Back in 2015, I began searching for the top plants to make us happy
I have always believed in the positive power of plants and 5 years ago began on a journey to prove just how much they could make a difference to our health, happiness and wellbeing.
For centuries, we’ve used plants from the natural world in medicines, for nutrients in our food and as way of escapism from the stressors of daily life.
I wanted to take this one step further and launch a campaign to promote plant power for everyone to enjoy; whether that’s the simple sight of plant bringing a smile to your face or the pleasure in planting something for the first time.
This campaign has been running now for 5 years and today it’s still highlighting the goodness of green spaces in national newspapers, through my blogs and to my newsletter audience, urging them to get involved.
It could be that the sight of a Christmas tree in the corner of the room fills you with joy over Christmas, or that a red rose on Valentines Day brings you happiness but, however you tap into it, the positive power of plants is abundant.
To that end, in 2015, I began working towards proving that fact by starting a quest to find the happiest plant, so read on to find out the results.
This award winning Chelsea Flower Show exhibition used facial recognition software to explore which plants make us most happy.
The three-month Positive Power of Plants campaign was designed to raise awareness of the positive impact that plants have on our lives.
I asked you to nominate plants that make you feel happy, and then you all voted to find your top 20.
These suggestions were then used to create a medal-winning cutting edge exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015.
This scientific exhibit showed images of the plants and monitored visitors with special facial recognition cameras developed by software company Premier Epos.
The pioneering cameras tracked engagement, eye movement and expression to find out which plants were most popular.
Screens showed visitors as their faces were recognised by the cameras.
The computer databanks then pulled out the top three plants for their age group and gender.
On a completely volunteer basis, the audience queued to take part in our search for Britain’s happiest plant.
Participants for the exhibit, were made up from a diverse pool of people from across the country and included HRH Prince Philip himself.
Results: Top 3 happy plants
1. Lily of the Valley
This is the nation’s winning plant! Over 30,000 people visited our stand, and this is the plant that attracted all the attention.
It has become a hugely popular plant in people’s gardens. It triggers memories of walking in the woods and seeing the sprays of flowers – they are marvellous plants. They have little bell-like flowers that nod in the wind.
They are also a doddle to grow at home! Once in the ground, they spread by rhizome root systems. This means that they will spread easily underneath trees and in shady spots they quickly colonise the ground.
Lily of the valley is also an evocative plant – it was in Kate Middleton’s wedding bouquet.
N.B. Please remember that lily of the valley is a very poisonous plant – take care when growing it if you have small kids.
2. Sweet pea
Many people at Chelsea told me that seeing sweet peas triggers memories of their childhood, time spent working in the garden with their grandmother.
Recently, I’ve been looking into how the scent of flowers can really lift your mood and this flower does exactly that.
Sweet peas are great plants to grow in your garden. They flower continually and they make great cut flowers. And the fragrance is stunning!
Sweet peas also come in a huge array of bright and pastel colours and I think the petals look like butterfly wings.
For more on these beautiful blooms, take a look at my blog to find out how you can start growing them at home.
This is a very popular plant that evoked strong memories for those who took part on the day. The participants said that they reminded them of the plants they had growing in their own gardens.
That rich jasmine scent also reminded many people of holidays abroad and it’s so recognisable to so many people.
Jasmine is a fairly easy plant to grow at home in a sheltered spot. Look out for the summer flowering variety Jasminum officinale (common jasmine), which has those sweet scented white flowers.
Or look to the winter flowering variety Jasminum nudiflorum to brighten up your garden with buttery yellow buds during the off season.
P.S. Notice what all these happy plants have in common? A strong scent!
What else did we discover?
Our clever facial recognition cameras were able to calculate the age group and gender of visitors. So we have some fascinating insights into the plant preferences for different groups of people. Here’s a run down of some of the results:
What happens now?
This project is far from over! Over the past 5 years it has been run with Thrive charity, which helps people living with disabilities through therapeutic horticulture. It’s amazing just how much the power of gardening and plants can nourish the soul and enhance our quality of life and their good work goes on.
Over the last year, I’ve released a ‘Power Of Plants’ blog series to regularly continue to advertise the fact that plants have lots to give for our physical and mental health.
Throughout 2019, I will continue to look into which plants are happiest to you now – to find out if these have changed over the years since I began promoting this worthwhile topic.
So I’ve designed a quiz to determine each of YOUR favourite flowers and and plant personalities. Get involved to find out what your plant preferences say about you….
Plus, by taking part in the 2019 survey, you could be in with a chance of WINNING in the £100 National Garden Gift Voucher prize pot! I’ve got 5 vouchers to give away…
See how to take part below!
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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