Beating the Winter Blues with Plants

Botanical Garden sprouts photo for SOG Neighbors

When I think of winter, an old nursery rhyme rattles around in my head:

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then,
Poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn,
And keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing,
Poor thing.


I can relate to this little robin and his mighty effort to stay warm. Along with the blowing north wind and snow, gardeners, who love to spend time outside digging in the dirt, may feel a little “blue” to be stuck inside and away from nature. I wanted to share a few tips to help my gardening friends beat their winter blues.


1.  Health research is revealing that taking a “time out” to be mindful and present with plants has some quite extraordinary effects on the brains of those who do it regularly. Neuroscience has now proven that just a few hours of quiet reflection time each week can lead to an intriguing range of mental and physical effects. Along with reducing stress, consider that meditation is now accepted as a useful therapy for anxiety and depression. It’s being explored by schools, pro sports teams and military units to enhance performance, and is showing promise as a way of helping sufferers of chronic pain, too. So, go ahead and take a time out with a houseplant nearby.

2.  New plants lift our moods. Consider purchasing a new houseplant to dress up that special little area of your home. You will smile each time you pass by your new plant.

3.  Plant several herbs in a pretty ceramic container in your kitchen. When you run your fingers over the plants, the aroma of the herbal essential oils will brighten your day.

4.  For my Iowa friends: Take a day trip to the Iowa Arboretum. Located in Madrid, Iowa, this 348-acre reserve offers workshops, classes and a fun escape for the entire family.

5.  Also for my Iowa friends: Take a gardening class at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. The legendary “Learn on Saturdays” program begins in early January and continues through March. Participants are treated to two gardening presentations each week provided by local garden gurus. No preregistration required; pay a small admission fee at the door.

6.  Beat the blues by attending the “Blues on Sunday” concert series, also at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Each Sunday afternoon in January and February attendees can enjoy local blues and jazz music amongst the plants in the warm and cozy conservatory. No preregistration required; pay a small admission fee at the door.

7.  Join the Seed Savers Exchange and start some vegetable or flower seeds indoors. The Seed Savers Exchange offers a wide variety of heirloom seeds which can be purchased online.

8. Make a cup of tea and look through a seed catalog. Nothing transports a gardener out of the doom and gloom of the midwest winter like a joyful afternoon of looking at beautiful plant photos and dreaming about how stunning their garden will be this year.

Its January. Its winter. The ground is frozen. But with a little imagination and a bit of effort the mindful gardener can still find, and savor, that fresh smell of garden soil.

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