The Virtual Garden
This website is a sketchbook exploring ideas for The Virtual Garden, a project which will connect green spaces in 5 cities across the globe in a shared VR environment.
In the COVID lockdown parks, public green spaces and gardens were the only places people could meet. The necessity to meet outdoors made a bench by a lake, a tree stump, the wall around a fountain hotspots for conversations. Recognised already as sites for wellbeing, walking and talking, lockdown reconfirmed the importance of green spaces in cities.
Imagine during a walk in your local park being able to tune in to conversations in another park, in another city, another country.
The virtual garden will present conversations about plants between people from five different cities. Experts and amateurs, gardeners and park visitors will explore roots and branches of plant culture and the history of plant migration. Through curated conversations the site will propose alternative taxonomies for plants that reflect a contemporary, international plant culture. The project will be illustrated with botanical prints, which also have their own stories to tell about plant chemistry and the interaction of plants with their environment.
The project itself will examine our increasing interconnectedness through technology and the ways in which organic metaphors conceptualise digital structures.
This website contains ideas, themes and ambitions for The Virtual Garden project, a prototype virtual garden experience, produced in collaboration with Paula LLywarch and a botanical print garden, a journey through botanical space that features botanical prints, and details about the botanical printing processes used to produce the plant illustrations on this site.
This virtual garden project will connect green spaces from five cities around the globe, immersing users in 360 videos of the parks and gardens with layers of text, sound and botanical prints guiding their exploration and providing a narrative experience. Users will pass from one garden to another connected by common plants. So, a Fatsia Japonica in Liverpool may lead users to a Fatsia Japonica in Shanghai.
The layers of the gardens will peel back to reveal shared plant cultures and history, stories of migration, food and celebration, folklore and healing. Narratives will be added by botanists, gardeners, and visitors to the gardens, to form a compendium of plants that will be accessed by plant labels in the garden triggering text, sound files and illustrations.
Garden visitors will be encouraged to collect cuttings that they can download and share on social media through virtual Wardian cases, and these devices will also be used for visitors to connect their own stories to specimens in the gardens as text or audio files thereby sharing their experience, knowledge, stories of plants with others in different parts of the world.
Botanical prints will add another layer to this experience. In contrast to the digital technology of the 360 video, the prints add an organic element that speaks of plant chemistry, particularly around colour, and echoes the natural processes of the garden.
The botanical prints on this site have been made by compressing plant material between layers of cloth and paper soaked in combinations of alum acetate or sulphate, iron sulphate, green tea, onion skin tannin, iron water made from found objects, including, my neighbour’s father’s old nail tin and a rusty trowel.
References & Credits
Prototype Virtual Garden Production - Paula Llywarch
Thanks to Maggie Pearson – for teaching me botanical printing - https://www.bymaggienaturally.co.uk/
Armitage A.M. Of Naled Ladies and Forget-Me-Nots Lightning Source Uk (2017)
Beazley M. RHS Botany for Gardeners Quarto Punlishing (2013)
Behan B. Botanical Inks: Plant-to-Print Dyes, Techniques and Projects Quadrille Publishing Ltd; Illustrated edition (31 May 2018)
Bernhardt P Gods and Goddesses in the Garden Rutgers University Press (2008)
Gooley T. The Natural Navigator Virgin Books (2011)
Harrison L. RHS Latin for Gardeners Quarto Punlishing (2012)
Johnson O & D More Collins Tree Guide HarperCollins (2004)
Lack H.W A GArden Eden: Masterpieces of Botanical Illustration Taschen, (2016)
Mabey R. Flora Britannica Chatto & Windus / Sinclair Stevenson; First Edition (7 Oct. 1996)
Moore A. & Meijer F.G. Unearthed Photography's Roots, Dulwich Picture Gallery (2020)
Schiebinger L. & Swan C. (Eds) Colonial Botany University of Pennsylvania Press (2005)
Thomas S. Technobiophilia: nature and cyberspace Bloomsbury (2013)