Russell Brand is the latest celeb to turn to gardening as part of his new, dull life. No more sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. “Now I'm a bloody good gardener,” the Forgetting Sarah Marshall star says. According to the same Brit music rag, Amy Winehouse, as well, finds that pruning hedges—for hours—is soothing and theraputic. And a rock band whose name I know, but whose music I can no longer recall—the Stone Temple Pilots—claim to have conquered drugs through gardening and crocheting.
They all used to be mad, bad, and dangerous to know, but no longer—thanks to gardening. It’s nothing new. Gardening therapy has existed for centuries, maybe even for millennia. It has been used for melancholia, shellshock, fibromyalgia, memory loss, and—as in these cases—addiction. The American Horticultural Therapy Association attributes the beneficial aspects of gardening to the activity itself—the simple, nurturing qualities of it—or merely the peaceful surroundings of a garden. And I suppose many would say it’s because dirt itself makes you feel better, citing studies like this one (as we’ve noted in the past).
But there’s a dark side to all this. Benign as it might be, gardening therapy has been withdrawn from most of us for the last 4 months. And unlike rock stars, we can’t simply fly to a place where gardening is still possible. Sublimations abound—to the usual ones like catalog browsing, house plants, attending gardening shows, and reading gardening books, I’ve added obsessive bulb forcing—but it’s growing thin. Maybe Brand, Winehouse and the STPs can send over some of their leftover drugs. Just enough to last me until mid-April, when I can start pruning the rose bushes and starting my summer bulbs.