The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Winged Post

In full bloom

Students and faculty cultivate a shared love for gardening
Upper school English teacher Beth Wahl stands in front of her bougainvillea plant, a type of tropical shrub that grows up to 30 feet tall. “Before we renovated our house and we added a second story, I dreamed of having bougainvillea that goes up two stories,” Wahl said. “Now, it blooms throughout the year and creates this incredibly vibrant magenta color.” (Provided by Beth Wahl)

Returning home to fresh greenery after a long day, whether thriving vegetation or potted succulents, can lighten anyone’s mood. The act of nurturing plants holds a special place in many households. 

The simple act of tending a garden possesses various therapeutic effects like alleviating negative emotions, as the repetitive nature of watering and tending plants can help focus the mind. Interaction with indoor plants suppresses sympathetic nervous system activity and diastolic blood pressure, encouraging comfortable and soothed feelings. 

For English teacher and avid gardener Nicholas Manjoine, the routine of caring for his garden serves as a form of self-therapy.

“There’s always a certain kind of kinship about digging in the dirt and watching things grow,” Manjoine said. “There’s nothing better for a nervous person than a process-oriented, presence-based task like taking care of plants. There’s always something to do, so you have to be strategic with what you want to tackle. It’s a process you can’t rush.”

Not only does gardening benefit mental health, but the process can also mitigate the effects of climate change. Most plants absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Trees and other perennial plants, including everyday plants such as Boston ferns, snake plants and succulents are particularly effective at sequestering carbon.

Three of senior Anna Lee’s plants stand in her room, adding greenery and liveliness. Among her plants, Anna owns succulents and an orchard that blooms annually. (Provided by Anna Lee)

“I have a lot of vegetables and fruits, [like] peaches, figs and pumpkins, and I really enjoy taking care of living things,” plant-lover Angelina Antony (10) said. “I think it’s really good for the environment. Climate change is a huge issue and the best thing for me to do is to do my part in addressing it.”

Upper school English teacher Beth Wahl also grows a variety of indoor and native outdoor plants. From apricot trees to monkey flowers, plum trees to palms, her garden is a testament to her love for nature.

“I like the aesthetics of seeing things grow and having different colors,” Wahl said. “I set up all of my plants, even the bushes in the front part of that house, they’re different shades of yellow and green, so that no matter what the season is, there’s always color. Nothing ever just goes completely bare or brown and I love seeing that. I just like watching that cycle of nature.”

Wahl keeps most of her outdoor plants on an irrigation system but waters them every week as well. To keep her soil healthy, she periodically grows cover crops, plants that are grown to benefit future crops, like fava beans to replenish nitrogen in the soil.

“The more plants that you have, it actually helps people with attention and stress and general happiness,” Wahl said. “We’re meant to be in nature. It’s really artificial to spend your whole day inside. I really feel like I need to get outside periodically and part of it is just to notice the environment. I’ll walk around Harker and notice what’s blooming.”

For those who are less serious about gardening, growing plants can act as a relaxing pastime. Anna Lee (12) owns several potted plants and has grown them for two years. Her collection includes succulents and bushes, which each add a touch of nature to her room.

“They’re really low maintenance, so I just put them in small cubbies and water them when the dirt gets dry,” Anna said. “I started mainly just as a way to liven up my room and make it more green. I kind of see them as pets now, just like something to take care of in my pastime, so I’ve gotten really fond of them.”

Potted plants line the shelf of upper school english teacher Nicholas Manjoine. Manjoine first started gardening under the guidance of his grandmother, who instilled in him a lifelong appreciation for nature. (Provided by Nicholas Manjoine)

The variety of plant life cultivated within our community reflects the love and care for nature present in countless households. In caring for plants, we may cultivate organic life, allowing us to deepen our connection with the natural world in such an urban environment and understand the parallels between plants and people.

“[Plants are] just like people,” Manjoine said. “We see the surface of things, but there’s a lot more going on underneath the surface. It’s kind of funny that all of those things you can’t see, like the underground bits, the soil, and roots, are more important than anything else about a plant, kind of just like people. I think that it’s a metaphor for dealing with yourself and nurturing the best parts of yourself.”

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About the Contributors
Lily Shi
Lily Shi, Reporter
Lily Shi (10) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is her second year on staff. This year, Lily hopes to get to know the members of the journalism team and write many meaningful articles. In her free time, she likes to dance, read, and spend time with her friends.
Ashley Mo
Ashley Mo, Reporter
Ashley Mo (10) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is her second year on staff. This year, Ashley hopes to write about stories both within and outside of the Harker community, form friendships on the journalism team and learn more about global news events. In her free time, she enjoys playing golf and listening to music.

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