In early March I had the honor to speak to the graduates of the School of Professional Horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. Their program is rigorous full-time two-year study and application into all things plant and horticulture. I am an alumna myself and was thrilled to welcome the new graduates into this amazing field full of creativity, design and best of all PLANTS!
Here’s what we talked about:
My name is Shanti Nagel and I own Design Wild. Something you may not know is that I come from a long line of rebel rousers. My great grandfather worked alongside Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. His wife collaborated with Professor W. E. B. Du Bois. My grandma and her sister were active in the civil rights movement and the women's rights movement... Why share this with you today? WellI, we find ourselves in interesting times here in the United States of America… Has anyone noticed?
My great grandfather worked alongside Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. His wife collaborated with Professor W. E. B. Du Bois. My grandma and her sister were active in the civil rights and women's rights movement.
I believe no matter where you are on the current political spectrum we can all agree that our country has been dramatically divided. That every day, people here in this city and across the US are suffering in new and different ways and that many families are living with mounting levels of fear.
Many of us long for ways to be useful, to build bridges and heal our communities. We are looking for ways to be active, keep are loved ones safe and work towards positive change.
Well, I have some good news:
Creating gardens is a super hero power!
Have you every walked into a garden (or park) and found yourself taking a big deep breath… Right?! Or sat down on a bench under a spreading tree for just a few minutes and notice your mind clears and your worries diminish? Gardens have the power to improve health, create beauty and a much needed sense of peace. They also bring people together.
These effects that plants have on humans have been studied and proven. The University of Illinois’ Landscape and Human Health Laboratory has found that ‘People need trees. They need to see leaves from their windows, to sit in green spaces, and to play in the shade. Trees draw people out from behind walls of brick and glass, and in coming together, neighbors forge relationships, nurture children, and build a sense of community.’ They have found that trees and green space in a neighborhood are able to reduce crime rates, learning disabilities, domestic violence and improve overall mental health. How profound is that?
Trees and green space in a neighborhood are able to reduce crime rates, learning disabilities, domestic violence and improve overall mental health
We are exploring both new and old ways to make gardens, to design them with community, to build and plant them and expand their accessibility. These moment of beauty can be as simple as one container in front of a business, to a small corner of green to a large scale community project. All of these are worthy contribution to a city bent on rushing. In this time of deep and mounting stress we need more gardens for healing, for renewal, for health, so that we may continue forward!