The Devil Has The Best Horticulture

Some hard rockin' alstroemerias

Some hard rockin’ alstroemerias

Science, as anyone who has ever looked at anything on the internet ever will tell you, is not primarily concerned with faith. That’s not what it does. So when a survey is conducted to discover how plants react to music, and the results seem to favor the spiritually-dark rock stylings of Black Sabbath, you can’t blame a) science or b) the plants.

Gardening expert Chris Beardshaw and his students are the people behind the experiment, which is a larger version of the old science fair favorite “Does A Lima Bean Grow Better If I Talk To It?”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time (helpfully quoted in the Guardian), Chris explained:

“We set up four glasshouses with different sorts of music in to see what happened to the plants. We had one that was silent – that was a control house – and we had one that was played classical music, we had one that was played Cliff Richard and we had one that was played Black Sabbath.

“It was alstroemerias we were growing and we bombarded these glasshouses with sound for the life of the plant. We were measuring incidence of pest and disease, we were measuring inter-nodal distance, we were measuring the floriferous nature of them and that sort of thing and so the one that was grown as a control house grew really well as you’d expect.”

Here’s where it all gets interesting:

“The one that was grown with classical music — a soft, almost a caressing of the plant when it is hit with that sort of soundwave — those grew slightly shorter because of the soundwaves bombarding them and were slightly more floriferous and there was slightly less pest and disease.”

Those lucky blooms must have felt nurtured, and loved, but perhaps a little cosseted. Not like this next lot…

“And the ones with Black Sabbath — great big, thumping noise, rowdy music — they were the shortest, but they had the best flowers and the best resistance to pest and disease.”

Because adversity breeds resilience, that makes sense. But he mentioned four glasshouses. Was the last one a literal hothouse of spiritually uplifting mellifluence, with enormous great big floral BEASTS? Well sort of…

“The alstroemerias in the Cliff Richard house all died. Sabotage was suspected but we couldn’t prove it.”

Nature can be a very harsh critic.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser is a British writer, broadcaster and the the author of the book Stuff Brits Like. He is Anglophenia's resident Brit blogger, having written BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog, the Top of the Pops website, and for NME, the Guardian and elsewhere. Favorite topics include slang, Doctor Who and cramming as much music into Anglophenia as he can manage. He invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic
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