Finding peace in pandemic: Many turn to plants during difficult time

By DENISE CATHEY, Staff Photographer

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Brownsville in March, everyone had to adjust as suddenly we were all living our lives largely at home as we continue to do.

In my own case, despite my growing concern, staying home is pretty much the dream for introverts. However, as the pandemic continued and one month became three which turned into six, I realized that my apartment was actually starting to feel more like a prison rather than my home.

So I turned to buying plants. This was an act of insanity as I come from a long line of documented plant killers. From an optimistic year when I bought a live Christmas tree to the Aloe Vera plant my mother gave me when I left for college, I have killed all of them through a strange mixture of under watering, overwatering and forgetfulness.

Now there are 16 plants on my patio that I have no idea how to keep alive and I’m planning to buy more.

I’m not unique in my new craze for plants during this time. As the pandemic continues many people are finding a sense of peace and purpose in learning how to grow plants and in expanding their gardens.

Trays of potted herb plants face the walkway Saturday at Rosa Deimes’ booth in the Brownsville Farmers’ Market. Herb plants have been one of the most popular plants that Deimes sells since the COVID-19 pandemic started.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Rosa Deimes, who has grown and sold plants at local markets in Brownsville and Port Isabel for roughly 30 years, has seen an increase in her sales since the pandemic started.

“The plants are moving. I think it gives people something to do. To get up and go outside and enjoy their garden,” Deimes said.

Primarily she’s been selling a lot of herb plants these past few months.

“Herbs are always popular because I guess they are using them for cooking. A lot of the herbs are medicinal as well so that helps,” Deimes said.

Pandemic gardener Crista Juarez visited Deimes’ booth at the Brownsville Farmers’ Market on Saturday to take home new plants to add to her herb garden at home. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Juarez never considered herself to be a plant person, now she has eight.

“I got very depressed and there was a lot of anxiety and so I needed something to focus my energy. Usually I would draw, but it wasn’t enough so I decided to plant,” Juarez said.

With the help of gardening videos on TikTok, in August Juarez was able to start growing plants of her own and use them in her daily life.

“It’s very comforting seeing something that you gave life to surviving while there are a lot of things going on around you that are really depressing,” Juarez said.

Brownsville Wellness Coalition Executive Director, Vero Dimas-Rosenbaum has also seen an uptick in people getting involved in tending and learning about her organization’s community gardens and urban farms.

Crista Juarez holds onto her tray of plants Saturday that she plans to add to her garden from Rosa Deimes’ booth at the Brownsville Farmers’ Market. Juarez started growing plants in August after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted her to find something to focus her energy on.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“The five community gardens have definitely seen an increase in participation because people are using that to get out of their house and be active. Aside from that they want to learn where food is coming from,” Dimas-Rosenbaum said.

More than just getting out of the house, having plants to care for even if you, like myself, have no idea what you are doing provides a sense of connection and stability during a time when many of us are still far outside of our normal lives and routines.

“It’s caring for something. Giving care to some sort of plant and understanding the relationship between that human and that plant — that makes us feel good and is a mental health benefit for everyone,” Dimas-Rosenbaum said.