Diagram of a love for plants gone bad
(2016) Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 34 (2), pp. 337-354.
This article uses a surprising horticultural event—an unplanned, collective ‘theft’ of plants from the Montreal Botanical Garden in 1981—as impetus to interrogate the contribution of garden plants to public life in so-called ‘green’ cities of the late twentieth century. As sites of both social nature and material culture that are perceived as socially and environmentally beneficial and frequently designed to appear more-or-less natural, gardens are normally quite difficult to see or think in politically differentiated terms. Taking a historical ‘eventalization’ of civic horticulture as a means to enable critical perception, I develop the diagram (as introduced by Foucault and interpreted by Deleuze) as an analytical tool conducive to identifying and historicizing the perceptual and socio-spatial effects produced by the use of garden plants in urban public spaces. I outline the local historical context of the theft at the Botanical Garden and analyze the functioning of a program of horticultural beautification coincident with it as a means of establishing the theft’s more general intelligibility. This illuminates, not only a change in the functioning of plants in Montreal’s urban landscape, but also a means of recognizing the historical specificity of relations between people and plants, and socio-cultural change as more-than-human. © 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.
civic horticulture; Diagram; plants; public gardens; social nature; urban environmental history