Meet the green-fin­gered In­sta­gram­mers

The Observer Magazine - - Gardens -

I am for­ever read­ing how In­sta­gram is a bad thing for UK hor­ti­cul­ture, es­pe­cially from peo­ple who work in the in­dus­try. The highly staged pho­tos, the im­prac­ti­cal ideas, the shame­less doc­tor­ing with fil­ters: we’re told these all con­spire to give new­bie gar­den­ers a dis­torted view of hor­ti­cul­tural re­al­ity, set­ting them up for fail­ure. While in many cases these may be fair crit­i­cisms, on bal­ance I feel that the enor­mous ben­e­fits of the ’gram in ex­pos­ing us to new, in­ter­na­tional ideas far out­weigh the neg­a­tives.

The Bri­tish gar­den­ing me­dia gen­er­ally live in a place of sun­lit nos­tal­gia, circa 1880. With its abun­dant shots of vast Vic­to­rian walled gar­dens, vin­tage tools and wo­ven wil­low, I find the aes­thetic beau­ti­ful, but samey and ir­rel­e­vant to my life. In­sta­gram changes all that. As ab­so­lutely any­one can post pic­tures on it, the same cul­tural fil­ters of what con­sti­tutes a “good” gar­den don’t ap­ply. Quite apart from the sheer vol­ume of posts, there is such di­ver­sity, from every coun­try on the planet. It’s the ul­ti­mate mer­i­toc­racy, with a free­dom of ex­pres­sion that is vi­tal for cre­ative evo­lu­tion which, in my opin­ion, is of­ten sti­fled fled in the UK. And it’s work­ing!

While tra­di­tional gar­den­ing ning me­dia strug­gle to at­tract younger au­di­ences with its “landed gen­try” look, on new me­dia there is a huge flow­er­ing of hor­ti­cul­ture among the young. The hash­tag #plantsofin­sta­gram cur­rently ntly

shas more than 2m images. Think the cool kids don’t care about gar­den­ing? Search #PlantsMakePeo­pleHappy and #Plan­tDaddy and think again.

In south­ern France, botan­i­cal de de­signer @marce­lar­i­um_ has con­verted a whole room of his house, which con­nects his kitchen and lounge, with liv­ing wall­pa­per. Walk­ing over an in­dus­trial stair­case, a tun­nel of orch or­chids, ferns and cloud­for­est plants en en­velopes you, com­plete with po poi­son dart frogs hop­ping around. Both @na­tureroshi303 and

@kou­ji7655i in Japan de­sign jaw­drop­pingly beau­ti­ful aquas­capes (un­der­wa­ter gar­dens) in glass tanks. These trop­i­cal streams, both above and be­low the wa­ter­line, are per­fectly recre­ated with what can only be de­scribed as a foren­sic level of de­tail. I am in love!

In Asia there are many va­ri­eties of moss to buy for or­na­men­tal hor­ti­cul­ture. In the UK the only thing with “moss” writ­ten on it in the gar­den cen­tre is moss killer. The Chi­nese ac­count @mossart.cn makes mag­i­cal fairy­lands of moss on logs, dishes and wa­ter. In the same game, @ michikusa3193 might al­most beat them.

I have a fas­ci­na­tion with the videos of @bon­saicn, which show tiny saplings be­ing trans­formed into an­cient-look­ing, gnarled, twisted spec­i­mens in a mat­ter of min­utes us­ing noth­ing but scis­sors and metal wire.

Fi­nally, over in the US the Ore­gonbased @pis­til­snurs­ery cre­ates the most beau­ti­ful liv­ing wall hang­ings us­ing epi­phytic plants mounted on slabs of wood. Mim­ick­ing the nat­u­ral habi­tat of these plants on tree branches, they look the­atri­cal, but it is the eas­i­est way to grow the species. Scroll through and be in­spired. ■

Square deals: (clock­wise from top left) @na­tureroshi303, @michikusa3193, @kou­ji7655i, @marce­lar­i­um_, @mossart.cn, @pis­til­snurs­ery

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