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'Gardens are denied their political agency': Botanist blows the lid off racism and xenophobia in British garden culture

She’s exhausting, but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is on the cutting edge of wokeness. It was way back in 2019 when she argued that the reason community gardens fail is that we look at them through a “colonial lens.” Minorities keep trying to start community gardens, but then some white yahoo goes and colonializes the whole thing by planting cauliflower, a white person’s vegetable, instead of yucca.


It was actually the end of November when James Wong wrote a piece for The Guardian on the politics of gardening and the inherent racism in the U.K. gardening scene. “If you believe gardening should be a politics-free zone, you don’t consider it a form of art on a par with music, sculpture or cinema, but instead just a sort of frivolous pursuit of decoration,” he wrote, apparently inspired by an incident about five years ago when he was observing at a flower show “a design inspired by the issues facing displaced peoples around the world.” He writes:

That “native” or “heritage” are often used as a byword for “better” in UK gardening, even if the plants given this accolade aren’t actually either, reflects and reinforces inescapably political ideology. In fact, the very idea that politics should be kept out of gardening is itself a resoundingly political statement, as it dismisses the status quo as apolitical, objective reality and anything challenging it as inapposite “activism”.

That inspired a recent Twitter conversation with Ed Wall, head of landscape architecture urbanism at the University of Greenwich.



Working in U.K. horticulture can be mentally and spiritually exhausting.


Makes you think.





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