Background material: seeing the world around us – Gardens

Allee of trees flanking masses of white bellflowers, Botanic Gardens, Niagara Falls

Having just read about a peculiar “Euro-Western” phenomenon called “plant blindness”, I wanted to write about how important it is for authors to pay attention to the world around us. Even when you’re creating your own fantasy world, the way that our environment functions can provide essential clues for populating your fictional world.

Plant blindness is defined as “the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment�leading to: (a) the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere, and in human affairs; (b) the inability to appreciate the aesthetic and unique biological features of the life forms belonging to the Plant Kingdom; and (c) the misguided, anthropocentric ranking of plants as inferior to animals, leading to the erroneous conclusion that they are unworthy of human consideration (Wandersee & Schussler, 1998a).” Plant Science Bulletin, Issue: 2001 v47 No 1 Spring.

The venerable maxim about taking time to stop and smell the roses may yield a clue about why people might be plant-blind: they’re too busy to notice their own environment and the small delights it holds. Studies have shown how beneficial nature is to our mental health; I routinely spend time walking around gardens and natural spaces to decompress, whether it’s from the gloomy pall permeating news media lately, or irritating neighbours, or any other stressor in my life. There’s just something about hiking through the woods on a nice day, or basking in the glow of sunlit flowers in a garden, that’s both soothing and reviving. It reminds me that there are still places of quiet and tranquillity in a chaotic world.

Flowers in particular are such a gift to us — we need to appreciate their wonderful beauty. So in homage to plants, and with thanks to the many gardeners who create amazing places to restore our souls, I offer these images from several gardens I visited today. Maybe they’ll inspire a setting for one of your novel’s scenes, or just soothe your soul if you’re having a stressful day.

Cherry blossoms are bursting out all around our region
Surprisingly, so are lilac blooms, weirdly early this year (usually they open up in June here)
A glorious tree of white magnolia lifts its eyes toward the heavens
Beautiful flowering quince set a shady spot aflame
The ruffles on these daffodils remind me of the flounces on a ballgown
The base of a tree holds a secret cavern that has a tiny doorway on the far side — a fairy house, perhaps?
A carpet of bellflowers among a copse of trees
A meticulously-laid geometric garden filled with daffodils holds court across from one of the oldest buildings at the Botanic Gardens, Niagara Falls
The gardeners are clearly not plant-blind — they’ve made the most of a pond and winding stream
White trillium, aka Wake Robin, are Ontario’s official flower, but they’re rarely seen in our woods nowadays
I’m not sure of the name of these little irises, but it would be a crying shame not to pay attention to their tiny magnificence

All photos are by me and all rights reserved. E Jurus

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