Today is National Plant a Flower Day. I always have flowers in my garden. Before this pandemic, I used to cut the flowers and bring them to my office. I am no flower arranger, I just put the zinnias, marigolds, and cosmos in a vase on my desk. My colleagues loved them. Invariably they would smile and strike up a conversation. Some would be brave enough to ask me to bring flowers for them while others were inspired to bring flowers of their own into the office.
Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Professor Emeritus with Rutgers’ Department of Psychology, has researched the impact flowers have on both men and women. In three different studies, she has proven that flowers are a positive emotional “inducer.” In the first study, flowers, when given to women, elicited the Duchenne smile. The Duchenne smile is a genuine smile, an indicator of happiness. The corners of the mouth are raised, the cheeks are raised, and the eyes are crinkled with lines. In addition, the women in the study reported more positive moods 3 days later.
In the second study, a flower or a pen was given to men and women in an elevator to see if flowers have the same impact on men and also to see if flowers (versus pens) would decrease the social distance in an elevator and increase conversation initiation. Men showed the same pattern of smiling when receiving flowers. When the people in the elevator were given flowers, they were more likely to initiate conversation thus closing the gap between them. In a third study, flowers were given to people in senior living residences. The flowers elicited positive moods and improved episodic memory.
Her research proves what we instinctively know: flowers trigger happy emotions and affect social behavior in a positive way. In 2019, to celebrate the power of flowers, Burpee started a sow-a-smile campaign. They gave free packets of flower seeds with each purchase of annual flowers (seed or plants). Burpee was encouraging people to grow and give a bouquet, capture the recipient’s smile on camera, and share the images on their Facebook site. The sow-a-smile information and research behind the campaign is still on their website.
This year, people, especially new gardeners, can celebrate National Plant a Flower Day by buying a packet of flower seeds that are “direct sow.” This means you can purchase a packet of seeds for only a few dollars and simply plant the seeds in your garden. No need for starting indoors under lights or winter sowing. Easy to grow flowers that can be cut for a bouquet include zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers, bachelors buttons (Centaurea), Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia), calendulas, lace flowers (Ammi majus), and Dara Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota). All of these, even the short types of sunflowers, can also be grown in containers. Here is a list of seed sources. Purchasing a pack of flower seeds may ultimately put a smile on your face and your friends’ faces. Just might have to leave the vases of flowers at their doors.
Photos courtesy of Burpee.