How House Plants Helped Me Through 2020
We can all agree that the year that is 2020 has been one of the worst on record. For everyone, world-wide. 2020 has been shit. Ever the optimist though I’m going to channel my positivity and see the good that this year has brought me; my love of house plants.
Early June and I’m furloughed from my job, initially 3 weeks and extended by a further 7. I’m one of the lucky ones, with the Government closing theatres across the country, thousands of freelancers losing their livelihoods overnight, ten weeks furlough across the summer, not to be sniffed at. Lazy summer days gave me the opportunity to really invest in house plants. It started a few months before, a trip to Ikea saw me bringing some Parlour Palms to my flat in a bid to make it greener, but also more homely. That’s the thing about plants, they give a home life.
Now I found myself exploring the internet – a dangerous place for any early plant adopter – and saw the potential. Patch Plants gave me my first Monstera Deliciosa and Monstera Adansonii, and that pretty much kicked off my love for the Monstera plant family. It’s the fenestrations (where the leaves split) and I’m literally whooping with joy each time a new leaf would grow.
My partner and flatmate humoured me during the first lockdown. Happily letting me babble on about a new leaf or trying a new position for the plant in the flat. The words “you don’t need another plant” were uttered more times than “coronavirus” during that lockdown. But you know what? It was bringing me joy.
Finding Purpose Through Plants
I was without my job, the theatre industry was crumbling and I had no purpose to my life. Dramatic much? It’s true though. When your passion is your work, and you spend so much time investing in it, having it removed from you against your wishes, leaves you winded. I turned to the only thing that seemed manageable; caring for my house plants.
You see house plants need you. You’re the provider of their environment – you regulate the temperature, humidity, water and nutrients that they receive. The theatre industry may not need me right now but at least my plants do. That was my logic, but it was more than that. I found purpose in my routine – or lack of one, we’re in lockdown, everyday is nothing – by attending to my plants. It allowed me to see beyond myself.
Redundancy Allowed Me To Blossom
Mid-August, and a year after I interview for my job, I find myself being told the role was now being made redundant. I was heartbroken. My dream job, my new city, my new flat, friends, felt like it was all disappearing from me. Of course I turned to the green loves in my life.
My plants gave me a distraction from my redundancy and the emptiness I felt. They allowed me to project my emotions out of myself. I bought my first Variegated Monstera (from the wonderful folk at Plant Lovers Europe), I spent far too much time in my local plant shop The Watered Garden, I took trips to B&Q on plant rescue missions. The truth though – these plants were allowing me to focus my mental health.
I’ve always been open about my struggle with my mental health. I’ve just clocked in 2 years on antidepressants, I’ve had therapy twice, I live with mental health problems. Plants have stabilised me. They take me out of my mind and allow me to care for something that in turn allows me to care for myself. A healthy mind allows me to have healthy plants, and vis versa. A symbiotic relationship.
Finding The Plant Community
The thing they don’t tell you about when you buy your first house plant is your acceptance into the plant community. That first plant is like a right of passage. You pass ten plants and you’re suddenly immersed in a community that supports and encourages growth. You hit forty plants and you’re basically a veteran and giving out plant advice.
Facebook groups have connected me to individuals across the country. They’ve helped me develop my knowledge, allowed me to buy plants to add to my collection and also started my journey into propagating. Instagram has connected me to other UK plant gays, I even got featured on Houseplant Hottie Instagram. (Yes I am available for autographs and public appearances). I now spend my Friday nights looking for my next wish list plant at an affordable price – I’m even wading in on the debates around new EU regulations for important plants.
House Plants – Providing The Health 2020 Didn’t
December and I’ve just experienced something that is going to change the rest of my life. I can’t really talk about it yet, but I’m heartbroken again. 2020, the gift that keeps giving. What a fucker. My Calathea Orbifolia has got crispy edges, my Variegated Monstera leaf cutting has rotted and my Hoya Carnosa Tricolor is dropping leaves. I hate plants, I hate this year and all the pain it has caused me.
Having plants are a valuable lesson in the life cycle. You watch them grow, flourish even, and then, at times, you watch them die. It’s inevitable, they’re a living organism. They’re a great life lesson for children and adults alike.
This year has been horrific, granted, but my relationship to plants, to a community who care and bring so much joy into lives and homes is one I’m grateful to have found. I’m clocking in 40-something plants now, not including the many cuttings I’ve got around my flat. I even shower with them – I wish I was joking. I’ve started talking to them. I love them.
Plants give me immense joy. They’ve allowed me to remain together during this year. They’ve taught me valuable lessons, they’ve given me stability, improved my mental health. They’ve saved me.
You can follow me on my plant journey via my Instagram – @jakeyoh