Gardening Insights From Edwards Greenhouse

Pruning and Growth

Both pruning and growth are essential for many plants and also our brain cells (neurons) -- a similarity that begs for exploration!

As I was pruning roses, I thought about why the selection of blooms and parts of canes to be removed help the lifecycle of the flowers we get to enjoy. The plants’ energy is used to produce more blossoms as the gardener wishes, and room is made for fresh growth.

According to Scientific American at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/courchesne-gene-expression/, in utero, 250,000 neurons are created in a baby’s brain every minute. Each neuron connects to other neurons far and near. As the child grows older, the brain is strengthened in some connections when the child learns and grows, and other unused connections are pruned. The above article explains how important the pruning of neurons is to healthy development as some children’s genes have been linked to an atypical lack of pruning, which Eric Courchesne, of the University of California, San Diego, posits may be seen in children with autism. The autistic brain, Courchesne found, has excess neurons in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for “executive functions” such as high-level thinking. Unused connections are not pruned away as they should be, and autism may result with social, linguistic, motor control or intellectual disabilities. (Although, not all researchers agree with this finding as a generalization about the autistic population. The medical community and others are eager to find ways to help this population, and more is being discovered every day, especially related to immune system functions, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20643381.)

We have seen the role of pruning in developing organisms. We now focus on new growth: freshly energized rose buds that are the glory of the garden with the rose bush sharpened up for new blossoms! The correlation in the brain? Neuroplasticity! It was once thought that the human brain grew all of its neurons in utero, and that no new neural connections were created throughout life. Scientists now know that the brain continues to grow neurons and neural connections until the end of life, known as neuroplasticity (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18499723). Therapists and other professionals are harnessing neuroplasticity for their clients, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21482550, including those with autism, as brains can become more functional. Just think what this means for new learning, growth, and development for a rich and satisfying life!

Plants’ and brains’ energy can be optimized. Pruning and new growth are part of nature, and can be influenced by human activity. Good things for gardeners and their loved ones!

 

Edward’s staff members are happy to provide support and advice throughout the gardening experience to strengthen each gardener’s skills at all experience levels.

 

Gretchen Weitemier

Occupational Therapist

Herbs and Veggies Worker