Flower Power

By Lesley Myrick

Flowers and greenery are good for your decor and your well-being.

Flower-power activists of the 1960s were onto something, I think.

While peace, love and happiness are obviously good for you, so are florals and greenery. They’re my favorite finishing touch when styling a home, but often overlooked and undervalued. I’ve never included flowers or plants in a design plan for the purpose of their health benefits — I’m just in this for the aesthetics — but I’ve been surprised to learn the extent of the positive impact flowers can have on both your mental and physical health.

According to wellness writer Kimberly Button, “A Rutgers University study found that the link between flowers and your satisfaction with life is far more important than previously thought. Having flowers in your home increases happiness, reduces depression and anxiety and actually can increase emotional contact with friends and family. A separate study by Harvard University found the same results — increased compassion, feeling less negative, and more energy at work. In a trifecta of flower research, Texas A&M University found that flowers and plants in the workplace improve problem solving skills and increase creativity.”

We’ve always known flowers and plants bring an element to a tabletop or nightstand that’s both aesthetically appealing and statement-making. Designers especially embrace this fact. Look at any home magazine, and you’ll typically see some sort of organic element in the interior photos of the homes, whether it be a subtle single bloom on a desk or an eye-catching arrangement on a console table. But even more important than looks, it’s proven by university research that these fresh florals introduce a little feel-good mojo.

In addition, psychologists have confirmed flowers can help you reach your goals. Dak Kopec, a design and environmental psychologist says, “Flowers help people measure time and track goals, whether they be fitness goals or career goals, because different flowers are in season at different times and act as a positive symbol of the passage of time.” Be sure to keep your florals fresh and perky because on the flipside, Kopec says wilted flowers subconsciously signal you’ve let time escape you.

While I adore fresh flowers and plants, I am notorious for my “black thumb.” Cut flowers are fine — they have an expiration date, and I don’t feel guilty about sending them to the green bin when their beauty has faded and they’ve dropped sad, wilted petals all over my dining table. But houseplants? They stand no chance of staying alive under my care.

I currently have a Boston fern on my front porch that I’m trying — unsuccessfully — to nurse back to health after letting it dry out completely. I suspect a fern funeral is imminent. On the other hand, I had a small potted houseplant named Steve that I accidentally drowned in an attempt to keep him alive. (Note to self: throwing out a dead potted plant is a lot harder when you’ve given it a name. I imagine it isn’t unlike growing up on a farm and discovering you’ve just eaten Bessie, or whatever affectionate name you’ve given the livestock.)

Believe it or not, I’m definitely a fan of faux plants when decorating. If your mind immediately went to the dusty basket of fake ivy that used to sit on top of your mom’s kitchen cabinets and dangle down ominously, you’ll be happy to know that things have changed for the better since the late ’80s.

Faux greenery has come a long way in recent years, and good fakes are easier to find in stores and harder to spot with the naked eye. I don’t recommend using faux florals or greens as a kitchen or dining room centerpiece as that’s a little too close for comfort and someone’s bound to notice they’re not real midway through the meal. (Busted!) But on a bookshelf, coffee table or bathroom counter, a faux floral arrangement or potted plant can look completely convincing.

Even the ubiquitous indoor fiddle-leaf fig tree that has made an appearance in almost every living room photo on the internet is available in pretty plausible faux versions nowadays. With regular dusting of its large and happy leaves, no one will be the wiser, and you won’t be facing any indoor plant maintenance — or funerals.

While quality synthetic greenery is a great investment, when it comes to flowers I prefer to splurge on the real deal, even if they only last a week or two. There’s something so special about a fresh bouquet bursting with color and sweet scent. Whenever I finish and style a home for a photoshoot, I make sure to include fresh flower arrangements in each room. Not only does it make the perfect organic finishing touch for a photo, it’s also a feel-good gift I can leave behind for my clients that makes them smile. And can you blame them? Flower power goes beyond aesthetics into a welcome burst of increased happiness. So go ahead and “treat yo’ self” to a bouquet this week. This designer, along with three university studies and a psychologist, confirms that it’s a good idea.