingdom: Foraging 101.

I have dabbled in having some plants for the past several years. But myself, like many of you, intensified my hobby as we came out of the era of COVID. Plants have become an enjoyable hobby that uplifts my mental health, energizes my workspace, and has given me the chance to connect and build relationships with so many amazing people.

But for me, my personal plants represent something much deeper than a hobby. And I want to share that story.

How it All Started

I don’t recall the exact date that I got my first plant. While working at my previous job, I accumulated a collection of succulents (in part because they were trending). I genuinely loved those succulents, but I made 3 mistakes: 1) I fell victim to the lie that they were “impossible to kill plants,” 2) I did zero research, 3) I was not focused on owning plants and took terrible care of them. Needless to say, none of those plants are a part of my collection anymore.

But thankfully, I have learned a lot more and am much more committed to being a responsible plant parent.

Fast forward to my current job. I have been in my position for about 3.5 years, and during that time I have built up a decent plant collection. I started with a Fiddle Leaf Fig that I purchased at Costco. Then a Pothos propagated from a friend. Succulents. And then a beautiful Adansonii Monstera, a gorgeous ZZ Plant, and more.

I kept all of my plants at my office at work because I have a cat at home who enjoys chewing on every single plant or flower that I put within reach. Given that the majority of plants are toxic to cats, I had to just give up on keeping plants in my house. So, transforming my office into a jungle oasis was the plan.

And those plants brought me so much joy. I started to learn how to take care of them, I watched them continue to grow and thrive. It is something that I look forward to seeing everyday and it really creates a personalized work environment. And given that I spend 40 hours a week in my office, having it be a space that feels special really adds to morale.

December 2022

And then last year happened. Over the past several years, my grandma’s health declined from multiple illnesses – one of which was dementia. While it might be healing for me, I am not ready to re-live the months of her decline and all the suffering that she endured in her final weeks.

We, as her family, advocated and did everything that we could, but sometimes final days are more out of our hands than we could ever expect.

Without going through all the details, my grandma passed away on Christmas 2022.

My Limit

Even though we knew that my grandma was nearing her last days, none of us saw it coming that we would lose her when we did. I was at peace because I knew that she was thankfully not suffering any longer, but her loss hit me so hard. Only a year earlier, only one day later, I had lost my uncle, my grandma’s son, to COVID-19. His is another loss that I have barely processed.

I returned to work almost immediately after. I was initially in shock and I also knew that I would need days off for the actual funeral arrangements and planning, so I went in. I don’t even remember if it was still December or the New Year yet.

When I arrived in my office, I encountered the sight that just broke me. All of my plants were dead.

You are probably wondering what happened. Something didn’t work correctly with the heating in the wing of our office building during that weekend, and the heat was shut off. Add to that offices with large windows that are a little drafty and below freezing temperatures. Myself, and several co-workers had our plants completely destroyed by the conditions. They all essentially froze and then drowned in the moisture once the building warmed up again. It was literally so cold that even some of my glass propagation vases shattered.

This is the point that I went numb.

I know that plants are re-placeable, but they are still living things. And as I articulated earlier, they were a special source of positivity for me. But from the loss of my grandma to the loss of what brought joy to the space I worked in – I was suddenly maxed out on the loss of life.

Humanity As It Was Intended

That same day one of my co-workers was nearby while I was slowly breaking down with my other co-worker/friend. I apologized and explained what happened and they left and then suddenly returned and handed me one of their propagated plants. It was the first plant to start a new collection and it meant so much to me in that moment – it was the kindest gesture of empathy.

The next day I came into work to find an assortment of plant propagations from my co-workers’ personal plants decorating my desk. There was no note indicating which plant was from whom. It was just a beautiful, collective action from a community of people rallying to support someone during a difficult time.

Over the next couple weeks I cleaned out all my destroyed plants. I was able to keep a part of my original monstera, thanks to sharing multiple cuttings with my friends. And my team sent a gorgeous Peace Lily for my grandma’s funeral, that now sits in my office and is a symbol of so many wonderful things.

I have since bought several other plants, and created a new jungle in my office. But, that jungle made up of so many people. I still don’t know everyone who contributed. But my plant collection is more than just plants. It is more than a hobby. It is a reminder of humanity, hope, and love. I am connected to countless people, and will be forever, just by caring for the plants in my presence.

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