Life and death

My English teacher would feel very smug if she knew how much I write daily. And I thought I’d never have to put a sentence together once I’d left school! But I’ve been writing ever since. First it was bulb catalogues, then moved to all the other usual business stuff (plans, proposals, plant profiles, presentations, speeches…).  Not that I find writing easy, but there are definitely fun moments, like this blog and a column I put together for Floraculture Magazine.  Something I wrote about a while back in that column is worth looking at again here. It starts off with death but it does go somewhere nice, so bear with me…

We’d been on one of our usual trips (a given since we’re based in Australia), and had taken a detour for some time out. Which is how I came to be in an Italian cemetery, stunned by these flower-filled plots. And I started thinking about how important plants are to us – in life and obviously here in front of me, in death.

Cemetery Plot in Italy

Flowers – they’re there when we’re born and they’re there when we die and I think they should be around us every day in between.

I’ve always thought that our response to growing things is hooked into the more ancient part of our brain, the bit that was in charge when we were a lot hairier. Not that much has changed. Obviously we grow and eat plants, either ourselves or thanks to someone else. And we fill our homes with them because they look and smell good. We give them to make or keep friendships, and we show respect for those who are no longer part of our lives by bringing plants to the graveside.

If you gathered a how-to-celebrate set of instructions for almost any cultural or religious event, you’d be very likely to find a plant involved. Christmas trees, the flower garlands of India’s Hindu festival of lights, Iranian New Year and its sprouting wheat, peach blossom and the Japanese doll festival. Isn’t this a simple reflection of what we all know on a fundamental level? Looking at that cemetery plot I suddenly knew for certain that plants mean a rich life.

Now I’m lucky because my life has been one of happy plant-immersion. And my advice to anyone who isn’t already exposed to plants (beyond eating them) is to turn and gather them into your life. Fill your rooms with plants and flowers. Spend time in your garden doing the same. Or go to the park. Find some time and a tree to sit against. Your life will be better for it.

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