Q&A: Connecting With Nature Through Plants with @infinitesucculent
Rachael Cohen (@infinitesucculent) is a botanical stylist and environmental educator living in San Diego with her husband, two daughters, their dog, and lots and lots of plants. Rachael’s life mission is to reconnect and engage others with the natural world, which she achieves through Infinite Succulent, her styling and educational services that touch upon environmental stewardship. Read on for an insight into her conservationist beginnings, how plants are a therapeutic influence, and a look into the winning combination of plants and crystals!
Many thanks to our interviewer, Elise!
Oh it really is all about the balance or lack thereof sometimes! Being a full-time small business owner and mom/wife definitely brings up challenges, especially related to time management, yet I don’t think I would want it any other way! I love being able to create space for my family and for myself through the works I put out into the world.
For as long as I can remember I have felt an irresistible pull toward the natural world. As a kid, flora and fauna always captured my attention; trees and insects were some of my earliest and dearest friends! I began my professional career as an Environmental Educator (with an ocean focus) teaching others about Nature at amazing conservation organizations like the San Diego Zoo and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It wasn’t until I turned to “playing with plants” as a form of therapy to deal with post-partum anxiety and depression (about 5 years ago) that I truly found my fulfilling love for working with plants. When I first began creating art with succulents, I had no idea that it would lead to so much growth and development for me, personally and professionally, even leading me to writing my first book (Infinite Succulent: Miniature Living Art to Keep or Share, Countryman Press, 2019). These days I combine my love for creating living art and nature-filled spaces with my deep desire to teach others about Nature and our true connection with the natural world.
My days (and nights too, let’s be honest) are definitely full and at times even a bit disjointed as I bounce around between installations for clients, preparing for workshops, getting some writing done and also taking care of the kids and the whole home front too! Yet I think that when you are doing “work” that fills you up - that aligns with what you feel naturally inclined to focus on - than the energy that you expend into those activities actually comes back to you tenfold! When I am in moments of fullness, busy doing work that I love, it’s amazing how energized I feel! While the work I do is varied and has bounced around from training wild animals like dolphins and lions, to teaching school kids about ocean ecosystems, to now creating beautiful nature-filled spaces, my desire to reconnect others with the infinite power of Nature has always been my inner compass.
So, here is what I currently do and offer through Infinite Succulent:
- Custom orders of living art for homes and businesses (some of which I can ship around the country)
- Larger installations (including amazing WallyGro plant walls) and botanical styling for homes and businesses (and some plant maintenance)
- Public and private workshops and planting parties
- Event décor and corporate gifts
- Public presentations and book signings (focused mainly on the benefits of getting creative with plants and the health and wellness benefits of working with plants and Nature)
- Free educational content via my blog and my Instagram account
I am also very excited as I will soon be offering a new service that, while separate from botanical styling, focuses on the positive energetic benefits of working with plants and Nature!
I love the clean and simple aesthetic of the Eco planters. I love how you are able to create beautiful tapestries of life through the designed placement and colors of the planters – whether they be close together, or more spread apart. I adore how easy they are to plant up and how the design keeps in mind the health of the plants – with a watering reservoir in the back and “breathing holes” in the front to ensure oxygen flow and uptake into the root zones as well. I also totally appreciate how simple they are to install, and how each time I complete an installation I feel accomplished and pretty kick-ass!!!
The element that I am the most grateful for, though, is that they are a sustainable product and a great demonstration of how businesses can always keep the health of the Earth in mind. I am thrilled that you all make these Eco planters out of recycled plastic – and I will always go above and beyond to support companies and brands seeking to be part of the solution to our current environmental degradation problems.
Sometimes the idea of connecting with Nature can be intimidating for people, especially for those who never enjoyed hiking or camping or spending copious time outdoors. Personally, I believe the first and most elemental thing we all can do to connect with Nature is to remind ourselves that we humans are as much a part of Nature as the plants and animals that capture our hearts. I believe that connecting with Nature is in reality a reconnection with our truest selves. I believe the natural world is always available to us – no matter where we live - just waiting for us to get present enough to truly see and feel the wellness and beauty of the world that we are so lucky to call home.
For those of us living in urban areas, with little access to larger swaths of natural spaces, it is important to remember that connecting with Nature is our birthright, and that all it takes is presence in the moment and a view of something organic – whether that be a tree, a houseplant, a bird or even the sky. Connecting with Nature can be as simple as being still long enough to appreciate the swaying of leaves in the breeze, the dancing of birds in the sky, or the determination of a dandelion growing out of concrete.
As an experienced environmental educator, it’s been extremely depressing to think, read and speak about all the damage and destruction we have wrought upon our beautiful planet. I have spent years dealing with depression and anxiety due to this topic. Yet working with plants has reminded me of the resilience of our natural world and convinced me that despite all the challenges we face related to habitat destruction, species extinction, pollution and climate change, we must remember that abundance and balance are the natural states of this world.
Here are some of my favorite ways to connect in with Nature:
- Get Outside* and Get Present: Take out the earbuds, silence your phone and just BE with your view of Nature. Focus on your senses and get mindful – what is one element of Nature you can see? One you can hear, smell, touch, taste (be careful here of course! Sometimes I just lightly stick my tongue out to catch any “flavors” I can pick up in the breeze) and then really get present with how you are feeling as you allow yourself to just take in your surroundings. (*This can be accomplished by looking out a window as well, especially during colder and wetter winter months).
- Bring Nature Into Your Homes and Workspaces: Decorating and caring for plants is one of the most rewarding ways to reconnect with Nature in urban settings. Take some time to decorate your spaces with all the plants, along with stones, shells, crystals, wood or other elements of Nature that please your eyes and speak to your heart. I often call these special tokens of Nature ‘talismans’, and I enjoy creating little vignettes around my home, office and studio with plants paired with wood, crystals, shells and feathers – often items that have presented themselves to me over many excursions into Nature. Throughout my daily routine, and especially in moments when I feel stressed, I make sure to take a few minutes to be around some of my talismans – petting and caring for my plants and allowing the talismans to bring up joyous feelings from past adventures.
- Do Something to Give Back to Nature: Bring along your reusable mugs, water bottles and bags; plant a tree or a garden; get mindful about your consumption habits; take part in a community clean-up or donate (what and when you can) to organizations doing the good work on the ground and share what you are doing with others! Taking some action to be a part of the solution reminds us that we are not separate from Nature, and makes us feel proud and purposeful too!
Yes I do make the Crystal Succulents! They are actually my best-selling items, both online and at the boutiques that carry my living art. I plant rooted succulents into pre-drilled crystals, using a special blend of soil and additives to keep the plants super happy in their stone homes. While crystals are certainly beautiful to behold - and it was their beauty that initially drew me to them as a young child - crystals are also extremely beneficial on the energetic level, as they are vessels of stable and powerful energetic vibration and have been used by humans over centuries as tools to balance, influence and align our own energies.
I know it may sound really “woo woo” and out there, but really it all comes down to ENERGY. Everything in our physical world is made up of energy – countless atoms vibrating at different rates and frequencies. We humans are no exception, we are constantly vibrating energetically, taking in and giving off energy. As humans our energy is unstable, constantly being influenced by our surroundings, our interactions, our thoughts and our emotions. It can be exhausting really, am I right?! Yet we can actually tap into the vital life force energy that flows throughout our world and through us, the energy that is always present in Nature ( this energy is referred in Chinese medicine as chi and in ancient Sanskrit as prana) in order to balance our vital life force energy and most importantly feel better!
Crystals are powerful tools for energy work because due to their geometric structure and chemical makeup, they possess and emit a stable energetic field – referred to by science as the crystal lattice. The crystals that I offer are chosen due to their specific stable energetic vibrations – and their ability to elicit within ourselves better feelings. I offer crystals that are associated with the 7 main chakras in the human body (chakras are vortexes within the body that are responsible for our personal flow of prana/life force energy). If you want to learn more about chakras and how they impact our health and wellness, please check out my blog post, Succulents for the Chakras.
If you are wondering why an environmental educator and botanical stylist is going on and on about crystals and energy, it is because they have helped me in my own life. I have dealt with many issues related to anxiety, depression and low self-worth for decades, and began to notice huge benefits in the way I felt when I began working consistently with plants and crystals. I began to study more and about a year ago I became certified as a Crystal Energy Worker. I am currently studying to become a Pranic Energy Worker as well (which is mode of energy healing, similar yet distinct from Reiki). In fact, I am about to launch my Crystal and Plant Energy Session services to go along with the styling and education services that I already offer! In these sessions, I use crystals and live plants as well as my hands and the client’s own breath and presence to cleanse and realign the 7 main chakras, leaving recipients feeling lighter, more relieved and often more energized too. It’s a service that I am really excited to begin offering, because it is a very personalized way for me to continue my personal mission of connecting others with the invigorating and infinite powers of Nature.
Thanks to Rachael for sharing her story and her methods with us! See her work on social media: