Trial Balloon

Does Talking Help?

Posted at 5:26 AM on June 4, 2009 by Dale Connelly (18 Comments)

Never mind today's news about high-profile political speeches that are intended to start meaningful discussions between billions of people in various foreign capitols.

What's the effect of things we say to plants?

Kate sent word earlier in the week of a project connected with the Royal Horticultural Society in Britain, looking at the effect of different human voices on the growth of plants.

It appears the British are "quite serious" about figuring out how to speak effectively to the vegetables. Auditions were held in April to select "The Voice of Wisley", the person with the most inspirational sound to promote human-plant communication. Selections included poems, stories, nursery rhymes, Shakespeare and cuttings from The Day of the Triffids, a science fiction novel by John Wyndham about stinging plants that can uproot themselves and walk around.

A London Times article described how the voice would be recorded, then played back through headphones attached to the pots of tomatoes. A professor of acoustics from the Universtiy of Salford, Trevor Cox, was quoted in The Times article.

"It appears that low-frequency sound might vibrate the plant and so affect its growth. So my recommendation would be to impersonate Barry White, or some Buddhist chanting at a low frequency, to maximise the chances of success."
All of this "Voice of Wisley" stuff happened in April, and yet there's no word of results yet from the gardens. Perhaps the plants have responded with vigor beyond our expectations, and are already on the march?

Who talks to their plants, and what do you say?
And if we were going to pipe music into the tomato-root headphones, what would it be?

Comments (18)

Good Morning!

Just what I need, another outlet for talking where I am not visibly listened to...

Boy this employment thing really cuts into my blogging time :-(

Have a great Thursday everyone!

Posted by mark | June 4, 2009 6:11 AM

I've read that the technique of talking to plants was pioneered at Findhorn Garden in northeast Scotland half a century ago. (More on Findhorn at this link.) Prince Charles has probably visited there.

I've talked to ailing plants to try to revive them, with mixed results. Some plants just seem determined to die. Still, it might help, can't possibly hurt, and it costs nothing.

If I were to offer them music, I would try Ladysmith Black Mambazo's "Beautiful Rain", or perhaps in this unusually dry spring, Tom Waits' "Hold On".

Posted by Linda in St. Paul (West Side) | June 4, 2009 6:34 AM

I'm not inclined to try unusual practices, such as singing, in my efforts to encourage better preformance from the plants I grow. However, I might be "missing the boat" and maybe I should try singing.

Perhaps I should play the music of the Orange Mighty Trio for my plants. I believe this trio, which includes my son-in-law - Zack Kline, will be on Dale's show on Saturday night. Their music is all instrumental but does include some low-frequency notes from the bass player, Nick Gaudette, that plants might like.

Thank you, Dale, for including the Orange Mighty Trio in your Saturday show. I think Radio Heartlanders will like this band that plays it's own unique brand of string music and includes the piano playing of Mike Vasick as well as Zack's violin playing and Nick on bass. Some of you might have heard them at the Cedar where they have played several times. They will be releasing their new CD at the Cedar next saturday, June 13th.

Posted by Jim | June 4, 2009 6:40 AM

When my daughter was small, I phased out all my live houseplants for silk. Now that she's older, I realize how much I liked having plants around. So we've started small w/ two little spider plants - Betty and Elvis. Not sure it's very scientific, but I talk to them when I bring the water around and they seem to be thriving - doubled in size over the past few months. Of course, they're spider plants -- not exactly difficult to keep alive, so I probably shouldn't take too much of the credit!

Have a great Thursday Heartlanders!

Barb in R - thanks for the dance link... looks intriguing!

Posted by sherrilee | June 4, 2009 6:41 AM

I do not talk to my plants... only to my computer. I hope the words spent on plants will have more effect on them than my seem to have on the computer.

Loving the music this morning. Always up for hearing Curtis Mayfield's voice, and I love that recording of The Clothes Line Saga! Thanks for the great music!

Posted by elinor | June 4, 2009 6:55 AM

Good Morning,

My plants don't seem to care what I say to them. Much like children, they just appreciate attention of some kind. We all like the same music, Radio Heatland first and foremost. Since I started working at the garden center my house and garden have become a plant orphanage and infirmary. Everyone gets encouraging words, weekly grooming, fish emulsion and water. Most are recovering, a few were terminal, life goes on. Time for me to get ready for another day... Everyone have a glorious Thursday!

Posted by Kathy in Wisconsin | June 4, 2009 7:12 AM

Thanks for the comments, everyone.
I want to clarify something Jim said about the Orange Mighty Trio. The group will be in our studio tommorrow (Friday) and I'm looking forward to it!
Unfortunately, we won't be able to "turn it around" quickly enough to have the interview on this Saturday night, but you can listen for it next week on Radio Hearltland, and we'll feature it on the Saturday night broadcast on June 13th.
Our guests this weekend will be Nikki and the RueMates, and we'll feature excerpts from Sunday night's broadcast of Jearlyn Steele concert.

Posted by Dale Connelly | June 4, 2009 7:27 AM

Greetings Heartlanders! I'm not much for conversation, so I don't talk to my plants -- although I do believe that helps plants thrive. I just don't know what to say (as usual). I read about the Findhorn Garden in college and that's a fascinating project.

I missed yesterday's blog -- but I'm a GREAT dancer! Almost any style or tempo, I can do it. Even though we took ballroom dancing right after we were married, my husband is terrible -- can't keep a beat. So sad ... So I mainly dance by myself.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | June 4, 2009 7:32 AM

My plants are lucky I remember to water them, so no, I generally don't talk to them.
Thanks for the Lou Rawls!

Posted by Amy in St Paul | June 4, 2009 7:34 AM

Since I've been living alone, I talked to everything -- plants, animals, bees, trees...and back to the radio and television...and, the computer, of course. Sometimes co-workers will come check on me to see who I'm talking to...but the plants, I remember sometime in the 70s (?) there was a study that determined (as I recall) classical music (or was it rock?) best for plants...especially Mozart. Or am I making this up? My plants got the Morning Show and now get Radio Heartland whether they like it or not.

Thanks for the Hora...anyone dancing?

Posted by cynthia in mahtowa | June 4, 2009 7:42 AM

And now horse-back riding throat music...excellent.

Do you have "I talk to the trees" from Paint Your Wagon (I believe)?

And isn't there a Dr. Dolittle song about talking to the animals?

Posted by cynthia in mahtowa | June 4, 2009 7:45 AM

what luck! back from the barn just in time to catch Ondar!!! i don't know about my plants, but that's the voice(s) i want to hear!
thanks, Dale and Mike!

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | June 4, 2009 7:45 AM

Thanks, Dale, for the clarification regarding the Orange Mighty Trio and thanks again for making plans to include them in your broadcasts.

Posted by Jim | June 4, 2009 8:01 AM

I will say I'm sorry in advance if the following message is posted twice. I'm having trouble with my computer this morning.

Thanks, Dale, for the clarification regarding the Orange Mighty Trio and thanks again for making plans to include them in your broadcasts.

Posted by Jim | June 4, 2009 8:07 AM

I sang to my tomato seedlings when they were in the house but I don’t plan on singing out in the garden.
My voice has a frog quality to it and I don’t mean Kermit. Come to think of it maybe that’s why they did so well.

Maybe “It’s not easy being Green” would be appropriate for tomatoes?

I think I’ll play some Tom Waits, and the one throat singing song I’ve got.
Louis Armstrong would also be a good voice for tomatoes…..or Johnny Cash.
I’ll have to think of what other voices are good for vibrating the tomatoes……

Posted by Kate from Eden Prairie | June 4, 2009 8:12 AM

I just thought of another one......

How about Leonard Cohen? I'm going to have fun making my Garden playlist!

Posted by Kate from Eden Prairie | June 4, 2009 8:19 AM

I'm not sure why, but it seems like the plants and veggies and trees would respond more to a live body talking or singing than canned talking or music. But I love the image of the headphones on the tomato pots!

Joanne -- have you ever been folk dancing?

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | June 4, 2009 9:01 AM

Barbara in Robbinsdale - oddly enough, no I have not done folk dancing -- although it does seem fun. I remember seeing the Morris Dancers at the Renaissance Festival -- I just love the idea of having jingle bells around your ankles.

I prefer the belly dancing I've seen at the Festival. I remember one time when the belly dancers would invite spectators to join in and learn a couple basics. That was cool -- I love the drama of castanets, little bells, doing the shimmy and swirling veils -- and it's just so darn sexy!

I saw your post about you teaching folk dancing. Sounds great! I don't like driving into the Cities, but I might check it out sometime.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | June 4, 2009 10:07 AM

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