February 18, 2011 11:44:00 AM
Maybe the groundhog was right.
We were muttering under our breaths in subfreezing temperatures, trudging through four inches of ice and snow, just a week ago. But maybe we''ll have an early spring after all.
It certainly looked like it this week: Sunny skies, highs in the 70s. Temperatures this week and next are 10 or so degrees above normal.
In Columbus, the Riverwalk sprung to life. Walkers, runners and bike riders were back in force. People were even firing up the grill and eating meals outside.
The Lowndes County Master Gardeners were out too, sprucing up planters and flower beds in front of the library. After the hard freeze of the weeks before, many of us were out in our yards and gardens too, nudging along spring''s renewal, readying for green grass, flowers and trees to come back to life throughout the city.
We''re strong proponents of the power of spring planting. Good effects come not just to the people involved, but to the entire city.
Studies back this up. In fact, a field called therapeutic horticulture looks at the benefits of working in a garden, or just taking a stroll outside. People who garden find all their senses are stimulated. It''s good, low-key physical exercise. It connects us directly to the land. It fosters patience. Designing a garden challenges the mind -- it fires up the brain, not just the body.
Even those without space to garden outdoors can gain some benefit from cultivating potted plants.
"Besides these benefits, gardening brings you together with other people," according to an article from the horticultural therapy program at the University of Minnesota. "Human bonds created between gardeners have the potential to transcend social barriers. Gardens invite socialization. Bringing plants and people together promotes cooperation.
"The garden neither judges nor discriminates. It''s a safe environment where people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities can come together, connected by the simple fact that we all rely on the earth to survive."
A well-maintained landscape has social and economic benefits as well. According to research by Virginia Tech University, landscaping can add up to 14 percent to the value of a residence. People surrounded by well-done landscaping feel more secure, calm and relaxed, according to the university''s research.
"The quality of plant material in a community contributes to the feeling of satisfaction in living in that community," according to the study.
This isn''t something we have to wait for city or county government to do. We can all strengthen our community, make it more serene, secure, and inviting to visitors, just by getting out in our yards.
Borrowing a phrase from William Faulkner, if you happen to have your own "postage stamp of native soil" at your disposal, spruce it up for spring. It''s amazing what effects a tree, fresh grass, and other plants can bring to ourselves and our neighbors.