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By Christine King

Plants are living, breathing elements in our environment. They serve as magical treasures to help us in unexpected and perhaps unnoticed ways.

Do you notice the beauty of plants around you? If not, it’s time to smell the roses (to borrow a phrase)!

Decorators use plants to create energy and life in home and room design. Do you have “life” present in your home? “Being around plants, in general, is proven to have positive effects on your physical and mental health,” said Matt Shipley, co-founder of Community Greening, a Florida non-profit that specializes in environmental improvement for people.

No green thumb? Shipley suggests visiting a local nursery to select visually appealing plants. “Making it personal will cause you to care for the plants you choose,” said Shipley. He recommends the aloe plant. It’s beautiful and provides an instant healing solution for cuts, burns and more.

Christy Wilhelmi, author of “Gardening for Geeks” and owner of Gardenerd in Los Angeles, also supports selecting plants with a purpose. “Grow herbs in a south-facing window for culinary use throughout the year. The aromas lend a fresh scent to the air, and it’s always nice to have something green indoors that you can eat, not just look at,” she said.

Corporations are progressively installing plants in the design and layout of their offices. “Research has found that employees who can view plants from their workspace have an increase in job satisfaction. We spend so much time at work, so this is a real benefit,” said Melinda Myers, a nationally known gardening expert, TV host, and author. Myers has over 30 years of horticulture experience and has written more than 20 gardening books.

“The health benefits can include improved mood, less stress, and lower blood pressure,” she said.

Vertical gardens or green walls are the newest rage in environmental decorating for home and office. Plants are mounted to the wall to maximize growing space.

“Adding indoor plants to your home or workspace improves air quality,” said Myers. She noted that research by NASA has shown that “plants remove environmental toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, which are associated with sick building syndrome.”

Plants, in other words, have the power to purify our environment and aid our health.

“Having plants at work is very important, especially in an office setting with no windows. They help with creativity and provide a therapeutic effect,” said Shipley. He suggests selecting desirable plants that require little maintenance.

Added Wilhelmi, “Indoor plants convert CO2 into oxygen,” which cleans the air in enclosed spaces. In other words, if you can’t work outside, bring the outside in — your life, energy and attitude will significantly improve.

Plug & Plant has a dummy-proof system for the horticulturally challenged. This almost mindless vertical garden is ideal for home or office. Select a few plants and add on when appropriate. Even better, it’s automated. The company’s website describes a simple process of how the water tank provides feedback on what’s happening in each plant — and communicates with your smartphone via Bluetooth.

What about the old-fashioned outdoor garden? Myers stressed the benefit of gardening, socialization and community. “Gardeners are very generous people — they share ideas, knowledge and plants. I have met gardeners who open up their yards to others with limited or no gardening space.”

If you don’t have space or land, there are valuable online resources, such as the American Community Gardening Association, for locating community gardens. Spending time in the garden is highly medicinal.

“Select a vegetable or herb you enjoy and grow one or two of them,” said Shipley. “Start small, so you don’t get overwhelmed … Any time spent caring for a plant is extremely therapeutic, especially one that you can eat or put in a tea.” Enjoy the process. Revel in the fruits of your labor.

In addition to its calming effects, gardening usually includes such movements as bending, kneeling, pushing, pulling and stretching. So while nurturing and growing healthy food, you’re also increasing your strength and flexibility. “Gardening also improves your nutrition,” said Myers. “If you grow your vegetables, you are more likely to eat them.”

Another benefit: “You get your vitamin D and K from spending time in the sun. Scientific studies show that getting dirt under your nails inoculates the body with beneficial microbes that help ward off illness,” said Wilhelmi.

The key to all of this is to begin slowly. Enjoy the process. Revel in the fruits of your labor. The use of plants is a sacred, ancient and practical way to improve health in body and mind.