An evergreen wreath on the front door and a real tree in the family room are conventional decorations for the holiday season. So are those beautiful winter containers filled with evergreen branches sitting on the porch.
But evergreens are much more than outdoor decor.
When placed indoors the greenery adds to the holiday scenery, but it’s that fresh scent that makes them indispensable.
Just like walking in the forest and “forest bathing” are therapeutic, using evergreens indoors is beneficial, too. Evergreens give us a healthy dose of phytoncides when we take a deep breath. These wood essential oils are the same airborne chemicals that trees and other plants give off in nature.
Pine scents and forest atmospheres not only remind us of the holidays, but they benefit our health physically, mentally and physiologically, according to the Michigan State University Extension.
“Phytoncides are antimicrobial volatile compounds produced by plants for their own defenses. It is not entirely clear how those scents affect human brains and bodies, but early research suggests they reduce stress hormones and enhance white-blood activity that boosts immunity and make us less susceptible to disease.”
This season, when you can’t get to the forest for a brisk walk, consider adding fresh evergreens throughout the house. Look for enclosed spaces where people gather, like the entry way, kitchen, dining room, study, family room, bedrooms, game room and even bathrooms.
Interior designers suggest tying small bunches of fresh greens to cabinets, placing on counter tops, filling bowls of greens on desks and side tables, draping swags to top window dressings and creating indoor hanging baskets.
Evergreens for the best scent include pine, cedar, balsam and juniper. Gardeners can clip from the landscape or look for fresh and aromatic branches at garden centers. Avoid any boughs that are already dry and brittle.
Experts recommend treating indoor branches like fresh lilac stems by keeping them in water to make them last the longest.
Use a sharp knife or garden shears to cut woody stems at a 45-degree angle and split the bottoms of the stems with the back of the clippers or small hammer. Strip the foliage that will be submerged in water.
Keep greens away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Treating them with an anti-desiccant plant spray or misting daily with water will help keep the foliage on the stems.
This season, forget the scented holiday candles and use fresh fragrant pine or cedar branches to lower stress and get in the holiday spirit during this busy time of the year.
Text and images by Jodi Torpey Master Gardener volunteer since 2005
By this time in the year, I’m at the point of good riddance! with the weeds and careful tending (shout out to this cold spell for sealing the deal). Pretty much everything is done and put to bed. I then spend the next two weeks really dialing into my houseplant game before I get bored and start Spring dreaming. My Fall break from the garden is short-lived so I start listening to old episodes of now-defunct podcast series and dream with new ones. Here are a few of my favs:
Gardenerd Tip of The Week
Gardenerd.com is the ultimate resource for garden nerds. We provide organic gardening information whenever you need it, helping you turn land, public space, and containers into a more satisfying and productive garden that is capable of producing better-tasting and healthier food.
My thoughts: The host lives in LA, so this one is great for winter listening as we get chillier, I love hearing about the warmth of Southern California and what’s coming into season. Interviews with other experts and educators in the horticulture field discussing plants, but also cultivating grains, discussing bees, and seeds. Each episode ends with the guest’s own tips, many of which are news to me and have been incorporated into my own practices.
On the Ledge
I’m Jane Perrone, and I’ve been growing houseplants since I was a child, caring for cacti in my bedroom and growing a grapefruit from seed; filling a fishtank full of fittonias and bringing African violets back from the dead.
Houseplants, if new to the podcast start here for an overview, and guidance.
Jane is a freelance journalist and presenter on gardening topics. Her podcast has a ton of tips for beginners, and more advanced info for longtime houseplant lovers, as well as interviews with other plant experts. The website is also useful to explore the content of an episode if you aren’t able to listen. I could spend an entire morning traveling in and out of the archives.
My thoughts: As the growing season comes to a close, my indoors watering schedule starts wobbling between what the plants need and my summer habits of watering too many times per week–welcome back, fungus gnats! Here’s an entire episode on them
Plant Daddy Podcast
We aim to create a listener community around houseplants, to learn things, teach things, share conversations with experts, professionals in the horticulture industry, and amateur hobbyists like ourselves. We also want to bring the conversation beyond plants, since anybody with leaf babies has a multitude of intersectional identities. We, ourselves, are a couple gay guys living in Seattle, Washington, with a passion for gardening and houseplants. A lot of our friends are the same, though each of us has a different connection, interest, and set of skills in this hobby, demonstrating a small amount of the diversity we want to highlight among plant enthusiasts.
My thoughts: Plants are visual, podcasts are auditory- episodic overviews with links to viewable content available on their website. Are you also seeing Staghorn Ferns everywhere? They have an entire episode (photos included!) on the fern and how to properly mount it for that vegan taxiderm look. Matthew and Stephen are self-identified hobbyists with a passion for plants all the way down to the Latin–it’s impressive.
The Epic Gardening podcast…where your gardening questions are answered daily! The goal of this podcast is to give you a little boost of gardening wisdom in under 10 minutes a day. I cover a wide range of topics, from pest prevention, to hydroponics, to plant care guides…as long as it has something to do with gardening, I’ll talk about it on the show!
My thoughts: The Netflix-episode-when-you-just-don’t-feel-like-a-movie kind of podcast. Addresses the best varietals, composting, soil pH, and troubleshooting some common issues in the garden. With daily episodes archived back to December 2018, there is a quickly digested thought for some of your own curiosities. The website is also a wealth of knowledge.
Eatweeds Podcast: For People Who Love Plants
Eatweeds: An audio journey through the wonderful wild world of plants. Episodes cover modern and ancient ways wild plants have been used in human culture as food, medicine and utilitarian uses.
My thoughts: most recent episode (and appropriately timed!) On edible acorns. My fav topics include foraging and wild yeast fermentation; and when I really start missing the Pacific Northwest, The Wild and Wonderful World of Fungi sends me back to a misty forest wander politely decorated by les champignons. Posting of this pod is sporadic–only 25 episodes since 2014.
You Bet Your Garden
You Bet Your Garden® was a weekly radio show and podcast produced at WHYY through September, 2018. The show’s archive is available online. It was a weekly syndicated radio show, with lots of call-ins. This weekly call-in program offers ‘fiercely organic’ advice to gardeners far and wide.
My thoughts: Host, Mike McGrath, spends much of the show taking calls and troubleshooting, reminiscent of another public radio behemoth with Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers. McGrath incorporates a lifetime of organic gardening tips with humor. McGrath features one tip to find a local “rent a goat place” (no joke) to get goats to eat the most troublesome weeds to a concerned caller considering setting much of her yard on fire.
Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden
My thoughts: sort of like On Being, but for gardening.
A fav episode:
If you aren’t so sure about this podcast thing, and just want a place to start, start here.
Do you really need a brain to sense the world around you? To remember? Or even learn? Well, it depends on who you ask. Jad and Robert, they are split on this one. Today, Robert drags Jad along on a parade for the surprising feats of brainless plants. Along with a home-inspection duo, a science writer, and some enterprising scientists at Princeton University, we dig into the work of evolutionary ecologist Monica Gagliano, who turns our brain-centered worldview on its head through a series of clever experiments that show plants doing things we never would’ve imagined. Can Robert get Jad to join the march?
Posted onFebruary 14, 2017|Comments Off on Horticulture Therapy Connects People With Plants and Potential
The Horticulture Therapy Garden at Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Englewood, CO
Plant lovers know the personal benefits gained from working in the garden. Nurturing plants and playing in the dirt seems to energize the spirit, stimulate creativity and dissolve life’s inevitable speed bumps. But not only does it seem to, it reallydoes. In fact, even a walk in nature hasmeasurable advantageous effects on our brain.
These positive benefits are the foundation for the science-based field of horticulture therapy, which uses specially designed gardens or plant activities in targeted treatment programs within rehabilitative, vocational, medical or communities. Individuals with physical limitations, post traumatic stress syndrome, cognitive and memory impairment or vocational challenges are among the populations who benefit from professional horticultural therapy.
According to theAmerican Horticultural Therapy Association, “a therapeutic garden is a plant-dominated environment purposefully designed to facilitate interaction with the healing elements of nature.” Therapeutic gardens are designed to be safe and comfortable, invite exploration, build confidence, stimulate senses, improve dexterity and increase physical ability.
The Anchor Center Horticultural Therapy Garden in Denver
TheAnchor Center in Denver, which provides early intervention and education to blind and visually impaired children age 0-6, has offered horticulture therapy for over ten years. Erin Lovely, Horticultural Therapy Coordinator and Denver Master Gardener (DMG) says that on most days, children can be found interacting with the child-scaled garden which is planned to stimulate senses, build fine and motor skills and increase sensory awareness. The sweetness of the space, which was designed with the help of DMG Angela Vanderlan, belies the rich learning opportunities within the garden.
Some of the purposeful, yet playful, activities include:
navigating changing surfaces and hardscape while using a walking stick;
identifying flower colors, which are strategically placed to highlight contrasting textures and colors, especially yellow, purple and red, which are easiest for the visually impaired to see;
sowing seeds to increase fine motor skills which aide in learning braille later in life;
petting a fuzzy leafed plant, touching a prickly pine needle and taking in the glorious scent of basil;
filling a watering can and carrying it to its destination while navigating pebbles, mulch and concrete paths;
harvesting and eating produce from the “Pizza Garden”;
splashing in the water and crawling around large rocks.
Denver County Master Gardeners have been associated with the Anchor Center for many years. In addition to Erin and Angela’s work at the Anchor Center, each spring and summer, groups of Denver Master Gardeners contribute time to the Anchor Center’s garden by teaching and guiding gardening activities to groups of community volunteers. Past efforts have included planting trees, expanding garden beds and supporting the center’s compost program. From experience, I can attest to this being an inspirational way to share gardening knowledge with others.
If you are interested in learning more about the field of horticulture therapy and other programs in Colorado, here are some resources: