GARDENS AND MUSCLE
We lose muscle as we age. This is a fact. As we get older, our muscles shrink. However, we do not have to sit back and think that there is nothing we can do about it. Exercise can reverse this trend. The old adage, ‘use it or lose it’ takes on even more significance. A story on NPR’s Morning Edition today talks about the studies that are being conducted to show how exercise can help people build new muscle at any age. People in their 80′s who exercise with weights, as an example, increase muscle and get stronger. (A link to the story is below).
So, how does this translate to the garden? When we are outside moving a wheel barrow that is filled with tools or soil, we are in fact weight training. Digging holes for new plants, trimming shrubs, cutting branches, sweeping the walk, moving garden furniture, raking the lawn incorporate bending, stretching, reaching, and other movements that are good for us. The tools we are using act as weights and we are doing two things at the same time. We are working in our garden and simultaneously exercising in a very soothing gym. The result is that we are all rebuilding muscle that has been lost to a natural occurrence called aging. We are also creating a beautiful environment that we can all enjoy.
The garden is therapeutic. We can classify this aspect of gardening as good for our health. The activities listed above, and so many more, can be performed by people at any age. This is the active part of using the garden. We are creating gardens that we can look at and feel good about. We are also creating gardens in which we can exercise and improve our health. The link to the NPR 2-22-10 story can be found at:
There are special collectors for all kinds of items, such as rare coins, subway tokens, Pez dispensers and cow creamers. Well, it should come as no surprise that there are people who collect the seeds from plants. And, there are seed exchanges that you can join too swap the seeds that you have collected.
This is a great hobby for the gardener who would like to grow an unusual variety of tomato or other vegetables and perennials. These plants are not the ones you would typically find in plant catalogs. They are special seeds that have been traded to the seed exchanges. There is typically a fee to join a seed exchange.
This may be just the gift to give for an avid gardener for Valentine’s Day, a birthday or other special occasion. It is a perfect gift for elders in a senior community who have a garden and would like to grow special plants this year.
Today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal contains an article on the subject – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704820904575055181332462128.html?mod=djemLifeStyle_hRead more
HALF WAY TO SPRING
February 2nd is the day when a (nearly) famous groundhog emerges to see his shadow. If he does in fact see his shadow, it signals six more weeks of winter. (Even if he does not see his shadow – there are still six more weeks of winter.) It is a day of parties and merriment in Punxsutawney, PA. You may recall the movie with Bill Murray – Groundhog Day.
It was actually Germans immigrants who brought along their tradition of celebrating the midpoint of winter. They did were not able to find any badgers in PA and had to use the groundhog to carry on the tradition. It is a day that signifies that we have reached the halfway mark in winter.
The hibernating animals are beginning to stir in their underground nests. I think that is how we all are feeling. The sun’s light is getting a little longer each day and the warmth of the it’s rays feels good on our skin. We can almost taste the days of spring ahead. There are a few other signs to look for, such as the snow drops and crocus beginning to emerge from the ground. The bods of the flowering trees start to swell. I saw a few hostas peaking through a sheltered part of the garden last week.
These feelings that we have a real and remind us of our connection to nature. We start to look through catalogs and plan our garden.
The Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest indoor flower show in the world, is attended by over 250,000 people. They are hungry for a taste of spring – even if it is literally forced. So, take heart, spring is not all that far away. The groundhog and other indicators remind us that we are half way there.Read more
Therapeutic Gardens Newsletter – FEBRUARY 2010
Recent research helps to explain why some people feel lethargic and ’blue’ during the winter months. It is the lower levels of Serotonin that causes these irregularities. Researchers have shown that during the months when there is less sunshine, there are lower levels of mood elevating serotonin in the synapses between the brain cells. Depression is thought to be associated with reduced serotonin in the synapses (Archives of General Psychiatry 11-08). To help produce more serotonin, we should make every effort to get outside on sunny days and take advantage of the natural ways that help our body produce these feel good chemicals.
One of the signs of spring are the emergence of the Crocus bulbs. We may start to see the flowers of the bulb emerge from the ground and begin to bloom around Valentines Day. The bulb derives it’s name from the autumn flowering saffron crocus ‘Krokos’. This is the Greek name for the bulb. It is the saffron flowering bulb that traces its roots back to ancient times.
We think of red roses as the flowers to give on Valentines Day. However, other colors may mean more. Yellow roses mean friendship and joy. Purple signifies love at first sight. Pink expresses gratitude and orange signals desire.
Feb. 2nd is known as the date when a famous groundhog emerges to see his shadow. The days are getting longer and hibernating animals begin to stir in their underground nests. Groundhog day has evolved from the German holiday of Badger Day. When German emigrants came to America, there was a lack of badgers and the groundhog was adopted to continue the tradition. Feb. 2nd marks the mid point between the shortest day of the year and the first day of spring. We start to see other signs of spring, such as crocus, daffodil and other bulbs starting to emerge. These signs bring us hope that spring is close at hand.
“With a garden, there is hope” – Grace Firth
When we plant a single species we foster monocultures. A lawn, apple orchard, cornfield or a rose garden are all examples. The problem with monocultures is that they are vulnerable to invasion from pests and disease. Mixed planting or polyculture reduces the risk that organisms can destroy a crop or wipe out a row of trees. Consider planting a variety of any species. Think about trying some of the older, heirloom, varieties of plants in your garden this year. Maybe you can start to remove some of the lawn and replace it with indigenous shrubs and perennials that are attractive to birds and butterflies.
Spring flowering trees bring delight to our garden as we revel in their colors and fragrance. These special ornamental trees can also be used to feed the animals and attract pollinators. The colors of Flowering Dogwood are a welcome sight in spring and the trees make great nesting sites for birds in the fall. Fringe Tree offer feathery flowers and the female produce small fruits which the birds will enjoy. Sassafras produces clusters of tiny yellow flowers in the spring and great fall color. The fruits have a high fat content that is welcome food for birds.
If you cannot wait for the flowering trees to begin to bloom, you can move the color indoors by cutting budding branches and forcing them into bloom. Branches from forsythia, quince, redbud and cherry trees are good examples to use for forcing. Cut branches 12 inches or longer and cut a slit in the end of each stem. Place the stems in a container of warm water. Be sure to add one tablespoon of beach. Keep the branches out of direct sun and in a cooler spot (60 degrees) until they bloom. Their colors will help remind us that spring is right around the corner.
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