Plants are just the thing to perk up a dull winter

Looking outside during a Williamsburg winter may mean seeing bare trees and plants.

It is proven that a lack of plant exposure can have an adverse effect on mood. Dr. Dorothy Ibes, director of the Parks Research Lab at the College of William and Mary, did an experiment in November 2015 that involved testing 61 people’s mood after they spent 20 minutes in several settings including a room without windows, a room without windows plus plants, a room with a large window looking out at plants and a greenhouse.

The most interesting result was those who spent 20 minutes in the greenhouse had a 61 percent decrease in depression, 44 percent decrease in fatigue and their anger was down by 94 percent, she said.

“And their vigor went up,” Ibes added.

To create a garden-like setting inside, add plants to the indoors.

Patty White Jackson, who manages the biology department’s greenhouse at the College of William and Mary, said when getting started stick with foliage plants that do not require much light.

Plants such as aglaonema and dracaena are good examples, she said. Aglaonema often shows the best color in medium or indirect light indoors.

Dracaena also does better in indirect sunlight making it a good indoor plant. Watch for brown leaf tips and spots. That means the plant is getting too much light. When leaves turn pale, the plant is not getting enough light.

Another good indoor plant is orchids which will bloom every year. Ferns also have a good reputation for growing inside. However, all plants need to be near a window, Jackson said.

When purchasing plants, it is important to look for pests. She recommended buying from local nurseries which are less likely to have mealybugs. Avoid plants with a white cottony mass. Also, plants with scale insects which hide on the underside of leaves and stems should not be purchased. Spider mites can suck sap leaving brown or yellow spots. They will have webbing on the plant, Jackson said.

Most plants do not need to be replanted in a larger pot after they are purchased.

The biggest mistake people make is over watering their plants. Check the plants about every two days with a finger to determine if it needs water. While plants can adapt to a regular watering schedule, Jackson recommends the schedule be just to check the plant if water is needed.

For those who like to cook with fresh ingredients, take an example from Williamsburg Inn’s Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Director Travis Brust.

He has an indoor herb garden. Brust and his staff built the boxes and installed indoor grow lights. He grows basil, oregano and watercress. His best advice is to purchase a kit.

Brust uses lava clay to grow his herbs. He said it eliminates the need for pest management.

The best herbs to grow easily and that add flavor are basil and oregano. In addition, nasturtium is a flowering plant that has several uses. The stem is sweet while the flower and the leaves have a peppery flavor, he said.

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