News Flash

Arboretum & NCSU Extension Service

Posted on: March 20, 2023

New Hanover extension agent shows paths to connect nature and wellness

Spring came early to the lower Cape Fear this year and it brought me a renewed sense of energy. A hope for regeneration as I cope with the stressors of pandemic recovery, global and domestic unrest and increasing political polarization.

As I thought about the issues impacting me daily, I started to think about my work with people and plants. I listened to myself try to help others through nature and realized I was not practicing that same restoration on myself. So, I began to focus on building that relationship.  

When I presented “Building a Personal Connection with Nature,” for the 2023 Extension Speakers Series,, I listened to my own words: Even the view of a natural landscape from a window increases our ability to heal. This healing is present every day and we can tailor it to our lifestyle, resources of time and money. It can be passive, sitting outside to have a conversation or active, a brisk walk or preparing a garden plot. We can use it to build relationships with other people and we can share it with any and everyone. Even in a small apartment, we can invite nature into our homes with houseplants, rocks, flowers arrangements, art, aromatherapy, pressed flowers, through books and in countless other ways. 

Some engagements with nature that take a greater investment of money and/or time include moss gardening, bonsai, nature photography, journaling, green architecture, foraging, wilderness therapy, eco-therapy, forest bathing, ikebana, and park Rx. 

A simple and free way to bring plants into your life uses kitchen scraps. The parts of vegetables we throw away can give us a beautiful windowsill garden. Celery bottoms, radish, carrot, onion, and beet tops and more can be put in a shallow dish of water and placed in a sunny window to grow. For best results, change the water every other day. 

An easy kitchen windowsill garden grows from vegetable scraps. 

An easy kitchen windowsill garden grows from vegetable scraps.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

March 19-25, 2023 is National Horticultural Therapy Week. Make time to find a way to connect with nature. Even 10 minutes observing a tree can impact how you feel. Look at a book on butterflies, birds or your favorite flower and enjoy the warm days of spring. Reflect on what you observe and how it makes you feel. And consider, nature ignites our imagination. It sends us to the past, centers us in the present and makes us wonder about the future. Think about how nature makes us whole. 

As a final thought, remember that to have nature to enjoy, we must also preserve it. Encourage our local leaders to focus on sustainable growth and preservation of green space. When you visit our parks and beaches, respect the area, pick up litter and if you can, support local gardens.  

Heather Kelejian

The Ability Garden uses nature to enhance lives. Support our 3rd Saturday Plant Sales at the New Hanover County Arboretum, 6206 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, NC 28403.  Shopping with us increases our capacity to bring people and plants together. Reach Heather Kelejian, the New Hanover County Extension Therapeutic Horticulture Agent at or 910-798-7660. Instagram: nhc.abilitygarden, FaceBook: Ability Garden. 

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