Sunshine, food and medicine

Double pink tulips at Keukenhof, in the Netherlands, March 2007 - instant happiness!

Double pink tulips at Keukenhof, in the Netherlands, March 2007 – instant happiness!

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind.”Luther Burbank

As a person who tends to be cheap frugal, spending money on fresh flowers is something that doesn’t come easily for me.  But the benefits of having them around more than make up for what we spend.  Besides, we’ve found ways to make this joy available for very little cost.

I haven’t had much luck growing the types of flowers that are ideal for cut flower arrangements, but often I can pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers at the grocery store — sometimes even at markdown prices, if I go in the evenings or right after a big holiday — and arrange them in a container, filling in with greenery and flowers from my yard that aren’t enough to fill a vase on their own.  The arrangement I pictured in this post is an example of markdown flowers I supplemented with clippings from our plants.

Over time, I’ve learned which cut flowers tend to last the longest, and I change the water often to keep them fresh.  There are times when we’ve enjoyed an arrangement for a week or more, and every time we walk into the kitchen, it gives us a quick boost to our spirits.

Of course, the mood-elevating effect is multiplied many times over when seeing flowers that are growing outdoors in yards or gardens, and those offer shared enjoyment for all who pass.  One reason I love walking so much is the chance to see more fresh, gorgeous flowers in less than an hour’s time than I might see in a week if I didn’t walk.  The time our neighbors spend on their lawns and gardens is a gift to me that I would hate not to open.

Luther Burbank was a man of science who was not indulging in fancy when he attributed mental health benefits to flowers.  Studies such as this one indexed at the National Library of Medicine establish data-based support for the quote above.  Though viewing images of flowers and foliage is also helpful, this study and others document that nothing is quite equal to the neurophysiological effect of the real thing.

I’ve come to view whatever I spend on flowers, whether in a garden, in a bouquet at home, or as a gift to someone else, as an investment in mental health, one that is sorely needed in modern life.  Today, I hope you’ll find a few minutes to enjoy some fresh flowers, whether in your own yard, on a stroll or on a quick run to the grocery store.  Flowers are truly medicine to the mind!

One year ago today:

Flowers are the music


  1. I have said repeatedly to my family that at my funeral I do not want huge displays of flowers as I enjoy a bouquet every other week in my home now while I’m here. I HEARTily agree that they are a huge mood booster and they do not have to be expensive. It’s just a little pick me up that brightens lives! ♥

    • M, I am so glad you enjoy your flowers now! Jeff’s mother always said something similar about wanting the flowers while she is still living. It really does make more sense that way. I’ve started cutting just a few blooms from my yard to put in a tiny bud vase if there’s nothing else available. Such a spot of cheer. Thanks for being here!

  2. Susan

    Julia, I so agree, and I’ve always wondered about people that are allergic to flowers. I think I’d be disappointed to be unable to have flowers around. I wonder if there are types that are less allergenic. Although I like the fragrances best, which are probably the worst for allergies. To me, the fragrance is one of the best parts, so I would pick stock over snapdragons, for example, even though the snapdragons look so crisp and bright.

    • Susan, that makes me want to find some stock – I too love the fragrance! In Hawaii I much preferred to string leis from the fragrant plumeria blooms that were available free all around us, rather than buying the much more expensive but less fragrant orchids or woven greenery. I love gardenias, honeysuckle and even our ligustrum blooms (which I’ve been told many people do not like because they are so heavily scented). I’m unfamiliar with stock, but now I will have to find some! Many botanical gardens have areas for people who are blind, with wonderfully fragrant plants. What a great idea! If I was allergic I would be tempted to “cheat” or maybe find some sort of way to keep the flowers under glass! 😀

  3. raynard

    Julia be frugal is being a good steward of what God has trusted you with.( BONK! OUCH! i had to clobber my ownself upside the head with a wet smelly fish for that one lol. You are right about flowers.( back to the drawing board about visiting the Neumors Mansion and Gardens when I do I’ll send you pics you know it belonged to one of the Duponts.( makes a good date night err day trip too.PS i just enjoyed the cartoon above even though it wasnt my favorite cereal( do they still make alpha bits? be blessed

    • Hey Raynard, did you notice I quoted from one of the DuPont’s recently (about having nowhere to go but up) – that obviously didn’t apply to him in the “where I live” department! I hope someday Jeff and I will be able to visit the Neumors Mansion and Gardens but til then I would love to see the pics. Have you and your wife ever been to the Biltmore House on any of your trips to North Carolina? Jeff and I have driven past it over a dozen times but have never made the time to stop. We did love visiting the Hearst Castle in California, though – a multi-million dollar ocean view if ever there was one, that put all the man-made grandeur very much in the shadow. These photos will give you an idea. I have no idea whether they still make Alpha Bits but I bet they do. I only eat the high fiber cereals now. 😀 Hope you have a great weekend!

  4. I first enjoyed capturing the beauty of flowers while in Alaska on a mission trip. They were big, bold, and beautiful! All the other ladies kept taking pictures of them & I finally asked why. LOL I thought we were there to check out churches & couldn’t imagine what the fascination with flowers was for. Live & Learn! Now I stop at every flower bed or tree that’s blooming and soak it in – taking pics if I can. 🙂

    Unfortunately I am allergic to most flowers – so we rarely have live flowers in our house. I flip through pics if I need a “flower” boost.

    • Barb, another commenter was just mentioning people who are allergic to flowers. Pictures are a nice alternative. Also, I have seen some stunningly realistic silk flowers, the kind you have to touch to figure out whether they are real or not. I think I’ve always been “hooked” on taking photos of flowers. Of course, I’m always a bit disappointed that the photos rarely capture what I see in 3-D, but they are beautiful even in photo form. And I just love a gorgeous garden, whether tiny or huge, wild or formal.

  5. I agree Julia. Flowers can provide and elixer for good mental health. I find they are a distraction that quiets one’s mind by reducing stress, through their beauty of color, pleasant fragerance, and calming stillness.
    They also entice friendly visitors that bring their own stress reducing attributes. When we moved to our new home in northeast Ct. along with it came some beautiful flower beds and a song filled wooded area from the bird population that resided there. One day while relaxing on my back deck, I heard a loud buzzing sound wiz by my head. I headed for the door thinking I may be attacked by a large bee. Instead I was so pleased to find the intruder was a humming bird darting from one hosta to another loading up on nectar. I just sat and watched him at his task until he reached satisfaction.
    I believe one form of peace draws or leads to another. And that all peaceful things seem to emanate form one central core.

    • Alan, I love those last two sentences and I think it’s so true. Serenity (like anger) seems to be a self-generating cycle; something that feeds on itself and grows on its own once we start it growing. Nothing brings calm to me as effectively as being in touch with nature, and if we start to pay attention to the natural world, we see more and more things we may have not noticed before. Hummingbirds are always a thrill to see, though I rarely see them. My sister keeps a hummingbird feeder and I see them at her home. I have a feeder that I have never set up though she gave me a simple recipe for nectar. We do have some plants that draw the bees and butterflies, though, and I love those.

  6. You just reminded me that one of my treats for myself when I had a proper job and regular income was to buy a small bunch of flowers every two weeks that brought me much joy! I loved the vase in your pingback post – so happy!! Like you I enjoy to see other lovely gardens and appreciate very much the beauty that is created by others in my urban landscape. 🙂

    • Isn’t it wonderful to enjoy the work of others? I feel that gardens and landscaping are a form of artistic expression, and just as I enjoy the work of painters, musicians, and other artists, I enjoy seeing the beauty people create in our neighborhoods. I also really appreciate the city gardens and even just colorful flowers planted in the medians at shopping centers. It changes the atmosphere of a place entirely. I’m so glad to read of you treating yourself to flowers! I hope you will be able to keep doing that now and then.

  7. Debbie

    Since moving back into the city of Wilmington De I walk in the Brandywine Park most days. The Josephine rose garden is just starting to bloom and blossom. When I walked by today I thought of you and this blog and the happiness flowers especially bring to me. I was going to take a picture but it was such a gloomy day and decided to wait until there is more sunshine and more roses to share . I hope to share this beautiful garden soon . Thinking of this blog did put a smile on my face and a spring in my step this morning, thank you.

    • You’re welcome, Debbie! I’m flattered that you thought of this blog as you walked in such a lovely setting. I will be happy to see your photos — I appreciate you being here and thinking of me! Have a wonderful weekend!

  8. Michael

    One of the neat things we have here in South Seattle is a Tuesday farmers market with very affordable bouquets of flowers- 5-10 dollars- that include- Dahlias, Sunflowers, Statice-Baby’s breath and Gayfeather, but the Dahlias this time of year are spectacular. A dazzling display.

    • I grew some small dahlias with limited success while we lived in California – one of my failed attempts to grow flowers suitable for cut bouquets. It is amazing the quality of flowers you can get at these markets and grocers, especially for the price. I love to look at them, they certainly brighten up the shopping experience. Trader Joe’s always has a nice display of them right inside the front door, the first thing to see as you come in. Smart move on their part, I think.

  9. Michael

    We have a Luther Burbank Park here on Mercer Island.

    • I didn’t realize until recently that he lived most of his life (and did most of his work) in Santa Rosa, CA. I wonder if he visited your area much?

  10. Michael

    Neat story today on Storycorp NPR about a young migrant worker child in California and the family moved constantly and they could not take much with them, including heavy things like books, so she had none of her own. She was 7. One day she saw a truck parked next to the field; a yellow truck with some writing on it she had not seen before. that said, “Bookmobile.” Working up her courage, she asked the driver what the truck was about.” Well you can borrow books on any subject you are interested in.” What is the catch,”- she said. Anyway she goes on to become a librarian. Think her name is something- Reyes. The power of books and I thought of your experience. A cool story.

    • Michael, I love that story! I can remember, when I was a child, reading books about the children of migrant workers (such as Blue Willow by Doris Gates) and realizing how difficult that life would be. How fortunate she discovered the bookmobile! If I was a better driver, I would want to run a bookmobile I think. It would be fun to take the library on the road. I should look that story up online, a lot of NPR is available for streaming.

  11. Carolyn Miller

    Terry has always given me flower for no special reason and no special time. I love it when he comes in the door with flowers in his hand. I will say, why the flowers and he will say , can’t I do something special for my wife. Yes, yes and I love him for that. I need them while I am here on earth. How are the big boy’s doing? Love and hugs to you all.

    • Awwww, Carolyn, this sweet post makes me smile just to read it! How nice of Terry and I’m glad he knows you deserve it! We are all doing OK – hope to see Grady very soon! I will post some more pics and videos when I can. Love to you and Terry!

  12. Julia, thank you for sharing these beautiful flowers. I enjoy flowers of all types. I have roses planted along the windows of my sunroom. Flowers are God’s gifts to us. 🙂

    • Merry, I agree! What color are your roses? I love all their colors and don’t know how I could choose one. The fragrance is so wonderful too. A lot of people around here have Knockout Roses and I have considered getting some. We had rose in California and I was surprised how little effort they took – of course, almost everything grew easily there.

  13. I looked around and out through the window for a flower even though I was sure I wouldn’t see even a blade of grass. I miss my homeland which is all green with flowers everywhere. After being in the Gulf I have become more sensitive to the scents of fresh air and vegetation. I miss Nature!

    • Bindu, it must be so hard to make that sort of adjustment. Moving away from anywhere we love is sad enough, but when the lovely aspects of the place we just left are missing in our new location, it becomes even more difficult. I do hope you are able to go back there one day permanently, if that is what you want, or at least are able to find a place where there is abundant natural beauty as a solace.

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