Reflections from the Iris Respite House Healing Gardens – January 2023

The past month at Hope Grows has been one of new beginnings. The December ribbon cutting
marked a new era as the Iris Respite House is finally poised to welcome its first guests. Hope
Grows now has a brand new (big!) sign that is actually readable from the road. And, the winter
solstice heralded the return of the sun, returning light to the land, which, in my book, is always
something to celebrate.

Nature is never lazy. Not one plant has ever simply refused to grow when provided with the
proper environment and care. But they do unashamedly and deeply rest, willingly leaving behind
any outworn plant parts, and entering into their period of quiet self-renewal. Every winter, when
the temps dip below freezing, the annuals complete their lifecycle, and the perennials retreat
underground, the garden goes to sleep. They make no apologies for this, it’s simply understood to
be necessary for growth and survival. I have studied the process in school, and observed it year
after year since I started gardening, but it never gets boring. There hasn’t been a winter yet where
the stark transformation doesn’t leave me in awe.

Hope Grows’ theme for 2023 is Rest–Relax–Restore. January’s focus is art and creativity through
therapeutic respite. Nature herself provides endless inspiration for artists, with plants and flowers
taking center stage in countless paintings. However, when I researched plants that actually
symbolize creativity, I came up with surprisingly few: 1) Emilia, or tassel flower, which was a new
plant in my vocabulary; 2) lupine, which actually symbolizes imagination, among other things; and
3) verbena, also symbolizing multiple attributes. (Amaryllis, on the other hand, possessing
gorgeous trumpet blooms, symbolizes artistic achievement, so if you want to reward someone who
has just won an artistic prize, present them with an amaryllis.)

I did a little reading on verbena and found the folklore fascinating. I would actually regard it as a
sacred plant. The Egyptians claimed it sprang from the tears of the goddess Isis, and legend has it
that verbena was used to stop the bleeding of Jesus’ crucifixion wounds after he was taken down
from the cross. It is said to offer protection from vampires, witchcraft, depression, negative
emotions, harmful dreams and evil intentions. Scatter some verbena around the home if you want
to bring peace. And, fittingly for Hope Grows, verbena can also mean hope in darkness!

So, this month, I encourage you to lose, or find, yourself in a personal creative endeavor, no
matter what it is. If you’re at a loss for ideas, try taking a walk out in nature and let it serve your
senses and inspire your inner creative. Be true to you, do something you’ll enjoy, or at least think
you’ll enjoy, don’t be afraid, and have fun. Hopefully, by the end of the month, you’ll have little
tassel flowers, lupines and verbenas dancing together in crowns above your heads to inspire you.
If, perhaps, you need to rest, relax or restore, think of those perennials. Make no apologies or
excuses, know it is for your own strength and survival, and take some time to quietly self-renew.