Verdant View – Febrero 2022

Verdant View

By Francisco Nava

The Language of Plants



Over dinner recently at Jardin Plaza Restaurant I noticed the rebirth of the surrounding foliage and knew that my friend Steve was diligently working to resurrect the local greenery. Steve has what I like to call an abrupt manner with plants, as evidenced during his latest potting demo. He pulls and drops and directs soil and plants into pots with abandon; a little too forceful for my tastes, but as you can see at Jardin Plaza, the plants like it.

My thoughts drifted to the way we communicate with plants and other species that do not speak our languages. Given enough time and attention the connection with animals is evident; cows nudge their owners for affection, goats paw at their human friends to rub their bellies, birds wait at water fountains for a human to turn on the water flow, etc. So what about plants? How do we communicate with plants?

Since sounds are basically vibrations, human conversation to plants may cause possible changes affecting plant growth and health. Language, for example, doesn’t seem to be limited to humans. Prairie dogs use adjectives (lots of them) and Alston’s singing mice, a species found in Central America, chirp “politely.” Ravens have demonstrated advanced planning, another blow to human exceptionalism, by bartering for food and selecting the best tools for future use. Leaf-cutter ants not only invented farming a couple million years before we did, but they have their own landfills . . . and garbage men. We’re still trying to decipher and understand these amazing creatures and their effect on our gardens.

Tony Trewavas, professor emeritus at the University of Edinburgh, states “All life is intelligent because if it wasn’t, it simply wouldn’t be here.” It’s certainly thought-provoking. Is survival, by definition, proof of intelligence?

From Do Plants Have Something To Say? (The New York Times) by Ellie Shechet published Aug. 26, 2019, updated Aug. 28, 2019:

Dr. Monica Gagliano from the University of Sydney in Australia, said, “Learning from plants is a long-documented ceremonial practice (if not one typically endorsed by scientists).” As environmental collapse looms, we’ve never known so much about life on earth—how extraordinary and intricate it all is, and how loose the boundary where ‘it’ ends and ‘we’ begin.”

Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire said in an interview, “Humans do tend to underestimate plants, and Dr. Gagliano is one of a small group of scientists who are trying to change that story.”

My friend Dionne speaks to her plants and they answer her, letting her know what they need. I sing to the plants in my garden and they respond by being healthier and happier. My mother, Rebecca, was a plant whisperer and her gardens were always lovely and fruitful. Perhaps this is why I always feel better after having spent time in my garden with my friends.

Until we know and learn more, why not sing and talk to your plants? It couldn’t hurt and everyone will be the better for it.

What to plant in February

Do you want to grow tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants? Start these indoors around February. Then, around April you should start watching the weather and, as soon as it is warm enough, go ahead and transplant those into the ground.

It is still cold at night, but warmer in the morning. Pruning now will bring back many plants that are looking a little sad, encouraging new growth. Look for iris, heliotrope, pentas, primrose, and snapdragons at the viveros. Now is the time to put radishes, carrots, Swiss chard, kohl rabi, leeks, and beans (wax, runner, and bush) in the garden. For flower growers, start morning glory, evening primrose, liatris, clarkia, and tuberous begonias in pots. It’s an excellent time to get the garden cleaned up and ready for the hot, dry months and the new things you will be planting. Don’t forget to deadhead and water and keep up with your compost.


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