What’s growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens – A Living Gift

What’s growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens – A Living Gift

Melanie Priesnitz Conservation Horticulturist


If gift giving is part of your holiday tradition I encourage you to think about offerings that can continue to give all year long. A great choice is to give the gift of a living thing. Plants are generally a better option than puppies and provide some of the same benefits with way less work.


The act of caring for a living entity provides many physical and mental benefits to the caregiver. Individuals who struggle with negative feelings around self-worth can benefit greatly from knowing that something alive is depending on them for survival. The simple act of caring for a plant can help improve self-confidence and lessen feelings of depression. Plants can also make great friends for lonely people. When I was living alone in my twenties and not ready for a dog or cat, I named all of my houseplants. Fred, Sam, and Emily provided great companionship, helped clean the air of my many apartments, and suited my lifestyle as I could leave them alone for a week without complaint and they’d always be there to welcome me home.


Seniors who live in institutions often thrive when surrounded by plants. My grandmother’s prized African violets followed her into various assisted living and long-term care facilities until she passed away at 99. The plants provided some continuity for her and were the only objects that remained with her from her home. Looking at the violets and talking about them with her granddaughter would help trigger memories of days gone by. I loved hearing tales of her gardens and houseplants and awards won at county fairs for her violets. Seniors also benefit from receiving cut flowers and other green gifts such as wreaths. No care is needed, however, memories can still be triggered by bringing small pieces of the outdoors inside.


The Acadia Mental Health Initiative (AMHI) recently held a very successful plant workshop to help students de-stress before the end of term exams and assignments. Over fifty students came out to transplant small houseplants into antique teacups to take home. Jenna Purkis, the AMHI coordinator, was disappointed that they didn’t have enough supplies to accommodate all of the students who were interested in adopting a plant friend, so they’ll be hosting additional events in the New Year. If you have cuttings, or unique pots such as small fish bowls, teapots or cups that you’d like to donate to the cause, contact me at the Gardens. Review your gift giving list this year and see if there are any individuals who would especially benefit from the gift of a plant.



Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens

Acadia University