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The therapeutic power of gardening

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Can anxious minds find solace working with plants?
A therapist and her husband, a garden designer, say yes.

By Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 17 August 2020

IN MID-MARCH, in the tense week before the British government announced its belated coronavirus-induced lockdown, certain everyday products became extraordinarily hard to find. Panicked buyers swept up fundamentals of alimentation and elimination: yeast, flour, bathroom tissue. More surprising, the horticulture industry experienced a surge in demand. In the week before the lockdown began, sales of plants, seeds, and bulbs were reportedly up thirty-five per cent from 2019. Seed packets, especially for tomatoes and lettuces, were in limited supply. As Britain faced the covid crisis, reassurance was difficult to come by, and one way it could still be attained was in the reliable germination of a windowsill pot of watercress or a garden-patch row of chard.

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In The Well-Gardened Mind, Sue Stuart-Smith seeks to go beyond the truism that getting out in the garden is good for you. “Much of the research that’s been done has been by environmental psychologists, who look at things like attention and cognition,” she told me recently. “That’s all very important. But I was interested in the unconscious aspects of gardening—the symbolism, and the level of metaphor.”

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The spring and summer of 2020 have been shadowed by death—not just by the loss of hundreds of thousands of people to covid-19 but by the loss of our ordinary way of life. Gardening has been a solace to so many, Sue Stuart-Smith suggested to me, because it invokes the prospect of some kind of future, however uncertain and unpredictable it may be. “When the future seems either very bleak, or people are too depressed to imagine one, gardening gives you a toehold in the future,” she said.

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. . . Read the full story here.
IMAGE: via Pixabay

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