On Valentine’s Day, about 70 students at the University of Florida gathered to celebrate love — specifically, self-love.
At the heart of their event, called “Love Yourself Night”? Plants.
“Plants have been found to be a great form of therapy,” said Deneen Wang, a member of Campus Diplomats, the program’s organizer, whose mission is to cultivate a culture of health and wellness for students and faculty.
Wang learned of plants’ calming qualities through the Collegiate Plant Initiative, a now-national organization founded at UF in 2017.
The group, which partners with several floriculture companies and organizations, conducts and shares scientific research about plants (and flowers), demonstrates experience the joy of green gifts through biannual “plant drops,” and encourages students to consider a career in horticulture, no matter their major.
“On Valentine’s Day, the focus is usually about love between couples,” Wang said. “But it’s extremely important that you love yourself first before you love anyone else.”
Throughout February 14, the diplomats sat at tables with candy and stickers that promoted self-love. They encouraged passersby to look in a mirror and write a note about what they love about themselves. “If any of the existing notes resonated with people, they were allowed to take them,” Wang said.
The event concluded that evening with a plant giveaway — with one small caveat. People had to write a love letter to themselves to “earn” a plant.
Virginia Frazier, executive director of CPI, said the organization fields many requests from other student groups interested in partnering. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the means to accept all of them,” she said. “This event, however, seemed to align really well with what we do.”