By Claudia Martinez
Turns out the uncanny sense of relief one feels in a room full of flowers is a scientifically proven experience. The scent of an English rose, the large placid leaves of a philodendron, the succulents resting on the windowsill - they are all good for your health.
Floral Therapy gives a name to what we’ve always known empirically: Flowers don’t just look good, they make us feel good. Despite the lexicon which verges on pseudo-scientific, (the term floral therapy and crystal healing sound like they belong in the same building) new research shows that floral and plant life is not only aesthetically pleasing, it can help facilitate emotional and physical health. In a study conducted at Harvard University by Dr. Nancy Etcoff, researchers proved that flowers at home reduced anxiety; and also that living with flowers can provide a boost of energy, happiness and enthusiasm, both at home and at work. In a similar study conducted by Dr. Roger Ulrich, patients in recovery rooms with views of plant life and trees recovered quicker and took less medication then patients in recovery rooms with views of a brick wall.
Using flowers to heal isn't a new idea. Horticultural therapy - which uses the interaction nature in a garden, green house, or forest setting as to benefit mental health - first emerged in the 1800s; and expanded during the 1940s and 1950s as an accepted form of treatment for war veterans(http://ahta.org/horticultural-therapy). And the Japanese have used Floral Design as a form of meditation and spiritual alignment since the 15th century, in the form of Ikebana.
Perhaps we should start thinking about floral arrangements not only as instruments of beauty, but instruments to facilitate good health, and the act of floral arranging itself a meditative, and ultimately, emotionally beneficial practice. Along those lines, one could argue that good floral design, along with the act of creating it; is more aesthetically pleasing, and therefore, more emotionally beneficial.
Some of the best floral design work I’ve seen is out of floral studios in Brooklyn, New York; some of which I have the pleasure of working with from time to time. Inspired by Dutch Renaissance and Flemish still-life paintings, the arrangements are a departure from the mainstream mono-color, circular arrangements. The palates are complex, achieved through various colors, sizes, shapes and tones of flowers. The result is a chiaroscuro effect, highlighting the tension between light and dark, like in the work of the 16th century Dutch painter Jacob Vosmaer. But the style is also loose, and free, allowing the flowers to move and “interact” with one another, like one might observe in an English Garden.