Ever wonder what draws people to spend time in their landscapes and essentially “escape” the world around them?
Even in famous writer Voltaire’s “Candide,” the main character, after witnessing horrifying episodes of religious intolerance and political oppression, decides that the best thing to do in the world is settle down, live peacefully with his neighbors and produce something of value to others that he can sell in the markets. In fact, he says, “That’s all very well put, but we must go and work our garden.”
Voltaire (which was actually his pen name; his real name was Francois-Marie Arouet) was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets in his lifetime. He himself believed that active gardening was a great way to stay sane, healthy and free from stress.
And that was 300 years ago.
This feeling and need to connect with nature is what drives our profession. And, while we can rely on what a historian and poet told us 300 years ago, today solid scientific research supports his theory, suggesting he was right all this time.
Countless studies talk about the passive enjoyment of a landscape or of being in nature. Even more studies show that actively caring for plants is therapeutic and even educational.
For students and children, gardening has proven to develop positive attitudes about health, nutrition and the consumption of vegetables. Children also score better on tests, have better attitudes about school and improve their interpersonal skills and classroom behavior when gardening, boosting self-esteem and responsibility.
Horticulture therapy has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress and, in turn, decrease risks for coronary heart disease and other stress-related illnesses in older populations.
Other tests have shown gardening increases quality of life and decreases anxiety and depression.
So when reflecting on the work you’ve done this year and selling next year’s projects, remember to take a moment to realize how much of an impact you make on this movement. The landscape industry directly contributes.
I think another quote from “Candide” sums it up perfectly: “For when man was put into the Garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it; and this proves that man was not born to be idle.”