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What leaders can learn from plants

Posted by: Joyce Matthews   |   No Comments   |  Posted on: Sep 10, 2016

Plants have little in common with humans; they know the purpose of their life, they know the reason they exist and they do everything they can every day to fulfil their reason raison d’être. At least that’s what I’m led to believe by the expert gardeners on our long running Scottish TV programme, The Beechgrove Garden.

Sunday is my day for pottering around the garden. This is a new activity for me. My last house had no garden, only a paved back yard. Sometimes the children called it a ‘yarden’ because it was slightly bigger than a traditional Newcastle upon Tyne back yard, but without grass or plants it didn’t resemble our vision of a proper garden.

With no experience of gardening, I wander around the plants in my new garden pulling up what I think might be weeds, hacking back trees and pruning plants. I’m ruthless with a pair of shears. I always give plants a choice though, especially when I replant from one area of the garden to another. Live or die, that’s the choice and invariably they choose to live. They might go in the huff for a while and look a bit floppy and dried up, but they always come back.

There was a lady in the audience on The Beechgrove Garden this week with much the same gardening philosophy as me. She explained to the panel of experts she had bamboo in her garden that was spreading everywhere, strangling other plants and dominating her garden. She’d hacked it back but was afraid she might have killed it off.

‘Don’t worry about that’ Jim, the perennial host of the show told her. ‘Every day when the sun rises plants have only one thing they do, and that’s to expand and grow. They keep busy all day doing it any way they can. ‘

The lady looked relieved. ‘So if I haven’t killed it off, then how can I contain it?’

‘The only way to stop it growing and expanding is to dig a trench around it and line it with impenetrable membrane. That stops anything getting in or out.’ Jim McColl, British TV’s longest serving gardener explained.

I felt relieved for her, and relieved for my plants too.

And then I wondered. What if our raison d’être is to grow and expand each day? What if the only way we stop our self from growing and expanding is if we circle our self with an impenetrable trench, if we stop connecting with what’s around us? What if we sometimes go in the huff for a while when we get a set back, but can come back from it and keep growing and expanding? What if humans are more like plants than we realise?

And if that is the case, what will I do today? Not think about, not read about, not talk about, but actually do, to expand and grow?

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