The Magical Ways Houseplants Can Change Our Lives
Hi and welcome to the BAS Weekend Wellness Column! My name is Erynne Elkins and I’m a Well-Being Advocate and Certified Breathwork Facilitator. Every Friday I’ll share a holistic wellness modality available here in the Bay Area. Cheers to good health!
What plants can teach us about life
There’s been a change in plans. It’s no longer ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ but rather, ‘What do you do want to do when you retire?’. The Tiny Jungle in Daly City, a lush, colorful, plant nursery originated years ago on a kitchen table. Chris Mende, a psychiatric nurse close to retirement at the time, was contemplating what was next for her. “The plants had begun to take over my life. They were my own solace and enjoyment every morning. This boded well for my future. All of sudden I thought, ‘Whoa. I’m not going to be a photographer when I retire, I’m going to be a nursery owner! It grew from there. I literally bee-lined to the internet and reserved the domain name several years before I actually retired,” Chris shared with me recently on Zoom (Note: BAS readers get 10% off when buying from The Tiny Jungle when they use the code “BASWW”).
“Everybody is reaching for their own tiny jungle and trying to figure out how to feel sane in our very insane times. Plants have been a major part of that for many, many, many people. The Tiny Jungle has morphed into a place where people can come in their own personal time to learning about plants, learning how to nurture them, how to include them in their lives in ways that work for both of (them). A lot of what we do is instruct people about how to maintain their plants when they get them and how to include them in their lives in an active way,” Chris explained.
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Her business partner and co-owner of The Tiny Jungle, Tony Wells, handles the advertising, newsletters, packing and shipping, along with vendor-relations. Whereas Chris deals with the domesticity of plant life. “The whole business of how to live with plants is very much my domain,” she added. Plants are living organisms and proper and right environment matter. “Tony and I both do this (with flowering plants). We welcome buds as we see them on our plants. We’re all excited and we’re waiting for those flowers to open. When they (do), we admire them. At the end of the flowers’ lives, I say good-bye to them. My philosophy about the plant is that it has expended a huge amount of energy making a flower. I thank the plant for giving us this beautiful flower. It reminds me of my own aging because now the flower is just a skeleton of what it used to be. It has the outline of its beauty. It’s this wonderful meditation that happens for me. It’s such a beautiful process,” Chris reflected.
Should one seek a plant for its beauty or for its utility? According to Chris, that all really depends. “First of all, is it wellness for the human or is it wellness for the plant? You gotta start with that. If it’s for you, where is it in you that you’re relating to the plant? Is it in your brain, because somebody told you this is a hip, cool plant? Or is it in your heart, because you just related to that plant? There’s so many different reasons for having a plant. In this era, we get a little confused. Some people are buying five hundred dollar aroids and bragging about the price. Is it to have fancy, trophy plants? Is it to have the best of everybody’s x and y plant? Are we equipped for that plant? Do we have the environment that it needs? Or are we going to learn how to make that environment?,” Chris asked.
One byproduct of the pandemic that supports one’s well-being has been the joyous acquisition of plants in one’s home. “Plants have become a huge focus for a lot of people. And partly because we were all so frightened. We needed something natural that wasn’t going to get us infected. We could worry about things that were so much more normal. It became a huge solace to numbers of people worldwide. All of a sudden, the plant business just took off. I don’t think that’s going to change. We get to nurture, to utilize instincts that we didn’t even remember we had. All of us came from places where people had to nurture plants and animals to survive,” she reminded.
And just like all living beings, plants have life spans too. “Plants do die. Sometimes it’s something that we’ve done and sometimes it’s something we haven’t done. Usually it’s a learning experience if we pay attention to it. A lot of time we’re acquiring plants that really don’t match the environment we have to offer. It’s important to try to find out, what does this plant need? What are the bottom line characteristics of the space that this plant needs? Is it a bright light plant? Is it an understory plant that lives below shrubs and trees? Is it a plant that comes from a cool climate where it never gets really hot heat? So, finding out what the plant requires versus what it can tolerate is important. It’s a huge lesson in life. If you think of it from that perspective, you’re going to have more success with plants,” Chris emphasized.
Whether you have a seasoned green thumb or you’re just starting out on your journey with plants, there are communities right here in the Bay Area where you can learn more and interact with other plant enthusiasts. “Plant societies are wonderful! I immediately got a mentor from San Francisco Orchid Society when I got my greenhouse. You’ll find people who are at your stage of (plant) development,” encourages Chris.
When you look at The Tiny Jungle’s plant selections on their website, you’ll notice recommendations for how much (or little) sunlight a plant needs. And be sure to get your compass out as the specific locations, such as east-facing, south-facing, etc. are also included. If you’re currently in the market for plants, Chris and Tony are offering a lovely 10% discount to readers of this article who are interested in purchasing plants from The Tiny Jungle. All you need to do is enter the Coupon Code BASWW upon checking out online. Appointments are required if you want to stop by in person. Please make your appointment online via their website (see link below). Cheers!
The Tiny Jungle
Daly City, CA