My Dad is an avid gardener with undoubtedly green fingers, he can take cuttings of anything and they will grow. Yet he has never grown anything to eat. His passion is flowering plants and despite the fact that we had a backyard rather than a garden he had hundreds of plants in pots that gave an amazing floral show every summer.
A 2005 research paper that I stumble upon on the amazingly useful Human Nature Review site details research into An Environmental Approach to Positive Emotion: Flowers revealing that:
flowers, upon presentation to women, always elicited the Duchenne or true smile. Women who received flowers reported more positive moods 3 days later.
a flower given to men or women in an elevator elicited more positive social behavior than other stimuli.
flowers presented to elderly participants (55+ age) elicited positive mood reports and improved episodic memory.
Flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females.
The authors suggest that flowers are rewarding perhaps because they have evolved to rapidly induce positive emotion in humans.
The researchers regularly refer to both social and chemical complexity and I can see some of the perils of jumping to cause and effect conclusions but I really like the idea that ‘various sensory elements of flowers combine, even serendipitously, to directly affect mood’
What a great idea and uplifting thought that flowers have co-evolved with humans as ‘sensory attractors’ able to positively influence our mood.
I will never look at a cottage garden or indeed my Dads backyard in the same way again, and I am off to buy some flowers for my wife just to see if I can detect a Duchenne smile.