For me, it’s not just the sights and sounds in nature that offer me solace from everyday stresses, but also the smells around me too.
Getting my hands (and feet) in the soil whilst hearing the birds and bees singing and buzzing; the grasses and tree-leaves swaying in the breeze and seeing the beautiful colours, shapes and textures of the myriad plants in my garden bring a smile to my face and to my heart.
This is not surprising if we consider that people have evolved with plants and we tend to have positive psychological and physiological responses to them.
Many studies show that passive or active involvement with nature such as through gardening or viewing a natural setting can have a have a positive impact on physical and mental health. This is corroborated by the thousands of people who actively take part in therapeutic horticultural projects, such as The Restart Project* in Glasgow and others all around Scotland coordinated by Trellis*, as well as home gardeners alike.
Scent too can play a big role in this improved health and emotional well being. I feel an uplifting sense when I am stopped in my tracks by a powerful scent and generally feel relaxed when sitting among plants - whether in my garden or a park or enveloped by them in a woodland.
Sense of smell is linked to the limbic system of the brain - a primitive area - and the area that is responsible for instinct; it drives behaviour, memory and emotions. Inhaling rose oil vapour has positive effect on brain activity and has been shown to have anti-depressive and has a calming influence, helping to reduce fatigue, stress and exhaustion (Mohibitabar et al., 2017). Positive psychological and physiological effects have also been measured in people inhaling floral scent naturally diffused from flowers (Jo et al., 2013).
Given that scent is linked to memory, combining scent with a positive experience, such as gardening, could have an even more powerful effect, especially if it happens again and again. The memory of that event can even be recalled by that same scent at another time, providing longer lasting effects of the positive experience.
Gentle moving whilst being stimulated visually and non-visually through sound, taste, touch and scent of plants and the natural environment is good for us physically and mentally. The longer we can spend in a plant-filled environment, especially one that stimulates all our senses, including scent, the better our health and emotional well-being will be.
So what are you waiting for - get out in your garden, into a local park or woodland and experience plants and nature on all its levels.
HAPPY SPENDING TIME WITH PLANTS!
#thehealingpowerofscent #therapeuticgardening #scentinthegarden #gardeningideas #longborder #RHSChatsworth #mentalhealthawareness #Trellis_Scotland @Trellis_Network @RestartProject1
*We are working in association with TRELLIS, which is the hub of a network of over 420 therapeutic gardening projects throughout Scotland that use gardening to enable thousands of people facing multiple disadvantages to improve their health and wellbeing. Trellis endorse the general benefits to health of gardening. For more information, see https://www.trellisscotland.org.uk
*The Restart Project is an NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde therapeutic gardening project concerned with Mental Health Recovery in Glasgow. For more information, see The Restart Project
Mohebitabar et al. 2017. Therapeautic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna J. Phytomed. Vol. 7 (3): 206-213.
Jo et al. 2013. Physiological and Psychological Response to Floral Scent. HortScience Vol. 48 (1): 82-88
I am privileged to be involved in two community group projects at the moment. For the first project, I am devising a planting plan and approach to populating the two wildlife pond in Duchess Wood with plant . The second project is the renovation of James Street park for which I have been commissioned to design a new community garden for the space. This design will go out to consultation on Saturday 23 April. Though I cannot say too much at present, the design for the park aims for an attractive, slightly wild space that can be enjoyed by all whilst being low maintenance. Two very different projects with a common thread - wildlife.
For both projects, I am considering native versus non-native plants. Putting the overall aim of Duchess Wood to return it to it’s native state aside, I feel it would be inappropriate to introduce non-natives into Duchess Wood given it’s position in the landscape. The wood is adjacent to regenerating woodland and links to other broadleaved woodland on Glenoran Road to the west and to the north. It would not take much for vigorous plant species to widen their reach. We already see Japanese knotweed on the outer-reaches of the wood that was until recently threatening to encroach this local nature reserve. So I turn to the natives here.
The new ponds in Duchess Wood would support native plants such as the yellow-flowered Iris pseudoacorus, Filipendula ulmaria (meadowsweet), and Juncus sp. - three plant species already found in damper areas of the wood. These native species would be right at home around the margins of the pond along with Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife), Valeriana officinalis (valerian), and Caltha palustris (marsh marigold) . The pretty sky-blue, though sometimes pink flowered Myosotis scorpioides (water-forget-me-not) would grow well at the edge of the ponds or in shallow water. Whereas, the white water lily, Nymphaeus alba, with its large flowers and leaves, Mentha aquatica (water mint), which has spherical lilac flowers that are loved by pollinators, and Potamogeton natans, with floating leaves that are appreciated by insects, would be happier in the water. Together, these native plants would provide habitat for wildlife in and out of the pond and the oxygenating plants within the pond, such as Potamogeton natans and Myriophyllum spicatum increasing pond biodiversity.
On the other hand, non-natives combined with natives would be far less controversial for James Street community garden. This green space is in the centre of town and bounded by gardens and buildings. In fact, non-natives would be welcome here as they would extend the season. For us, we can enjoy the later flowering plants, such as Helenium, Anemone x hybrida, Eupatorium maculatum, Ageratina altissima, and Aster sp. that give such a wonderful autumnal display. And for the wildlife, the food that some at least of these plants provide long after many of our native plants have finished flowering. I say some - those that are considered near-natives (i.e., those naturally occurring in the northern hemisphere, but not native nor naturalised in the British Isles, and from at least the same family if not the same genus) are better for our pollinators than exotics according to an extensive study carried out at RHS Wisley (1). Though even exotics have their place in providing food for our pollinators.
So in short, my answer to that question - native or not-native - is yes to both, but (and it is a very large but) it very much depends on the context and the wider landscape. These really need to be considered - carefully.
Reference: (1) Salisbury et al (2015). Journal of Applied Ecology 52: p.1156 to 1164
For more information, visit:
RHS website: plants for pollinators
Butterfly conservation: plants for butterflies
Rachel Bailey, a garden designer and gardener in Scotland.