I was in a store recently and spotted a tray of nice-looking cacti over by the window. I was pretty surprised to find, when I checked them out, that they were made of plastic. I can certainly respect the craftsmanship and skill that goes in to making all the plastic plants are flowers that we see around, but at the same time part of me recoils in horror – plastic plants!
Where Have the Living Walls Gone?
About 15 years ago a big new movement began. It was about bringing the value of plants into indoor spaces, using their air-cleaning properties, cooling properties, and the aesthetic value on stress that comes from being around plants. These were Living Walls – hi-tech methods that supported plants growing up the sides of buildings – inside or outside, depending on the climate. Some fantastic pieces of work were done, but perhaps they were oversold, because in fact they are tricky to install, hard to maintain, and expensive. Maybe they only work with a sufficient budget, but why do I increasingly find instead when I see one and walk over to look more closely? They are plastic! Even worse, sometimes they are made with real plants, but dead ones, that have been preserved with glycerin and other chemicals, and dyed, so that they look alive, and even have a soft, if slightly creepy, feel to them.
What About Those Houseplants?
The same is happening with houseplants. It first started with bunches of plastic flowers, and some are so well-done you can hardly tell the difference. The big interest in recent years in houseplants has been subverted by plastic. “Hey, save yourself some trouble and put a fake palm in the corner – no one will know the difference!” But, guys, wasn’t growing houseplants all about bringing something of the natural world into your apartment, and benefiting from the air-purifying properties of live plants? What happened? Could it be – tell me it ain’t true, Joe – that you found they actually needed a little attention and care, and you actually had to learn something about their needs, so you could keep that tiny piece of Nature alive? And that was, ‘too much trouble’?
A New Victorian Era?
Queen Victoria ruled in England, but in the 19th century the same culture was found in America, and we know what it was like. Uptight, prudish, where even the table legs were covered with hanging clothes, so they couldn’t be ‘suggestive’. A time of privilege, snobbery, racism, class divisions, exploitation and overseas wars. Sound familiar? Well maybe it is coincidence, but that was the last time people decorated their homes with dead plants, usually dry, and often placed under glass domes to protect their fragility. Stuffed, glass-eyed animals stood on the tables, and maybe I am exaggerating, but for me a mummified plant is like having a stuffed dog by the door to greet you when you get home from work. Maybe you could hang his leash from his mouth, and add to the illusion? Heck, when you think about it, why have children when you could put a life-like doll in the nursery? After all, they don’t need feeding or changing, and you can forget about those college fees.
When you think about it, the system that encourages plastic plants is one that is all about appearances, and not about values. Is that the world you want to live in? Wouldn’t you rather be nurturing the things that really matter?
Let’s Grow Some Real Plants, Folks
So, I propose we take a long, hard look at ourselves, and ask ourselves just what it is we are doing. Do we really want to live in a world surrounded by plastic fakes? Isn’t the virtual world on-line enough for us, and don’t we want a taste of reality? Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t there an international campaign going on the stop polluting our oceans with plastics, and aren’t we all carrying re-usable or paper shopping bags, to reduce our plastic waste? So why, or please, tell me why, are we doing that, and then shopping for more plastic and standing it in the corner? Are these good intentions reduced to the latest home décor gimmick?
Growing real plants, inside your home, or out in your garden, is not as easy as buying plastic – I admit it. But it isn’t rocket science. You need to do some research and choose the types of plants that suit your light levels, and you need to learn how to water properly, and give them some fertilizer, and maybe clean the leaves from time to time. Pests can be a problem sometimes. But tell me, how much effort do you put into mastering the latest software, or learning a new video game? Isn’t keeping in touch with your natural roots as least that important. On these blogs I usually give lots of information about choosing and growing plants, and so do many other people. It isn’t like the information is hard to find.
Grow Green, Living Plants – it’s Good for You
If you make this move, from a world of plastic to real life, then here is what you get. You get the pleasure of seeing something growing with your care. Every new leaf, every bloom every increase in size – that is because of you. Your plants might not lick your face for attention like your dog does but seeing them healthy and growing is going to make you feel better about yourself, and more centered in the real world. Make the time you care for your plants a meditation. Relax, focus, concentrate on them. Feel the calm spread through your body, and the stresses of daily life fade into the background. Feel your heartbeat slow and your blood pressure fall.
Let’s not forget that we might live in big houses, or city apartments, and drive everywhere, but we are still all children of Nature, and very real. Looked at scientifically, humans have a big need to give care, because human children are very vulnerable, and they take so many years to become independent. Rows of ‘caring genes’ in our cells are needed for that, but if you don’t have children, if they are grown up, or even if you do, plants are a great way to exercise those caring genes, and enjoy the positive feedback they are programmed to deliver, as your reward for caring. They don’t know what you are caring for, just that you are doing it – and they pump out the endorphin rewards you earn. There is no way dusting a plastic palm tree, or polishing a plastic cactus is going to do that for you!