Discover the therapeutic beauty of gardening and flowers

Dina Ezzat , Monday 26 Jun 2023

Gardening's creative and therapeutic benefits have kept the annual flower exhibition popular for four weeks, from late May to late June.



The annual Cairo Flower Exhibition, showcasing indoor and garden plants, closes on Eid Al-Adha after four weeks. This year, the exhibition moved from its traditional venue of Al-Orman Gardens to the smaller garden of the agriculture museum, resulting in fewer items and visitors. Still, dedicated visitor Amal inspected the exhibition despite concerns about its downscale.

"I wanted more plants and ideas to expand my selection," said Amal, who, during the first summer of the pandemic in 2020, decided to give her plain balcony a green makeover on the third floor of a Dokki apartment building. Despite having no prior interest in gardening, Amal and her husband visited a plant nursery for advice and to pick up a few items.

Amal initially struggled with plant care, but by the summer of 2021, she had a good grasp of it. Thanks to her indoor plant selection, her balcony and living room had a different, refreshing mood. "It wasn't just about looking pretty, but feeling more pleasant," she said.

A pandemic distraction became a passionate hobby for Amal and her husband, Mohamed. Although their teenage children aren't interested in gardening, they enjoy watering the plants. "It's hard to resist the attraction of a beautiful plant," she said.

Over the past three years, Amal's five initial balcony pots have multiplied more than fourfold, now occupying space in the living area, kitchen, and bathrooms. After three visits to this year's exhibition, a few more plants have found their way into the house and on the balcony.

“I was very apprehensive in the beginning about getting jasmines because they are very fragile and they require very dedicated attention, but this year, I felt I could go for it. I also wanted to expand my selection of aromatic plants,” she said. 

Salem Okasha, inspecting one of the pavilions at this year's exhibition, noted that aromatic plants are popular with middle-aged and older visitors, while younger visitors prefer colourful flowering plants.

According to him, this is one reason why some were disappointed with this year's exhibition, which started eight weeks later than its usual mid-March time. "March is when colourful flowering plants are in season, not June," he explained.

To assist visitors struggling with this year's exhibition, which bypassed the winter flowering season, Dhalia Salem, founder of the Facebook page House of Dhalias, created a series of videos suggesting go-to plants for indoor and outdoor spaces.

“We have already passed the early spring with its large palette of colourful flowers. However, the selections of summer flowers, ranging from orange to fuchsia, are there to fill in the gap for those who love plants with colourful flowers; otherwise, there is a wide range of other choices,” she said.

As a landscaper who graduated from the fine arts faculty's interior design department in the late 1990s, Amal has invested time and effort learning about local and imported decorative plant breeds. Her landscaping clients and Facebook followers are introduced to new ideas and alternatives that match various tastes and budgets.

Amal believes that people increasingly recognise the value of decorative plants and gardening. This trend began in the early 2000s as more people moved into houses with gardens and became interested in beautiful landscaping. Additionally, more people began to appreciate the pleasant effect of plants and flowers on their homes and balconies. Following the January Revolution in 2011, the positive spirit further popularized flowers as an interior decoration option. Finally, with the pandemic, more people turned to gardening and plant-keeping as a source of joy.

While the pandemic has revived interest in balcony plants, Amal notes that it's not a new trend. She fondly remembers her grandmother's Dokki balcony, filled with jasmine and popular in the past. "Having plants on balconies went out of fashion for a while, but it picked up again," she argued.

Salma Tarek, a psychotherapist, believes that gardening and keeping plants at home provide positive energy, which explains the increased interest in house plants during stressful times.

Gardening and keeping plants at home have numerous benefits beyond reducing stress and anxiety, according to Tarek. She believes it's "therapeutic for severe depression, reduced attention, and dementia. Caring for plants helps people focus on routines, find satisfaction in their progress, and beat feelings of loneliness. Watching plants flower gives a sense of confidence and joy."

According to Tarek, giving a plant to an unhappy friend or family member can motivate them to take action and distract them from their worries, improving their mood. "When we give someone a plant, we might do it out of gratitude, endearment, or to distract them. Seeing the plant flourish can also bring gratitude," she said.

Farah, another visitor, was searching for a couple of plants to gift her grandmother at this year's exhibition. Despite the delay, she maintained her tradition of picking a Mother's Day gift. "It would be better if the exhibition returns to its original timing and venue, which were more diverse and fun," she added.

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