Plants brighten winter mood

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Gardeners are optimistic folk. They make the most of the time they can plant and tend their plots. In the times when nature thwarts them, they don’t sit idle, looking forward to better growing days ahead. During the winter months, the idea of gardening remains on gardeners’ minds.

Sharon Wallish-Murphy, co-owner of Wallish Greenhouses in Sherwood Park, says gardeners anticipate the spring by combing through seed catalogues, planning and fantasizing about getting back outside.

“They’re looking for what’s new, what’s coming down the pike. And they’re also looking for things they haven’t tried. What are some new, weird things out there?”

Gardeners also try to get their fix as they await warmer weather by looking for satisfaction online.

“They also look at a lot of Instagram pictures of flowers, and anything green. We see a lot of Facebook shares,” Wallish-Murphy says.

“They try to garden vicariously through the winter.”

And they turn to bloggers to give them ideas, as well. Wallish-Murphy gives gardening advice on several radio stations, and she recently started her own blog. A recent entry discussed “how to do the most sustainable gardening possible, to use less resources and be far more efficient with what we do.”

Wallish-Murphy is in the growing business, of course, and she’ll start seeding her crop in her two-acres of greenhouses at the end of December.

Jim Hole of Hole’s Greenhouses points out that science has demonstrated the therapeutic value of being around plants year round.

“I’ve seen so many studies discussing the impact of just a single plant. You take a bare office and simply put one plant in, and the impact on people’s feeling of well-being is notable,” he says.

“There are countless studies on the impact of plants on human mental health and physical health, as well.”

Hole has noticed over his life in the gardening business that right after the winter holiday season is over, those few months before the earth thaws, his customers are looking for ways to relieve their pent up desire to grow things. He’s had customers come in keen to talk about the tomatoes they grew last summer. It makes them feel better, Hole says.

Of course, many Albertans seek warmer climes in the winter to get their green fix, but there are some folks who bring the tropics into their homes.

Orchid growers, especially the seriously addicted ones, create their own refuge from winter’s stormy blasts.

Darrell Albert, president of the Orchid Society of Alberta, has a greenhouse for his 1,400 or so orchids, and besides requiring his care and attention the way any garden does, he finds time spent among the flowers comforting.

“In the wintertime, having the orchid collection is a nice diversion. Walking into the greenhouse, it’s like a tropical bubble. It definitely helps you feel better than when you walk outside when it’s 20 below with the wind blowing.”

Gordon Heaps, vice-president of the Orchid Society of Alberta and a retired horticulturist, tends to his 1,000 orchids the way any gardener growing anything would. He spends at least a couple of hours a day in his greenhouse, repotting, watering, fertilizing, checking for insects and breeding new varieties of orchid to add to the 35,000 already existing species around the world. Heaps has been growing orchids for four decades, so he isn’t as easily excited by the greenhouse experience in winter as he used to be, but when guests come over, they love the short respite from winter Heaps’ floral sanctuary offers, he says.

Those who don’t have access to the immersive experience Albert and Heaps have cultivated should consider even a few plants to tend indoors over the winter. Hole points out that the spectrum that grow lights emit is roughly the same as the light that can jar one out of the doldrums of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

“The light makes the plants grow, and it makes you feel better.”

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