The garden is a place I return to over and over again.

Growing up in South Africa, focus was specifically drawn to indigenous plants- where they could be found, what their names were and how to best to ensure they grow. On every visit to the bush my mother would collect cuttings.

Flowers are minted into our money –  tiny travelling Proteas.

Jan Smuts was a botanist. During Apartheid, the government deployed botany and particularly flowers, as propaganda tools. With sanctions imposed on almost everything, flowers could represent South Africa on the world stage at international flower shows and in botanical gardens.

Botanical gardens are predominantly framed as being beneficial to the environment and society. Historically they have been concerned with economic botany and taxonomy, and were also established as key infrastructure of European colonialism and imperialism. Little has been done to address this in the postcolonial era.

Flowers talk.

‘Plant Blindness’ is a form of cognitive bias that refers to the inability to notice or recognise the plants in one’s own environment. The term was coined in 1998 by the Botanical Society of America.

Mesembryanthemums (meaning: noon flowering) or ice plants are a large family of flowering succulents native to South Africa. The Ice plant, Carpobrotus Edulis was introduced to California in the early 1900’s as an erosion stabilisation tool. Contrary to this, the ice plant establishes itself by forming a large thick mat that chokes out all other native species and alters the soil composition of the environment

Collector’s ethics.

California’s native Purple Sage is a coastal species which requires no watering and is good for soil erosion.

In 2001 special agents for the US Fish and Wildlife Service carried out a covert investigation into the international smuggling of cycads from South Africa to the US. In a sting operation dubbed ‘Operation Botany’ two plant traffickers were apprehended for the illegal shipment of over $800 000 worth of these rare plants to San Francisco Airport. T he ambiguity of the case resulted in light sentences for the men and government lawyers were forced to acknowledge that it was difficult to get stiff sentences for those who commit crimes against the environment.

In 1967 Everett Dirksen made an argument for designating the “native” marigold as the official emblem for the United States, nominating it for being national in character and symbolic of the pioneering spirit. The marigold is indigenous to Mexico, following a period of cultivation and naturalisation in Europe it was introduced to America in the 1700’s.
Instead, the rose took the crown.

Common Wealth
Commissioned by Machinalochi Space, Berkeley California
Digital print on static cling vinyl