Guilty Gardener Syndrome

As I wrote about in the previous blog I have this dilemma about using nature’s bounties. I believe that one should tread carefully and thoughtfully through our world and try and be as conscious of the impact those footsteps may make.

A huge part of my life now is food growing and gardening. I think that is possibly one of the best ways to feel connected to nature whilst gaining a small portion of control over my consumption. Most of all though, I get extraordinary pleasure from the garden and I’m not sure I would survive London without these days.

But all of this is incredibly egocentric. In order to make my South-facing vegetable patch I destroyed a huge corner of bramble bush. That’s an entire ecosystem, home and food to many many more creatures that I ripped out to make room for my straight lines of carrots and beetroots. And that is me getting ‘more in touch with nature’?!

Our garden was abandoned for years and over run by ivy, bramble, goosegrass, nettles, comfrey etc. Every time we have tried to gain control (argghhh) over a corner of the garden this dilemma has been huge for me and led me into a project about weeds and the hierarchies man has imposed on nature, going right back to Aristotle’s Scala Naturae or Great Chain of Being, which puts man (then woman) at the top, second only to God.

1579 drawing of the Great Chain of Being from  Didacus Valades ,  Rhetorica Christiana

1579 drawing of the Great Chain of Being from Didacus ValadesRhetorica Christiana

So the exhibition I had, Forage, was to venerate the humble weed. This case of ‘guilty gardener syndrome’ had me categorising the weeds I uprooted, collecting and binding them. They formed these chrysalises, cocooning the weeds. As they went through their metamorphosis the weight changed, the binding became looser and began to unravel. They were a real homage to both the weeds and nature’s cycles.

The cocoons were a basis from which to explore wider issues – the history of binding and women, bondage, the mythology or folklore of a particular plant, whilst also being a practical deweeding exercise!