Peter Dowdall: Plant a legacy for the Irish Hospice Foundation

Whether you're a gardening beginner or expert, Irish Examiner columnist Peter Dowdall has the answer to your questions
Peter Dowdall: Plant a legacy for the Irish Hospice Foundation

Whether you choose to grow from seed or cutting, growing and giving plants can help to raise funds for the Irish Hospice Association. Picture: iStock

We all know that plants have so much to offer us in terms of not only, beauty but also our physical and mental health.

Everything that we rely on comes from the garden, starting with fresh oxygen, all our food and so much of our modern-day medicines come if not completely from plants, certainly partly from them.

Among the better-known medical remedies are the humble foxglove, digitalis which provides the active ingredient in heart regulating drugs used regularly by millions worldwide and the yew tree, Taxus baccata provides us with the chemotherapy drug Taxol.

Other plants with well-known health benefits include aloe vera, ginger, peppermint, lavender, sage, turmeric and evening primrose.

It may surprise many to know that there are many others such as ginkgo biloba which is used to fight inflammation and for many brain function and psychiatric disorders. Willow provides us with the ingredient for aspirin and an extract taken from snowdrops is used in treatment to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another plant, the water hyssop, is being researched in India for its ability to reduce inflammation in the brain and improve cognitive ability as we age. This plant which is named botanically Bacopa monnieri, has been used for centuries in China.

Marie Staunton, gardener, Aisling Easton (7), Sharon Foley, CEO Irish Hospice Foundation, Hazel Easton (4). Picture: Paul Sherwood
Marie Staunton, gardener, Aisling Easton (7), Sharon Foley, CEO Irish Hospice Foundation, Hazel Easton (4). Picture: Paul Sherwood

I often speak about another bacopa, a first cousin of the water hyssop and that is the Bacopa snowflake. We use this plant here, mainly as a hanging basket or window box plant and it is adored by bees and other pollinators which I think is a great illustration of the tapestry. Bees need plants such as bacopa to thrive and survive and so too, we benefit from the medical properties of such plants.

The effect that plants have on our mental health is also immense and here I’m not only talking about compounds, alkaloids and other extracts which are used in conventional and herbal remedies, no, but I’m also referring to the much more innate and immediate benefits that come from just being among plants. There’s a calmness that we get from being in and around trees, it’s impossible not to smile, if even on the inside when we see cherry blossom in full bloom. What would the world be like if there were no flowering plants for us to admire? I shudder to think.

Well, now there is a whole new way that plants can help us. The brainchild of Kathy White, Pledge to Plant is an initiative which began last year as a way to raise always needed funds for the Irish Hospice Foundation. 

Marie Staunton, gardener, Sharon Foley, CEO, Irish Hospice Foundation, Kathy Whyte, Pledge to Plant founder, Liz Hogan, Pledge to Plant supporter. Picture: Paul Sherwood
Marie Staunton, gardener, Sharon Foley, CEO, Irish Hospice Foundation, Kathy Whyte, Pledge to Plant founder, Liz Hogan, Pledge to Plant supporter. Picture: Paul Sherwood

Pledge to Plant has its roots in remembering a loved one. Kathy had the idea after her mum, who was a keen gardener, died. This legacy combined with a wish to generate funds for Irish Hospice Foundation inspired Kathy to develop the Pledge to Plant initiative.

The campaign has been created to give anyone wishing to support the work of the Irish Hospice Foundation the chance to plant seeds and grow flowers, plants and vegetables to give to family, friends and colleagues to raise vital funds for services supporting those facing end-of-life and bereavement.

Anyone registering to get involved in Pledge to Plant will receive a free supporter pack full of information, planting tips and complimentary seeds to get started with watching them grow and then sell the little babies in June. Of course, you don’t have to start off with seeds, you can grow a plant from a cutting or a division or in whatever way that you want. The important thing is to grow some plants and during June, I daresay they won't object if it’s later, give them to others in return for donations to the hospice.

This can be done as informally as offering to a friend or neighbour or for those organised souls amongst us, why not organise a more structured plant sale or fair.

I am always on the lookout for plants and for those like me, it becomes an addiction what better way t buy a plant than by donating to the Irish Hospice Foundation which does such amazing work.

This year the foundation will invest over €1m in one of its services, Nurses for Night Care which delivers nursing care into the homes of those facing their final days. Funds raised from the Pledge to Plant campaign will go towards the running costs of this crucial national service and end-of-life work across the country, helping to make a real difference to those facing end of life and to their loved ones.

Helen McVeigh, fundraising director with Irish Hospice Foundation, says: “We are delighted to launch Pledge to Plant and hope to see as many people as possible involved. Whether green-fingered or not, we’d love to see people planting seeds for flowers, herbs, vegetables or whatever they like, to sell to friends and family. We hope everyone has a good time planting and raising vital funds for Irish Hospice Foundation to support its work in end-of-life care and bereavement.”

For more information or to register, see www.hospicefoundation.ie/pledgetoplant

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