Nature Wisdom: Confessions of a Plant Lover

With Pat Tuholske, Naturalist

Yes, I talk to my plants. And I don’t feel silly about it. For thirteen years, I was known as “the plant lady”. Being proud of my job, I considered myself the self-appointed ambassador of the tropical plant. Traveling a weekly route to businesses, stores, nursing homes, hotels and restaurants, I brought a bit of the green world into the fluorescent lighted realm. I was their “nature connection”.

This was 1975 and “The Secret Life of Plants” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird confirmed some of the plant interactions I was witnessing. It is a fascinating account of scientific evidence of the relationship between plants and humans. It spoke to my green heart.

At a hotel, six 30’ ficus trees were dropping yellow leaves by the hundreds. Interviewing the janitor caring for them, I determined it was a reaction to overwatering and advised him to stop watering the trees. Cutting back on water was the solution. However, the trees kept dropping yellow leaves. Hours and hours of picking up yellow leaves, shaking the trees, picking up leaves went on for days, weeks. This new plant job was awful! Time consuming! Tedious!

Semi-weekly visits were needed. It took hours each time. These huge trees were loosing half their leaves from the excessive water that had drowned their root system. I hated it, hated it, hated it! This was taking up too much of my time. I was irritable and impatient each time I reported to that job.

After weeks, it suddenly hit me! I was the one responsible now for the care of these ficus trees and I was hating them! They were in shock and needing my help and I was cursing them! How else were they supposed to respond?

I stopped, motionless, seeming to hear or feel a response of relief from the trees. I was close to tears with my realization. Apologizing severely for my ignorance. I walked around each tree in a pilgrimage of forgiveness. I promised to change how I felt towards them.

For the entire next week I thought and dreamed about these trees, sending them good, positive energy. I visualized them green, healthy, healed. Green, healthy and healed became my mantra to them.

On their scheduled service day, I could hardly believe my eyes. Only a handful of yellow leaves were on each tree. It was a miracle! Were they healthier now because I had changed my attitude towards them? It seemed to be so.

Thereafter my life with plants changed forever. I entered into a conscious partnership with these green beings. My thoughts and feelings influenced their growth and health. I recognized a spiritual presence within plants that I could learn from and work with.

Tropicals seem to be offering themselves to maintain the relationship between humans and plant world. They let us keep them alive with their roots stuffed inside tiny pots. They are often given as gifts from the heart during times of grief or sickness. How often do you see tropicals in a hospital room or at a funeral home? They bring comfort and ease just by their elementary presence.

Spider Plants, Peace Lily, Chinese Evergreen, Snake Plant, Philodendron, Dracaena, Ficus and Pothos are just a few that effectively filter indoor air pollution. According to NASA research, common houseplants remedy Sick Building Syndrome.

Care for plants and they will care for you. They can become your teacher. Tending your garden can be a spiritual practice. My job as the “plant lady” was a treasured apprenticeship. I walked through a doorway into a secret green world populated with beings alive and vital as any animal…human or otherwise.

Go to pattuholske.com for Earthcamp’s 2015 Schedule of Elemental Weekends and Gathering of Shamanists. Check out Pat’s “Nature Chronicles” for musings on the Human-Nature relationship. See her Wild Wreaths and Prayer Wheels crafted from Ozark native plants at willowrainherbalgoods.com.