"Look at all the plants!" is a common exclamation from the first-time visitors to my house. And it's usually followed by, "I love plants."

My house does look somewhat like a miniature rain forest and I have been accused of being a latent greenhouse keeper, I admit. But plants in the house serve so many functions, necessary both physically and psyche-wise.

One great function — and the primary reason for my burgeoning greenery is for decoration. There's practically no better, less expensive way to decorate and to hide a multitude of sins, than plopping and hanging plants around the house.

The apartment I rented in town for several years before buying my country haven was in an old Victorian. The wallpapers were not much younger than the house. But to paper over the dried and crumbling horsehair plaster behind the paper would have been impossible. I suspect that the old paper was all that was holding the plaster up.

The solution was plants. Since the apartment stretched out lengthwise to the south, with sun spilling through the tall Victorian windows, especially the living room bays, it begged for plants.

Also, my pocketbook was never in danger of overflow. And in the course of my rounds on my job at the time (selling ads for the Journal), I frequented every greenhouse in three counties. This afforded me the opportunity to adopt little baby plants at a very low cost and let them grow up in my house. Also, my clients often gifted me with plants.

As a result, I ended up with a mini-greenhouse of my own, from a rubber tree occupying a dining area corner to a spider plant cascading down from its ceramic hanging pot in the kitchen to a grand splash of blue and purple African Violets that all but dance in a profusion of blooms; to the schefflera and the weeping fig that sit on the floor in their big pots; to my prayer plant, still going from a portion of the parent plant I bought my first year back home t'Maine in 1979; to — well, you get the picture.

Some are now long gone. I don't have as many as when I was calling on the greenhouses, and some keep on keeping on. You can't, for example, kill a philodendron. (Well, you'd have to work hard at it.)

Plants are friendly. They soften the edges of walls and archways and draw the eye away from ancient wallpaper and the like. 'Course, here in my forest house, the walls are off-white and pleasant, so the plants don't have to carry the  load of distraction. They can relax and enjoy their surroundings, looking out on the forest.

Plants are our partners in the very air we breathe. They eat up toxins, including the carbon dioxide that we breath out (which plants, including trees, need to live) and give us back oxygen. (Want to cut down on carbon dioxide? Plant more trees and stop destroying the rain forests, aka the "lungs of the earth." Added bonus: We get  more oxygen-rich air.)

This is especially beneficial in winter, for obvious reasons. The spider plant is one of the best for "eating" noxious formaldehyde gases that escape from panel glues and carpets. Fortunately, I don't have those in my house as I am deadly allergic to them and would need to fill my house chock-a-block again with plants, instead of the saner number I have now.

Plants also give off heat and moisture, both crucial in our closed-up houses in winter.  But even if they served no outward purpose at all, I'd still have to have my plants around me, especially in winter and the unfriendly cold days in March, which, finally, are behind us. They are green, they are alive, they are friendly, and they stand as testimony that spring and growing things do come again. Which they finally are.

One thing you can never accuse spring of. It never comes too soon.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.