Gardening: Signs of spring are marching in

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

I don’t have to look at the calendar to tell me spring is right around the corner in my neighborhood.

Mother Nature sent me a signal a  couple of weeks ago. Ants! These are not those big black carpenter ants; they’re the tiny little red jobs you can hardly see when they’re traveling alone. My grandmother called them grease ants.

My condo is built on a cement slab, so these harbingers of spring are an annual visitation. But this year they arrived early and in large numbers. I’m hoping the message they bring is a premature spring. We need it.

Crocuses are a pleasant reminder that spring is on the way.

The next few weeks and maybe months will be difficult for most of us. Sheltering in place and working at home can be stressful for many folks and we will need all the help we can get.

University studies around the world have proven nature has a positive impact on humans, and houseplants are a part of that mix.   

So, for those working at home, adding a few live green accents to your work space might be a godsend. According to a University of Michigan study “being under the influence of plants can increase memory retention up to 20 percent.  Research at Texas A&M found work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with a much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature.”

When the weather warms up, you might consider working outside on a porch or patio under a beautiful hanging basket or two. The Texas A&M research indicates that being outside in nature can improve performance and attention span by 20 percent.

It’s long been known that viewing plants during the recovery from surgery leads to improved healing. And studies show that horticulture therapy programs in which patients are tasked with the care of plants have significantly reduced recovery time after medical procedures.  So, if you have health issues, flower up and you will feel better.

Sending flowers along with phone calls and emails will help keep up the spirits of seniors in assisted living while they are unable to have visitors.  Flowers generate happiness and having them around the home and office greatly improves people’s moods and reduces the likelihood of stress-related depression. Flowers and ornamental plants increase levels of positive energy and help people feel secure and relaxed.

Many of my friends have spring bulbs emerging in their gardens and they send me photos of these beauties on Facebook. They put a smile on my face every morning.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at