Gardens Contained and Floating

The resilience of plants has allowed man to create works of art through the exercise of imagination and experimentation.

Text by Lauren Palmor
Photography by Annelie Bruijn

“Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination.”
— Mrs. C.W. Earle, Pot-pourri From a Surrey Garden: The Classic Diary of a Victorian Lady

People have always shaped plants. For the past 4,000 years, gardening has had a prominent place in global culture, from the ancient hanging gardens of Babylon to the Mughal garden fronting the Taj Mahal and from the gardens of Versailles to Central Park. Since the beginning of the 21st century, gardening and the placement, care and shaping of plants have been influenced by developments in visual and ecological culture. Though plants continue to affect many aspects of our lives, they do so now through contemporary lenses of sustainability, art, radical design, environmentalism, and the strong do-it-yourself attitude of young, creative people around the world. In recent years, the way we shape, manipulate, and employ plants has been affected by new awareness, imagination and creativity.

Contemporary artists, designers, gardeners, and craftsmen have been innovative in their handling of plants. Around the world, young visionaries are using a wide variety of materials and physical locations to alter our daily experience with florae, and by so doing, greatly heightening the public’s awareness of their natural environment. Despite being raised in various conditions under sometimes experimental circumstances, plant life continues to evolve, grow, and thrive.

Terraria are a good example of plants’ ability to grow under strict conditions tempered by aesthetic and physical restrictions. Though terraria have been in existence for nearly 200 years, they have only recently undergone a revival, which has altered their character and increased their popularity among a younger generation. The terrarium was invented accidentally in 1829 when a doctor from London, Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward discovered plant growth in a jar, which held moss and a moth’s cocoon. While waiting for the cocoon to hatch, the doctor saw small plants growing from underneath the moss, a surprise to him, given that the jar was sealed.

Read more in N˚3: Fight.