More than Matter - Encounters with Plants and Place
More than Matter - Encounters with Plants and Place

We were joined by editor, writer & PhD Candidate Georgina Reid, leading Sydney-based artist Janet Laurence and Acting Chief Executive and Chief Scientist at the Botanic Gardens of Sydney, Brett Summerell.

The evening’s conversations explored the question posed in Amitav Ghosh’s The Nutmeg’s Curse: ‘What if the idea that the earth teems with other beings who act, communicate, tell stories and make meaning is taken seriously?’

The speakers reflected on the importance of understanding plants and the plant world through doing – getting our hands dirty – and being present in nature as a means of learning.   This led to a discussion about plant maintenance – is there a missing link between designers and the ongoing care for the landscapes we design?  Or perhaps not enough thought has been given to long-term care - what do these landscapes look like in 50+ years?  Georgina Reid noted, “the word maintenance applies to fixing an engine or a machine.  Why are we not saying how much gardening does this project require?"

Brett Summerell talked about how plants communicate with one another.  However, it is a different timeline to how humans communicate – it may take years for plants to send messages to one another. Simply because beings do not communicate in the same way as us, we should not assume that they do not communicate at all.   "Plants don't talk to one another. Fungi help plants talk to one another. Plants live in a fungal world and that is what facilitates them."

There was great discussion between the speakers around plants and the crossovers/differences between disciplines (writer, designer, artist, scientist).

Brett noted that “Working with Artists across a whole range of different media, different ways in which plants can be interpreted and different ways in which their story can be told. Every single species has its own unique story to tell, its own unique way it has adapted to the environment, its own unique ways it interacts and intersects with all the other organisms, provides habitat and works within that space."

Janet agreed that "Art has the possibility of bringing a breadth of ways of looking at things. It can be based on science and truth, but doesn't necessarily have to tell the truth. It can leave things open as questions and invite people in."

As part of the event, TCL purchased seeds from IndigiGrow, an Indigenous-owned native plant nursery in La Perouse.  The species included the Flannel Flower - Actinotus helianthin, Lemon Myrtle - Backhousia citriodora and Heath-Leaved Banksia - Banksia ericifolia.  

The event had over 40 landscape architects and plant lovers in attendance, and over 150 native plant seeds were distributed as an ongoing contribution to biodiversity in Sydney. Hearing the crowd buzz and share a collective love for plants and the natural world was a wonderful experience. 

Field Conversations are evenings that identify progressive avenues of inquiry, discover new territory for design, and inspire innovative forms of practice. This was our first Sydney-based event, and we’re looking forward to hosting future Field Conversations in the Sydney Studio. 

TCL acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — the traditional custodians of the land on which we work. We respect their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture and recognise that sovereignty has never been ceded. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.