As a certified horticulturist, Stephanie Philip knows that nature has the magnificent power to heal and nurture us. Even more than that, there are lessons the natural world can teach us about the importance of slowing down, paying attention, and taking care.
Stephanie is manager of Urban Gardener, a garden boutique in Toronto which caters to city-dwelling green thumbs. It’s not surprising that Stephanie’s respect for nature’s healing properties extends to our favourite flowering plant. We spoke to her about her quiet rituals around both owning houseplants and using cannabis and why they’ve become important to her.
I’m inspired by the beauty of the greenery surrounding me on a daily basis. I’ve always found that plants are quiet, friendly company.
Growing up, my mom had a garden; she grew vegetables, fruit trees, she liked being outside and tending to them. She also liked to go on vacation, so she’d ask me to take care of her plants while she was away. I found the more attentive I was, and the more I cared for them, the more I saw them ‘grow up’ and bloom. Seeing the results of the energy I put in always felt good.
I feel like my job is to pair people with the plant that’s right for them — I’m like a plant matchmaker [laughs]. I find that a lot of customers who come into the store express anxiety around whether or not they will be good at caring for their plants, so I have to help them see the bigger picture. It’s like any relationship. If you take good care of a plant, it can take care of you, too. Make your home cosier, more inviting. Calm your spirits. Purify your air. There are too many benefits to list.
Cannabis has provided a similar list of benefits in my life. There’s a ritualistic aspect to the way I use cannabis now, usually in edible form, to enjoy some calm, or to focus on a task at hand. Maybe it sounds boring, but I’ll often clean my house or listen to music. This is my time to enjoy being alone and do something that I know will improve the physical space around me, and benefit my internal spaces too.
When it comes to my experience with cannabis pre-legalization, I’ve been lucky. I actually had a run-in with a police officer about 15 years ago. I had a small amount of cannabis on me, and she could definitely smell it. But the officer didn’t press the issue, and to me, that was a huge act of generosity on her part. My life could have been very different if she was a different kind of police officer. I think about that moment every so often. I know people who have always felt they could openly and freely smoke in public, even before weed was legal, but it’s not that way for people of colour, is it?
Location, location, location. When choosing a plant for your indoor or outdoor space, it’s important to assess the light and ask for plants that will thrive in your space. Tell your local plant shop where you plan to position your plant, and consider bringing in photos of the space. I find that sitting and observing your plants can offer stillness and rest, so place your plant somewhere you can enjoy its company on a regular basis, instead of in a corner of the house you rarely visit.
Practice patience. It’s important to choose a plant that you enjoy looking at and would like to see grow and gradually change through time. You can’t expect a plant to double its size in short time, or for each leaf to look “perfect” forever.
Pay attention. Plants sometimes get sick, just like us. Look carefully at the leaves and soil of your plants to offer some defense against bugs, but there are easy, non-chemical ways we can bring them back to health. My relationship to my plants often reflects what I’m going through in my life. Am I making time to care for myself? Have I taken the time to nourish my body and give it what it needs? I think caring for your household plants can be a meditation on how to live simply and live well.
Be thankful. When we tend to our plants by watering, cleaning, pruning, and giving them what they need, it’s a way for us to express gratitude for their beauty and the benefits they provide. Don’t forget that the relationship between human and nature has always been a symbiotic one.