We Must Help Heal Our Nation, with Plants and Flowers [Opinion]

I for one am looking forward to seeing what 2017 will bring after this past year full of twists and turns. From the untimely deaths of an exorbitant number of legendary musicians to the tragic and violent protests of several deadly police-involved shootings. And from the record drought in both the West and the East, to the devastation and destruction left in Hurricane Matthew’s wicked Southern path. The year 2016 is one that will go down in the record books for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the tumultuous, seemingly never-ending saga of our historic national presidential election.

No matter how you may feel — personally or professionally — about the outcome of the election, it’s likely that you realize our nation has some healing to do. The effects of the primary and then general election this past year have been brutal, dividing families and ripping friendships to shreds. It has incited rage and violence, fear and panic, and it has emboldened citizens to act in ways that are not becoming of this great nation.

But another surprising outcome is that it has also inspired kindness. People from all walks of life are choosing to be gentler toward one another. They are bestowing random acts of kindness on behalf of their fellow Americans, to cancel out the negativity that has been running so rampant in our society, in both major parties. Corporations are putting more understanding labor policies in place and solidifying their environmental protocol. Individuals are making larger gifts to charities and nonprofits, and signing up to donate their own time to further the causes they hold dear.

Giving is a beautiful antidote to uncertainty, and Americans are feeling the need to give whatever they can of themselves now to cultivate an environment of mutual respect, to spread love and generosity, and counter fear with friendship. I hope this trend continues into the next year and beyond, and I have faith that it will — especially if we as an industry can connect with that spirit of good will, and encourage the gifting and use of plants and flowers, and gardening as an activity, to promote healing.

This opportunity has practically fallen into our laps with the current level of stress in our country, not to mention a better economy and people’s readiness to spend. Plus, the recently announced Pantone Color of the Year for 2017 is Greenery. If that’s not an indication that the public is ripe for buying plants, and making gardening part of their lives, then I don’t know what is. We couldn’t ask for a better “in” than that, because “greenery” applies to all aspects of the horticulture industry.

For many of us, growing plants is a soft place to land. In times of change, we can count on our work to steady us, and the ever-present calming effect of plants that we in horticulture are lucky to have as part of our daily lives. We need to impart that understanding upon the public — that when all the world’s gone mad, we can beautify it with plants and flowers, or even just leave it behind for awhile, as we take a much-needed timeout in the garden.

During this year’s GROW Summit, we talked about the many different ways that the industry is already promoting plants and flowers, and what we can do to support those efforts. Together, we watched the video of happy reactions that resulted from this year’s Society of American Florists’ Petal It Forward initiative, with which 262 events in 234 cities across all 50 states, spread joy with flowers. Looking around the room during the video, everyone was smiling. The happiness of others is infectious, and it gave many of us chills. That’s the kind of positivity we should be spreading in our daily work.

We’re all part of this industry for a reason, and I know you still feel it deep down — that’s evident from the State of the Industry Survey results. But we need to bring that up to the surface to spread joy to our regular customers and to bring new demographics to our marketplace.

Life is too short to go through it without beauty. Show everyone you know what plants and flowers can do to promote generosity, healing, and positivity — and watch the world change, one smile at a time.

Grower Homework:

Consider what you can do to encourage the gifting and use of plants and flowers, and gardening as an activity, to promote healing. Let me know about your experiences and ideas at [email protected]

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6 comments on “We Must Help Heal Our Nation, with Plants and Flowers [Opinion]

    1. For what its’ worth, when I read the article I didn’t suspect any bias either way. In re-reading it still none. I even tried to take on the left view and the right view and still can’t tell an influence from either side. I’m curious, which side do you think Laura is biased toward? But I’m not asking because that would just take the discussion down one path or both.

  1. Well written article about an important topic, Laura. Kudos to you for your continuing effort to support the promotion of plants and flowers to the public.

  2. I read your article and watched the video. Were those flowers grown in the USA? Hundreds of greenhouses in Mass. that used to grow carnations, roses, snapdragons, and many other cut flowers, have now been replaced by imports. Why is such a little value put on flowers that they need to be given away? Just like the big box stores, put such a little value on flowers that they work on a 3% margin, while the little independent garden center struggles with increased fees for licenses, fees, taxes, insurance, etc. We have been very successful realizing who needs to shop at Wal-Mart and who needs to shop at the IGS. The survival of the independents will be those who cater to the high end customers in providing them with the best service, from knowledgeable staff, capable of answering their questions. For whatever reason, this is the way it is, as I see it, after 40 years in the retail business. Be better than they are. These are the areas I feel you should be writing your articles about.

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