Core Aspects of Health & Wellbeing | ENVIRONMENT

First in the series: 4 Core Aspects of Health & Wellbeing: Environment, the sacred space that we create around us.

From the air that we breathe, through the objects that create meaning and delight, to creating a sanctuary that feels nurturing and inviting to return home to every day— our environment matters. One simple and effective way to support wellbeing is by filling our space with living, breathing plants. We tapped Melissa Micou of Pomona, a plant-based retail space and cafe in Union Hill here in Richmond, Virginia, to share her knowledge and thoughts on the benefits of incorporating plants into your personal home space and what that does to support a healthy environment.

“There are obvious direct benefits, such as having increased oxygen in your environment and a living filter to extract pollutants from your home. Plants provide increased / balanced humidity, which helps to inhibit the flu and other ailments. After researching the benefits that plants have on air quality, NASA recommends one potted plant (of medium size) for every 100 square feet of an interior. 

I’m a little more fascinated with some of the more abstract benefits that scientists are still pondering. Studies show that patients recovering from surgeries actually recover more quickly if they are surrounded by plants. There are even programs to implement “horticultural therapy” where patients interact and care for plants, and they show dramatically reduced recovery time from surgery and illness. I don’t think this is because their face is hovering over an oxygen producer (although that obviously is a good thing), but rather it goes much deeper. I personally believe that our evolution has taken us so far away from our beginnings as organisms, and that we have escaped the truth that there is a physiological response to our true home... nature. 

When we perform the act of caring for a living thing (more specifically, a living thing that has the quiet beauty and mystery that a plant opposed to say, a cat or dog) that is non-imposing and beautiful in its natural design, it grants us a moment where we can slow down to look with our eyes and analyze, focus, and concentrate. 

So for people who think meditation is sitting still with their eyes closed (and therefore not something they can imagine themselves doing), then plant care is a perfect way to practice meditation where you are tuning everything about your living green thing in... rather than a meditation that some people may incorrectly define as tuning everything out. Your eyes, mind and thoughts exist only with you and your plant and everything else falls quiet, because you are able to get lost in the nooks and crannies of your plant. 

So really, plant care can be its own form of meditation, and because you are meditating on a living thing, you also gain the mental and physical benefits of nurturing. That sense of purpose, of supporting a life form, has also scientifically been shown to increase age expectancy and wellbeing of the elderly by keeping them from being idle and giving them a purposeful connection at a time in their lives when they may have lost many connections.”

And with plant care, just like anything else that requires our tending loving care, it may come with its challenges and frustrations in an effort to keep our plants happy. Melissa explains that her personal challenge in helping people adopt and care for plants is the expectation that it will function as a “perfect piece of architecture” because of a photograph that they saw (which will, of course, always be perfect in its polished stillness). So, they are crushed and frustrated when they discover that the plant grows awkwardly as it reaches for more light, or when it loses some leaves and suddenly they think it’s ugly because it didn’t stay still... but rather, it grew! In order to fully embrace the benefits of plant ownership, Melissa believes that you have to be accepting, forgiving, and flexible to this unique life form and what it does. Sometimes, even calling it quits because it didn’t work out.

With the popularity of house plants having risen in the past years, at Pomona, Melissa carefully selects plant varieties that are as local as environmentally-aware, to mitigate excessive damage to native varieties, and lessen the fossil fuels used in shipping. 

Pomona is located at 2025 Venable Street, Wednesday - Saturday 11-5. It's highly likely you’ll run into one of us when you visit, enjoying good cheer, eats and drinks: 

Plant-forward Eats

Mushroom Duxelles Toast
Smoke Trout Salad Plate
Big Salad
Breads & Spreads

House-made Drinks

Cafe du Valkyrie
Coconut, Cherry, Lime Ricky
Thai Basil Tamarind Soda
Cucumber Sumac Shrub
Blood Orange Julius