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'Breathe Easy' plant therapy workshops in Allentown

OREFIELD, Pa. — Plants have special meaning for Jenn Ott.

“I like planting and that's my thing,” said Ott, of Ott Gardens & Planters. Her mission is to inspire health and wellness through the therapeutic nature of gardening.

  • A Little Bit of Local, in Allentown, is hosting "Breathe Easy" Lunchtime Plant Therapy workshops
  • There are two more in June
  • Plants purify the air

After the smokiness in the Lehigh Valley last week due to wildfires, which led to a regional air purifier shortage, she and other locals are teaching others how to use plants to improve air quality.

The next two Wednesdays in June, Ott will be hosting "Breathe Easy" Lunchtime Plant Therapy workshops at A Little Bit of Local at ArtsWalk, 21 N. Seventh St. in Allentown.

Plants and gardening good for health

A recent study by the University of Technology Sydney found plants can remove toxic fumes and cancer-causing compounds from indoor air. In addition, gardening has been found to increase serotonin and dopamine, according to a 2017 meta-analysis by Preventive Medicine Reports.

"Dirt is a natural antidepressant."
Jenn Ott of Ott Gardens & Planters

"Dirt is a natural antidepressant," Ott said.

Ott creates planters for clients and teaches people how to make their own.

“A lot of times they want to do it, but they're not sure where to start,” she said. “So I guide them.”

Ott says planting in containers is easier and can be more relaxing than planting in the ground.

“It's a little bit more manageable,” she said “You can pot up one nice container full of flowers, and it's an instant gratification.

“Sometimes planting in the garden can be overwhelming for people."

Mental health and nature

Ott always enjoyed gardening, but it became a passion after she was furloughed from her job at a Lehigh Valley health network in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was just stressful times,” she said. “I would just spend my time weeding my gardens or making planters.”

When she was laid off the Friday before Mother's Day, she said it was "devastating.”

It was the first time she struggled with mental health, apart from the loss of her father as a teenager.

At the time, she said she found “gardening, and just doing planters, really therapeutic.

“It was extremely helpful, in keeping my mind out of that spiral.”

During an anniversary vacation to Montana, where she visited Tizer Botanic Gardens & Arboretum, Ott realized she didn’t need a background in horticulture or botany to turn her passion for gardening into a living.

“It was so peaceful and serene and you just felt at ease,” she said. Talking to the owners, she learned they started the place by planting our gardens, and putting their excess plants in their driveway for people to buy.

Bringing it back to the Lehigh

Ott decided to bring the idea to the Lehigh Valley.

“I have extra plants,” she said she thought to herself. “I could do that.” She opened her business in the spring of 2021, which she runs out of her home.

“What I think is most therapeutic is actually getting your hands in the soil and in the dirt,” Ott said.

“Then when you stand back and are looking at what you've just created, that gives you a sense of pride.

“Gardening is good for the soul,” Ott said. “It's [a] great exercise for burning calories. It can lower blood pressure, it's good for your bones.

“It'll be a quick, simple, moment of just distressing from your day,” she said.

The hourlong "Breathe Easy" Lunchtime Plant Therapy workshops will happen at 12:15 on Wednesday, June 21 and Wednesday, June 28. The cost is $25 per workshop and includes supplies and complimentary refreshments.

For those who can’t make the lunchtime workshop, there will also be one at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 29. That one is a summer-themed outdoor potted planter arrangement workshop, which will have a lesson on easy techniques to create outdoor planters, as well as tips on how to maintain arrangements all summer long.

It has a $45 fee, with supplies and refreshments included.

The workshops at A Little Bit of Local are for a maximum of eight people per workshop, and registration is required.

Those who are interested can register here.