For Earth Day I volunteered in the gardens at a church. Life lessons flowed from the start.
“I know it’s colder than we would have wanted, and it’s all wet,” the pastor said as we began the day with a big breakfast. “But the ground is softer…and we won’t experience heat-exhaustion.”
As I pulled weeds and spread mulch between tulips, shrubs and trees, one of my friends commented on the dozen Mids who were volunteering from the U.S. Naval Academy nearby. “These young men and women will make better parents because they are learning cooperation and patience,” my friend said. Some of the Mids have been volunteering in the church garden for several years. “Hopefully they are learning to sow seeds of peace, not war,” my friend added. I was reminded that whatever seeds we plant take time to grow, and I remembered another lesson I had learned in my grandparents’ garden: some seeds we plant never blossom, and some plants we find in our garden were blown in by the wind.
Office plants are different. In our office, the environment is more controlled. In our office the very presence of a flower on our desk can stimulate conversation and help relationships to blossom.
In my office this week I asked a friend about her selection of two orchids to decorate her desk. Her response was insightful and informative. She chose orchids because they produce very little pollen and are easier on individuals with allergies. Before our chat, I hadn’t even considered that one flower doesn’t fit all.
Now, I wanted to know more about the orchids my colleague had chosen. One is live and one is not. Why? Initially, she thought her area lacked sufficient sunlight for live plants, so she bought a silk one. But one weekend she came to work and found her work area soaked in bright light even before she turned on the fluorescents. “When I realized there was enough sunlight, I bought a live one to compliment the silk one,” she explained.
I noted the orchids’ charm. Live and fake, they look like twins. Not identical twins, mind you. One is white, the other lavender, but together they are double beauty.
“I’m sure you get compliments,” I said. “What do people say?”
“They have said ‘They’re beautiful! Don’t be surprised if you come in one morning and they’re missing’,” she laughed. “They’re great conversation-starters.”
In our conversation, she told me about her plants at home, too. She has cacti and ivies, palms and zee-zees. She loves bringing the best of the outdoors inside. She likes that plants filter the air inside.
“To me it makes the house homey,” she said of her house plants. “Plants in the office remind you that people work here, not robots!”
We both got a good chuckle. I asked if I could share her love of office plants, even use her name. Yes and yes. Mae Lena Cephas, on the legal team where I work, delights in her office orchids.
I left Mae Lena’s desk, with the foot-tall orchids, happier than I had arrived, after just a brief conversation about plants.
I am beginning to hear joyful stories about people and their office plants. I have to thank Ann, Alisha, and Sonya who shared stories of their own desk buddies in the comments on my blog post last week. Ann currently has 12 plants in her work space, an outgrowth of her love for plants nurtured by her parents. Her father had a nursery. “My favorite plant in the greenhouse “nursery” was a cute little fern that would shy away and close up when you touched it,” she wrote. “It would be my first plant to check on when I got to the nursery so I could see it open up before anyone else could touch it and cause it to close… It’s much like people. There are beautiful people with great potential, who can add so much to an environment (work place). But some easily close up and don’t contribute because they have allowed others to cause them to close up.”
Alisha wrote that she had revived a plant she inherited from a friend at work. When the plant lost leaves, she feared it was dying. “It has taught me a lesson, that things may look bleak, but keep on watering, feeding and having hope,” she wrote. “Things may turn around! My plant is thriving and growing now!”
I imagine that the lessons we learn from our flower friends are as varied and unique as the plants we choose. I look forward to hearing more about YOUR life lessons from your office plants.
Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.