Need a green friend? Have too many?
Adopt-A-Plant was part of the Cultivating Windsor Project developed during my Neighborhood Spaces artists in residence program in Windsor, 2014. Adopt-A-Plant took place in a booth at the farmer’s market each Saturday alongside the other market vendors, and was set up by myself, the Neighborhood Spaces Program Coordinator Nadja Pelkey, summer intern Jennifer Ymana and our community partner Steve Green. In addition to its practical application as a space to share unwanted plants, the project was conceived as an opportunity to both promote conversation and knowledge exchange regarding plant life, and to challenge the common perception of plants as commodities rather than living things by emphasizing our personal relationships with them.
Visitors to the market were encouraged to participate in the project by bringing in plants that they may not want, need, or have space for. Once we created a presence in the market and the local news picked up the story, the project began to gain momentum. People seemed genuinely interested in sharing their unwanted plants rather than discarding them, while others, including many children, were particularly drawn to the adoption narrative and the opportunity to care for a plant as a new ‘green friend’.
We collected a database of these unwanted plant individuals, which included their life stories. Plants ranging from extra numbers of vegetable seedlings to perennial cuttings to thirty-year-old house-plants were all placed in our care. As the facilitators of Adopt-A-Plant, it was our task to find new homes for hundreds of plants over the course of the project. When the plants were put up for adoption their individual histories were paraphrased from their previous owners onto information cards so that their new owners would not only have a better understanding of the needs and care required for their plant, but also an understanding of its personal history which could be carried forward into its new life. Sometimes we were met with skepticism; at first glance it seemed strange that we were giving plants away for free, but once we explained the emphasis on the plants as living things needing good homes, more often than not conversations at the booth would turn to personal stories about memorable plant individuals; from family treasures to plants that would not die, took over yards, grew in unexpected places, and vegetables who survived winters or had strange shapes.
“..I wanted to email you and let you know about the home the home the plants have found! The curly parsley has found an outdoor space with other herbs including basil, mint and thyme.” - Martha K.