Nature Is Still Open

The South American Clivia plant in my yard is in full bloom! Photo: Jim Mumford

Sheltering in place where there is plenty to see in my own backyard. Photo: Jim Mumford

Has it only been a week since my last blog post? Since then, schools, stores, restaurants, bars, gyms, and many workplaces have closed down to try and stop the coronavirus pandemic from spreading.

California residents like me and many other Americans are being asked to shelter in place. We are asked to stay at home except to “provide or receive essential services or engage in certain essential activities and work for essential business or government services.” For those few clients that allow us, we consider their plants and asset worth protecting and we are watering them. You can pick up groceries and prescriptions, take your dog to the vet, or put your trash out for collection.

And – you can enjoy outdoor exercise, as long as you comply with social distancing. I see this as an absolute must.

The South American Clivia plant in my yard is in full bloom! Photo: Jim Mumford

Enjoying a little bit of nature could keep us physically and emotionally healthy enough to get through this current crisis. As we stay separated from our regular activities and each other, we need something to lower our anxieties. You can count on nature in these difficult days. Plus, there are studies that show sunlight and fresh air help us heal much faster. This is why it’s our mission to enrich people’s lives with plants.

We’ve been writing about this for many years, and it’s never been more important than today. Scientific research has proven over and over that being outside in nature, or even just having a view of nature, helps reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve our cardiovascular health. A 2019 study found spending just two hours in nature each week was significantly more likely to produce good overall health and high psychological wellbeing, and it held true no matter your gender, age, or income.

A wall of Blue Agaves (century plants) and prickly pear in the canyon next to my house. The fallen ‘trees’ are 30-foot tall agave bloom spikes, which eventually fall off. Photo: Jim Mumford

A National Academy of Sciences study showed people who walked for 90 minutes in nature (including parks) weekly have fewer negative thoughts and healthier brain activity than people who walked through urban environments. Wouldn’t you like to get rid of some negative thoughts right now?

Getting outside for a walk is one of the few things we can all do right now and still comply with social distancing. All we have to do is give each other a little more passing room on sidewalks, at parks, and on trails. Wave and keep moving, and you’ll feel a little more connected without risk.

California manroot or bigroot is the most common of the manroot species native to California. The spiky ball is the fruit. The fruit swells and turns yellow as it ripens until it finally ruptures and releases large seeds. As kids we used these as bombs!

Follow these few Dos and Don’ts to stay safe and keep others safe:


Get outside for sunshine and fresh air

Stay close to home

Find another place if your first choice is too crowded.

Maintain six feet of distance from other people

Pack any trash out with you

Check the CDC and your state or county health department for latest restrictions

Beautiful bougainvillea, cosmos, lantana, and aloe blooms can give you a fresh perspective. Photo: Jim Mumford


Sit inside in front of a screen all day

Travel outside your immediate area

Meet in groups

Go to visitor centers or facilities

Use public restrooms

Assume what you heard yesterday is still true today

Enjoy San Diego’s open spaces close to you. This canyon view from my backyard offers a lot to enjoy. Photo: Jim Mumford

If you are home with your family, get out and get some fresh air. Most people live close enough to a little open space. It can be a simple neighborhood park, a nice landscaped street, trails around our lakes, or even your own backyard. Take time to look, listen, and observe. Spring is just around the corner. Plants are beginning to grow and bloom. Pollinators and birds are in the air. The buzzing and the birds singing will be the best music you will hear all day.

If you’re working at home, get outside for a lunch break. Even if it’s your porch or a chair in the backyard or a balcony or on the driveway. It will do you good, even if it’s not the Austrian Alps.

Need a walking partner? Find out if an older neighbor could use help walking their dogs. You’ll be doing something good for yourself and someone else.

The bird feeders in my yard. On the left, grape jelly for orioles. On the right, a peanut suet cake for the woodpeckers, finches, and jays. Photo: Jim Mumford

You can help out nature by setting up a bird feeder. Nectar for hummingbirds and orioles, black oil sunflower seeds for songbirds, peanut butter cakes and suet for woodpeckers, jays, and others. They will provide many hours of entertainment. Many of San Diego’s local garden shops are open limited hours and you’ll be helping the local economy when it’s most needed.

The birds love my backyard buffet! They don’t need to worry about social distancing. Photo: Jim Mumford

And never underestimate the power of getting outside to pull some weeds. Get your kids to lend a hand. Make it a contest to see who can pull the most. You’ll never appreciate a good reason to be outside more than now.

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