If you've got a drooping rose bush, a sagging hydrangea or a bent tulip it's very common to tackle the problem by investing in compost, new types of plant food or expensive sprays. But plant care is more than about the purely organic. To really care for your plant's wellbeing you need to take an holistic approach and consider its emotional and spiritual health. We all know that talking to your plants is beneficial, but do we really try to engage them in conversation, to understand their fears, their hopes, their dreams? Or do we just talk to them about the weather?
Well this is where I come in. My name is Dr Petunia Mulch and I am a plant psychologist. During the course of my work I have spoken to a great many flowers, vegetables, ferns and herbs and what has become clear is that many of them feel neglected and unappreciated.
This, of course, is not surprising. Take for example that marigold on your windowsill. I bet you hardly ever give it a second thought, do you? And why should you - after all, it looks healthy enough, doesn't it? But the fact is that marigolds are notoriously skittish and respond very poorly to loud noises and sudden shocks. Most of the time they will keep their inner turmoil securely hidden away, giving no clues to their anguish and frustration, but on occasion they can snap. I was once called out to a house in Rochdale where one plant, having been driven to distraction, had leapt out of its pot and smashed up the living room. It was subsequently found holed up in the kitchen behind the fridge, having taken the dog as a hostage.
On the other hand, you couldn't hope for a kinder, more sociable and good natured plant than a hyacinth. They just love daytime soaps and trashy talk shows and will thrive when placed next to a TV. They are also extremely garrulous and require a constant diet of gossip and friendly conversation. Ignore them and they quickly become despondent, and will rapidly wither and die.
In fact, it was just this sort of light and friendly banter that got me interested in plant psychology in the first place. When I was a teenager I would spend hours in my father's greenhouse talking to the tomatoes about school, TV, music and boys. Not that those kind of things interested them, but they were kind enough to pay attention and in return I listened patiently to their rants about the unacceptable levels of noise coming from the cucumbers in the neighbouring allotment.
A firm friendship developed and I gained a real insight into the plant world and its problems, which very nearly made up for the growing sense of social isolation I felt as my human 'friends' struggled to understand why I would want to sit in the dark and listen to salad. I admit that I felt no great loss and even today I am generally more inclined to socialise with a carrot or a beetroot than with colleagues or family.
Not that I want anyone to think that I fraternise with my patients. I'm not a willow tickler or a gherkin stroker, or anything weird like that. I maintain strict professional boundaries at all times. In fact, as a plant psychologist I know that it is essential to discourage unwanted attention and inappropriate contact, as anyone who has been followed home by a daffodil will tell you.
I receive all my patients at my consulting rooms, a safe environment in which they are encouraged to talk over there concerns. Many of them still carry the scars of traumatic events that happened when they were just seedlings, and this often leads to deep seated fears of common gardening equipment such as trowels or wheelbarrows. Agoraphobia is also a big problem, especially for outdoor plants that have been raised inside. Rather than spreading themselves over fields and valleys and hillsides, they take to hanging around behind bus shelters with weeds and poisonous fungi and other unsavoury characters. And I once treated a spider plant that was suffering from shellshock following a particularly vicious attack of greenfly.
The important thing is that in all these cases help is available. There is simply no need for your plants to suffer in silence, so if you have a nervous nasturtium or a paranoid peony, bring it along to me and I'll get to the root of its anxiety, nurture its budding potential and help it to flourish.
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