Horticulturalists are warning that with many people in Britain returning to the workplace, their houseplants may suffer from post-lockdown loneliness, starved of the sound of our voices.
Expert fear that social isolation could stunt the development of plants after months of keeping their owners (if, indeed, one can “own” a plant) company every day. Turn over a new leaf, they advise, and leave radios on in empty homes. Or buy a companion plant to help them stem their loneliness. Horticultural expert Angela Slater, of Hayes Garden World in Cumbria, says:
“Plants can sense when they’re around another plant, and it’s been proven that it’s better for their wellbeing if they’re around a ‘sibling’ plant, as they don’t use up energy trying to compete with a non-familiar plant.”
Although Prince Charles was ridiculed back in 1986 when he admitted that he talked to his plants, scientists have subsequently discovered that plants grow better in response to the sound of human voices. Plants may be able to sense vibrations and the carbon dioxide in exhaled human breath helps photosynthesis and spurs growth.
“Plants probably don’t hear like we do,” Dr Dominique Hes, of the Plant Life Balance program at Horticulture Innovation Australia, told The Guardian Australia. “But some research shows that speaking nicely to plants will support their growth, whereas yelling at them won’t. Rather than the meaning of words, however, this may have more to do with vibrations and volume.”
If you don’t like leaving the radio on all day in an empty house, Ms Slater recommends that you compensate for lost conversations by speaking to your plants more in the evening when you return home. There’s probably no need to turnip the volume.
As a purveyor of plants who is deeply rooted in the industry, I suppose she would say that. After all, you can’t plant greenery if you haven’t botany. But at this rate — I am not pollen your leg here — experts may soon be advising us to avoid making hurtful puns at the expense of plants, who may just be listening in.
Despite old people being lonely and children having their development stunted as a result of lockdown after lockdown, I predict that the plight of plants will be cited to justify a continuation of a working-from-home regime. After all, they cannot log in on Zoom. Unfortunately, the lockdown mentality has sent down deep roots amongst our political elite.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, our moral priorities were topsy-turvy, as I have often observed. But after it (or whenever it ends), things are going to be worse. Our attitude to plants, for instance, has become “deeply conflicted”.
The World Animal Foundation, for instance, urges us to go vegan and — touch wood !– save the Planet. “A worldwide switch to diets that rely more on fruits and vegetables, and less on meat, dairy and eggs, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, save up to 8 million lives, and save US$1.5 trillion,” it claims.
But how can we possibly eat the plants which depend upon us for company and love? It’s practically cannibalism and it would certainly traumatise the veggie garden.
This leafs us in a dilemma. We can’t eat meat because it has been sourced from beings with awareness. We can’t eat plants because they, too, are sentient.
What can we eat?
In frustration, I suggest that our only dietary option — take it or leaf it — is to consume the miserabilist vegans and plant-protectors who believe that humans are killing the Planet. We could call it ethical anthropophagy.