The Positive Power of Plants

A unique public experiment to answer the simple question: which plant makes the nation the most happy? is being launched this week. The top 100 plants nominated by the public which will be voted on via social media to produce a top-20 list in time for the Chelsea Flower Show 2015.TV gardener David Domoney will create a Chelsea science and educational exhibit featuring the shortlist – complete with special cameras to monitor visitor reactions to individual plants. By the end of the festival, with many of Chelsea’s 150,000 visitors having enjoyed the exhibit, the experiment will reveal which of the plants creates the greatest sense of personal well-being and happiness.

Launching the ‘Positive Power of Plants’ project, David Domoney said: “It’s amazing how much sense of well-being and happiness the sight of a plant can bring. We’re hoping to identify the best-loved plant, be it the sight of red roses on Valentines, a field of sunflowers or even the magic of a Christmas tree. Plants lift our hearts just by the sight of them. We think there will be real differences between age groups and gender. It’s a fascinating experiment and a real talking point. To get started, we are involving as many people as possible telling us for their three favourite ‘happy plants’ – those that really make them smile – so we can start to build up the list of the nation’s top-100.

The objective of the public experiment, sponsored by the Horticultural Trades Association’s National Garden Gift Vouchers Scheme in conjunction with David Domoney and gardening charity Thrive, is to raise awareness of the positive impact plants can have on people’s lives. Merseyside-based retail technology company, Premier EPOS, is developing the hardware that will help identify what people are looking at and how they are reacting.

Similar ‘facial recognition’ will one day allow interactive visual messaging that responds to individuals based on facial reactions both positive and negative. At Chelsea, cameras will monitor eye contact, physical gestures and smiles or frowns to gauge visitor reaction to the top-20 plants. A giant plasma screen will display up-to-the hour analytics revealing changing patterns of interest among visitors and a running totaliser. Plants will also be ranked according to age group and gender interest – which are most popular among men and women, and how young and old may rate them differently.

Carol Paris, Chief Executive of the Horticultural Trades Association, said: “I’m delighted to be backing this unique experiment that will show once and for all the power plants have to positively enhance our lives and nourish the soul. The HTA is all about getting people gardening. We already know how many positive spin-offs there are to time outside, but this will reveal for the first time the actual plants that really make us happy as individuals.”

Experts have long acknowledged the power of gardening to improve people’s lives and health, be they recuperating from illness or struggling with long-term issues.

Sir Richard Thompson, ex- President of the Royal College of Physicians and the former doctor to HM the Queen for 21 years, and Patron of Thrive has said: “Just looking at a garden is scientifically proven to improve recovery time. Patients do much better after surgery if they look at ‘green things’ and they get out of hospital quicker. If everyone was encouraged to do a bit more gardening, you can well imagine how that would affect obesity rates and reduce the stress of the NHS.”


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