I believe that what you surround yourself with matters.

It makes a difference whether the walls hold protest posters or pictures of flowers. I once read that when patients in a hospital had a window where they could see vegetation, they got out of the hospital at least a day sooner. The hospital staff knew which rooms sped recovery.

On a more subtle level, the surroundings affect mental as well as physical health.

I had a dark, 6-foot-tall picture of Miles Davis playing the blues when my lover died of melanoma. It could not stay in my black-and-white dining room as it made me sad. I put it in my storage room, but it left a huge blank wall equally as terrifying.

My condo apartment is on the fourth floor overlooking a verdant garden, a robin nesting in the leafy greens. Sitting on the east facing balcony surrounded by tree tops is one of the joys of my morning coffee life.

The universe soon solved the blank wall problem. In the first-floor garage was a 6-by-6-foot canvas with a sign attached to it that said “Free.” Beth Nablo signed the abstract work. Upon a little investigating I found that she was a local artist who was in the collection of several small museums. The painting was white, pale blue, bright orange, yellow and pink squares. There was a small purple rectangle. On the back of the canvas was written “The Purple Door.”

That door was just where I needed to go. The future was gifted to me.

Why was the canvas abandoned? It has been my experience that packing and mailing a large painting can be a very expensive project, maybe a thousand dollars. I believe that someone moved out of the building and donated the painting instead of moving it. It now graces the blank spot in the dining room. Inspired, I try new doors often.

So I tried to grow a Norfolk pine in a pot. It turned its green needles a bright orange. I killed it within a month. My sister, Rene, informed me that I could not possibly grow that pine in hot, humid air. It was native to cool, damp climate like Oregon.

I was told that astrologically, Pluto is ascending so it is a time for changes, for getting rid of old situations and creating a new environment. Think of your living space like your brain and de-clutter it. Add some plants that bring you joy. Make an art project out of creating an orchid arbor out of bamboo. Choose one color or all white or a crazy patchwork of purple and oranges.

In the Keys, because it never freezes, orchids can be hung in the trees. Remember, an orchid is an epiphyte and does not need soil. It breathes carbon dioxide and puts out oxygen. Soak the roots in black tea for an hour. The roots and the leaves will plump up full of water. Remove the roots from the tea and tie the orchid up somewhere it will catch the breeze. Once a year the orchid will bloom again. Do not cut the old stem until the orchid has re-absorbed all of the nutrients from the stem and it is brown and dry. It’s a thrill to see the bud for the second bloom’s surprise appearance. Label your orchid with a tag that reminds you when it blooms.

Key West Master Gardener Robin Robinson was a columnist for the Chicago Daily News. Her books “Plants of Paradise” and award-winning “Roots Rocks and Rain: Native Trees of the Florida Keys” and the newest addition, “Sexy Shrubs in Sandy Soil,” can be found at the Garden Club. This column is part of a series developed by the Key West Garden Club. For information about plants, visit a compilation of previous columns at http://www.keywestgardenclub.com, Robin’s Columns.

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