Tag Archives: plants

Signs of Spring

Intermittently, the gray damp of winter is finally yielding to signs of spring. Though winter hasn’t hit my corner of Tennessee particularly hard, on this cold, damp St. Patrick’s Day, the lack of sun leaves me listless.

Other than our early bloomers, red buds and dogwoods and the grass that’s slowly regreening, the predominant colors out my window are still brown and gray. Last week, I took my camera on a short walk to capture the slow change creeping around me. I’ll soon cash in my view of the hills through vacant branches for verdant leaves. I’ll miss my hilltops, bridges, and hints of skyline, but I wouldn’t trade them for my lush summer vista. And I’ll see them again in seven or eight months.

Fortunately plants move much more slowly than my brain does, pulling me out of my daily life measured in seconds, minutes, and hours to think about seasons, years, even decades. Even thinking about them and what I might plant forces me to stop, to breathe, to contemplate soil, shade, and sun, forces and a rhythm that seem constant in an inconstant world.

But for today I’ll hold on to my hibernation just a little while longer, pull the jacket a little tighter around me, and take one last nap before spring.


Of tomato plants, iPods and Darwin’s great-great granddaughter

my tomato plants in late June
my tomato plants in late June

Could a voice actually matter in making plants grow? Most of the scientific-sounding explanations I’ve ever heard about response of plants to people have invoked the additional carbon dioxide in the plants’ vicinity. But over the weekend I heard about an unusual study carried out by The Royal Horticultural Society. The researchers played different voices through headphones to 10 different plants over a period of a month (mp3 through headphones), according to the BBC. The best growing plants were listening to Sarah Darwin, a botanist and descendant of Charles Darwin. She read from her famous forebear’s groundbreaking text, On the Origin of  Species.

Of course, some outlets have taken this story to an extreme: Women’s voices ‘make plants grow faster.’

I can’t find the study, so I can’t see how it was constructed or how valid it is other than as an amusing anecdote with a connection to botany and Charles Darwin. My more skeptical side asks: Really? Headphones on plants? Where do you attach them? I’d really like to see a photo of a tomato plant with an iPod.

So I doubt that the study actually has much to say about how plants respond to human beings. However, if plants actually do like Sarah Darwin’s voice, I can understand why. Hear her melodious voice on the accompanying  video from the BBC.