Planting is a political act.
There is a systemic suppression of access to the plants that have feed and healed us for thousands of years. Coupled with an indoctrinated need for tidiness which is implemented through fossil fuelled lawn mowers and toxic pesticides - our rightful access to the earth and the plant allies that inhabit it is being denied. To plant in a public space is an act of rebellion. Large contracting companies ‘look after’ these spaces but their intention is to do so quickly and cheaply. There is very little consideration of the larger ways urban plantings can benefit our cities - chuck a few natives in and spray on a schedule. This is all they put into the ‘care’ of our EARTH.
The many abandoned lots of Christchurch slowly were sprouted with many different pioneering plant species. Often called weeds, their messiness was seen as an eyesore and not the ecosystem of multiple uses it really was. The role plants had in the Christchurch CBD was subtle yet vital. Bees feasted on the nectar of flowers in spring and the birds ate these seedy flower heads in summer. The dust was held down in our savage winds that whipped through the air where once stood buildings. The shade provided by wilds leaves reduced water evaporation and cooled the city (I made that up but Im sure it happened - go sit amongst plants and then sit on a shingle river bed, which one is hotter?) Most of all, it offered us beauty. Maybe not the orderly garden beds convention has dictated we enjoy but a garden that is full of wonder, freedom, contrast, texture, year long interest and so often, a pop of a potential filled flower.
AND WE HELPED!
Many of the 9000 houses in the Residential Red Zones hit by the earthquakes were original villas and homesteads built for the foundling city and their gardens were well established. We rescued succulents and seeds from the onslaught of the bulldozers who were relied to erase the houses. The succulents made a perfect occupant of the recently shingled inner city spaces. Their ability to grow on poor soil and little water meant they flourished in their new homes. See below some of what we choose to grow.
15.8.2013 • SUCCULENTS ON MANCHESTER STREET
Little cairns of rubble made a wonderful garden bed. We poked compost amongst the nooks and their height meant that these precious and somewhat invisible plants didn’t get trampled.