The Royal Academy of Antwerp Garden Patches

Making Sense

Let's make a community garden together. 

20 June 2024


Poster announcement for the weekly gardening sessions,
presented ont he Art & Research message boards.


In September 2023 we started 'Making Sense' a two-year artistic research project taking place in the old garden of the Royal Academy Antwerp. It follows the previous project 'A Sympoiesis Garden' and continues to restore the local ecology by the multispecies collective practice. From an ecofeminist perspective we learn to rethink traditional gardening in response to climate change and global inequalities. We organise weekly open sessions and invite all the students who would like to join for a cup of tea and gardening together.


The fragrant black tea from Taiwan is a gift by Cian Ti Wang.
Weekly tea tables were arranged with the help of Bernadette Zdrazil.


With this project we enter the field of ecology with curiosity, we have no antennae, no whiskers, no sharp eyes like some birds have, but we have human hands and through our fingers we turn stones, hold branches, dig (a little bit) through the surface of the sand and at the end of the day when we look up from the world under our feet we see light entering the garden slantly between the tree branches. Thousands of insects fly together in the evening light. The birds are singing. A snail sits nearby. A seedling grows between the grasses. It is a wonderful feeling to be a part of this multispecies collective.  The Sympoiesis Garden concluded with 'It is the garden who makes us gardeners'. 


Now we take a step into the wild. What does it mean to garden in this collective? 


For decades the maintenance of the garden aimed to keep the style intact.
The intend was to make it look 'clean'. September 2023

What can we do when we see our fellow critters disappearing? How can we react to climate change, habitat loss and the decline in biodiversity? Not to be immobilised by the solastalgia or eco-anxiety, we want to act, react, respond, connect, touch, feel, hold, support, repair, sow, grow and make a difference by learning to garden together. The old set of garden rules will not help us now, they were written down for different purposes. We’ll have to learn to garden together before it starts to make sense. We’ll have to use our senses before we understand the meaning of this project. This research project is an experimental practice of being there. To be present.


During the year there were different modes of being present, for gardening, for an ecology course, for an exhibition, for a picnic, a visiting artist, inspecting a bird nest, making a new artwork, cleaning up, meeting for a cup of tea...


During Antwerp Art Weekend Sophia Kuri created a work with wool,
she wrapped the pedestal in a long thread.
The work was executed with the help of other students from the In Situ department


Recycling materials: we washed the old shells we found in the spoil heap from a building site nearby. 


The garden sessions often combined planting small potted plants,
a direct way to get to know other species.

When Brandon Ballengée visited we organised a picnic with the students from the In Situ department.


For ARTICULATE week we invited Débora Gomes de Oliveira, linguist and performance artist.

Her introduction to ecolinguistics opened new perspectives on artistic practices as well as gardening.

Artistic researcher Saskia Van der Gucht gives a lecture on the finite material sand, 
presenting here her practice of material investigations and artistic colaborations.

The master students of several disciplines had the opportunity to get involved during ARTICULATE week, with a program of daily gardening sessions and ecofeminist theory.

For Aria, the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts, we invited Aurélie Disasi as companion to give a garden tour. Unfortunately, since we were both giving the tour, we don't have a good photo.

During 'Open House' the students of In Situ gave a garden tour.

The publication 'The Sympoiesis Garden' was made about last year's project.

With flower we marked patches in the lawn where wild plants are seeded for increased biodiversity.


Gardening in European traditions comes with an old handbook written in the Enlightenment years, structured along botanical taxonomy and filled with instructions on how to use the tools in the shed. If anything, we have seen that this approach will not make sense out of gardening in global and local perspective. How are we supposed to use the old dichotomies 'nature / culture', 'vulgar / cultivated', 'native / introduced', 'individual / community', and many more when they don't add up? What is it that makes people happy when the grass is mown, when the hedges are square, when the ivy is torn down and the roses pruned? None of this is nice towards nature. If a garden means 'contained, kept, clean, controlled, and neat' then it what does it say about humans? What is it that makes people reach for the pruning shears? Where does this mentality of forcing-nature-into-a-box come from? It's not a heritage from the Celts who thought trees were holy, it doesn't come from the prehistoric villages where forests were looked after by the locals, it's not part of a tradition of schlepping stones across the landscape because they mean so much to us. When did we lose our respect? It looks like our attitude towards gardens and nature changed along with our culture, shaping similarly our attitude towards art and artistic practices. The white walls of an exhibition space are equally 'neutral' as the monoculture-grass-field also known as a lawn; the pedestal is as square as a hedge. Both claim freedom of expression and both are captured in a story about freedom-as-opposed-to-what? Class? Slavery? Plantations? Mining? War? Dictatorship? Agricultural multinationals? 


The Academy garden is layered with history, the architecture and archaeology are very much present and gardening means to take account and respond carefully.

The scale matters, the complexity matters, the care for nature matters, even in an action as small as a bit of gardening. Only when we allow this gardening to transform us along with the changes we envision will this make sense. This is practice-based research, a methodology of being present, an open-ended experiment in a multispecies collective.


To think with an enlarged mentality means that one trains one’s imagination to go visiting."

-- Hannah Arendt, Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy


Only a few of the trees in the garden will provide food for the larvae of butterflies, in the 1840's the choice for which trees to plant was based on aesthetics rather than supporting the local community of wildlife.


Lonely trees

The style of the Academy garden is defined by the tall trees creating a closed canopy within the boundaries, it is an island of green in a brick city. These trees are not very old, estimated between 50 and 200 years, they were planted when the garden design followed the building of the Museum of Fine Arts around 1841 as an extension to the Academy. Some redesigning was done in 1905, many of the trees are from this time. 


They are:

Taxus baccata

Acer Pseudoplatanus 

Aeschulus hippocastanum

Fagus sylvatica

Carpinus betulus

Platanus x Acerifolia

Ailanthus altissima

Robinia pseudoacacia

Prunus laurocerasus

Aucuba japonica

Quercus ilex


The trees are stressed because of the compacting of the soil and the decreased oxygen levels. In winter many of the trees don't have leaves and they need to breathe through their roots. When the soil has been compacted by lots of people walking here the roots start to die. Without these trees the garden wouldn't look the same.


Plants that grow here are plants from here.


The conversation about which plants to save is tricky. So often these talks are reduced to a mirror of how people are treated when they arrive in Belgium, or who grows up as a second generation citizen, or third or even longer. I know because I am also one of those people who often gets asked ‘Where are you from?’ and I was born here. In my experience plants and human animals are very different and also not all that different. We can relate to plants. These feelings towards other living beings are something good, a precious quality in life. And yet we are nothing like most plants, people have been traveling around the globe for thousands of years, not-sitting-still is a typical trait to our species. From a gardener's perspective, humans have a tendency to move about. Walking through long grasses for generations, we left Africa a long time ago and kept walking, swimming, running; discovering continents until we became a global species. Settling down is such a recent invention we’re still not very good at it and one look at the world tells us living close to each other can use some improvement. 


Jackson Shallcross - Platt gave a workshop on rammed earth,
with these cubes we installed a temporary sculpture garden around a precarious tree bed.



Plants are not like us, except sometimes they are. The colonial plant hunters took plants out of their home – from oikos, ecology means ‘home’ – and planted them in solitude in a location where nobody spoke their language. Most of the times these plants adapt quite well, and all goes fine. Sometimes a species mutates, unhindered by local ecology and not being pestered by the usual caterpillars or other munching animals, these plants start to take over soil, grow by the thousands and overgrow all the others. It’s the ghost of the colonial times haunting us today in species loss, because of our own careless greed. The past has not left us, our histories are ongoing. Should we talk about ‘native species’ when we ourselves have arrived here only so recently? Compared to mosses and buttercups we could say we are not native. In the end, it all comes down to biodiversity and habitat. And we are a part of that diversity, the ‘natureculture’ works both ways, our little farms and curated forests gave lots of plants the opportunity to adapt to these new cultured settings and we can still do this today.


The Cherry laurel is growing in fron of a Hornbeam, the green shrub in the front is about ten years old, the tree in the back is at least a hundred years old.

There are several Cherry laurels in the garden and they self-seed in several areas. We decided to take this one out to save the Hornbeam, every week we took out some branches.

To further support the Hornbeam we added a bit of compost
and lots of community-building plants in its patch.

The cherry laurel had taken root in the disturbed soil where there used to be an oil tank, the archaeology had already been disturbed when the tank was removed from the garden.


Secret cutting technique


The cherry laurel growing in front of the hornbeam took a lot of light and nutrition away, putting the old tree under increasing pressure. Photos of the exhibitions in the garden show that the cherry laurel has self-seeded and is no older than 2015, in the process it grows extremely fast and has the ability to spread allelopathic substances in the soil, causing other plants to die. By 2023, the Hornbeam’s crown had withered before June even though it was not an exceptionally dry spring. Some of the branches died at the top of the crown. The Hornbeam belongs to the original planting design of the garden, circa 1905. It was probably not considered important as a species, but it is very important in ecology. Many insects and birds live from this tree. The risk of losing them seemed real and so we looked after the tree bed (removed Atlantic ivy, planted native species) and removed the cherry laurel. All this was done in consultation with the heritage department and with Krinkels nv. The archaeology in this location was already disturbed by an old mazout tank, so we did no further damage. The bird bush we planted in place of the cherry laurel is to support birds with the berries, and these shrubs are food plants for butterfly caterpillars. Every week we cut a few branches of the cherry laurel, almost no one commented on the changes.




From Natuurpunt we ordered several bare-root shrubs.


We planted and seeded a patch for birds and butterflies.

The shrubs are community supporting plants to increase habitat and biodiversity.


Ecology means community.


Only the Taxus, Hornbeam and Beech in the Academy garden are considered native, this means these species were here at least since the last ice age. The other trees were introduced about a hundred years ago. When someone took the Aillanthus altissima out of their ecological home in China he didn't bring the rest of the ecology with him. This tree now grows in the Academy garden as a lonely tree. There is no connection between this tree and the caterpillars, ants, fungi, composting leaves, birds, … all living in the same place. Feeling alone in the garden this tree brings lots of seedlings, roots sprout up between slabs of stone and the allelopathic chemical qualities of the roots inhibit the growth of other plants. Instead of blaming the Aillanthus, we should look at the ongoing history. When talking about these trees we can give them a voice and share their feelings. This more-than-human perspective isn't simply imagination. These trees were planted as curiosities without consideration for their feelings, and in this legacy we can at least try to give them a nice life in this garden. Ecology makes more sense when we understand our connections as a community. We know how a community works, and how it is not a recipe for complete safety nor a locked system of immobility, certainly a community is a very local shared habitat and it requires diversity.


For the annual Art Sale at the Academy we set up a garden table.

Overspill seeds and plants were sold at minimum prices to support students who make non-commercial works.

When no students were present an honesty tin took on the job.

The table also connected to the Academy library.

Being present we made a lot of gardener friends.

Open patches


Our recipe is quite simple: restoring ecology by increasing habitat and biodiversity. Guided by the natural occurrence of wild nature in this region we introduce plants that would normally grow here in abundance. We're not making a design for the garden; in our multispecies view it would be too anthropocentric to create a design on paper and then lay it out in the soil. Instead we follow the natural lay out of the garden, responding to the plants already growing in certain parts, sensing the conditions of the soil, looking for shade and sunshine. The maintenance of the garden consisted for many years of mowing the grass, cutting the hedges, cleaning the paths. The result is a soil with low nutrition values, ideal for wild plants that are getting rare in the rural landscape because of over-fertilisation from agriculture. The Academy garden can be a refuge for wild plants, they can move in and out of the garden. Plants have a habit of moving around over generations, growing a bit on this side for a couple of years to cross the path and grow on the other side for the next couple of generations. This slow movement is an active component of the garden. When we give agency back to the inhabitants we get a lively garden in return, full of surprises. The root systems of plants who chose their own location are less disturbed and better suited for extreme weather conditions, in general they thrive a lot better compared to our introduced plants who we tried to give as good as-we-can locations. 


Seeding the wild plants.

The wildflower meadow.


Grasses are incredibly strong, in comparison to their size they win in strength to almost anyone else living in this garden. And yet, there are bare patches in the lawn. This is good news for us, when the grasses don't grow in a closed structure it means there is room for diversity. Lawns have very little to bring in an ecological garden, they are water consuming, evaporating, intensely maintained and practically a monoculture. When even the strongest of plants doesn't want to grow, it means the conditions are better suited for other kinds. We added seed mixtures in the bare sand in the lawn. This is not how one makes a flower meadow. But a flower meadow is not our goal, although we call it a flower meadow on our information boards because there is hardly an alternative that describes what we do. The academy garden has a style, and we want to respect this. The garden breathes a calm, gentle, subtle, and comforting nature. Flowers are few and colour is almost lacking - except for green, purple and white. The trees create a cool shade, much appreciated by students and other passerby who like to stay for a moment.


The lawns already had a lot of open soil in them, we increased these and marked areas where seeds from wild plants have been added.

A different approach is to add a few plants and let them grow, die back and spread their seeds naturally.

This kind of gardening lets the plants decide where they want to grow,
it takes a minimum of three years to find out if this works some of the plants.

With bulbs we plant local species in the patches we assume to be best for them, 
to let these patches rewild will take several years.

We like to offer a helping hand in dispersing the seedlings.


A flower meadow would look very different from the original style of the Academy garden, the connotations with these grassland flowers are traditional farms, road sides, abundance and full colours. In some patches we planted several kinds of ferns, some even arrived on their own. In the sunny patch of tall grass we have sown seeds that would occur at the edge of the forest, in the ecotone between shade and sun, between moist and dry and on the edge of a tree-line. Flemish Heritage consulted us to opt for low plants. Keeping the original design of the garden in mind, we ordered seeds from Ecoflora Halle, Cruydt-Hoeck, and Stichting Levend Archief. These are wild plant nurseries. The plants they grow are the plants we are missing more and more in our 'wild' nature. These are the plants that disappear through loss of habitat and the use of herbicides and too much fertilisation. They are missing in our landscape, and because we grow up without them, they are missing from our memory. Generations of humans grow up without knowing the lost plants, bees and butterflies. Our grandparents knew some of the names of the spiders, beetles and butterflies that are now extinct in this area (the Red List* has 205 critters/mushrooms/mosses marked as extinct in Flanders in 2024), we don't know them, and we will not need the use of their names.



Seeds from wild plants would sooner or later arrive, we're helping them to get across the border.


Wild ferns are planted in the fern patch,
from here their spores can find suitable places to grow.

The fern patch when it was planted, in the shade of the Cherry laurel
and under a sad looking Hornbeam.

The seeds from October look mostly like small green plants now, 
they are still a bit invisible.

To raise awareness for visitors we planted some adult wild flowers
to give an idea of who is growing in the meadow.

Not all the flowering plants were added by us, the All-heal or Prunella was already growing here and took full opportunity to flower in No-Mow-May.

To remember where we didn't seed any wild plants we made a little path lined with shells.

The path is too narrow to walk comfortably, it's more of minimum stepping area for careful gardeners who still feel the need to enter this patch.

Some of the newcomers look like they have been here for ages,
and they probably have, like this common comfrey.


Who are you?

Let's get to know the plants that we don't see any more. The word 'colocation' means as much as two or more things located together. We're one of those two, the plants in the garden are the other, and bumblebees might be a third, a blackbird a fourth and so on. I'm hoping to create a memory in the mind of the visitor, an awareness that might be unaware as well, a bodily thinking, a sensory recognising of a plant and a moment in the life of this person. 



Ornithogalum umbellatum is a wild plant growing in the lawn of the Academy, possibly it was introduced by gardeners from the nature around Antwerp.

Another name for this plant is 'star-of-Bethlehem', it is unclear why it is called like this.



The Ornithogalum umbellatum will blossom with white stars in spring, when it's still a bit cold. It's the time of tasks, when most students need to come up with artistic solutions for assignments. Later the pink frilly petals of the cuckoo flower appear. The year is coming to an end, and a buzz is filling the corridors of the Academy. Flopping down in the grass after an exam students look at the purple beehive flowers of Prunella or Heal-all, some feeling relief and others feeling a bit stressed but still enjoying the sunlight. Hopefully these moments are stored in the back of their mind, in a stack of unnamed memories associated with location and time-related emotions. Years later, when they see these plants again, they might feel a kind of recognition where person meets plant and plant meets person in a colocation. This awareness of other living beings stored in our memories is a valuable clue to understand a multispecies collective. Just like now I know from memory the long nettles go with dusty knees running after butterflies, and mosses come with laying under a shrub on a hot summer day. This is us thinking together, with our body and our memory. We're thinking-together.



Roel Arkesteijn is the chair of the research group Art & Ecology, he has generously shared dead wood from his garden and three young Crataegus also known as Hawthorn and Maythorn shrubs.






Plant species


During the courses of Nature studies, ARTICULATE, and String Figure Patch we gardened with lots of students. We made seed mixtures in response to the soil conditions, for shaded and sunny patches, for dry and moist soil, for plants who like calcium because the old monks in the cemetery are also taking part in this garden project.



There are a few nurseries who work with wild plants, and for the garden we selected carefully which organisations have a heart for nature and offer the wild plants instead of garden varieties. This photo was taken at the annual plant fair for Natuurpunt, a nature preserve organisation.



We can make three lists of valuable plant species in the garden: who is already there before we started to join in gardening, who can we introduce, who naturalises? Plants who can’t survive without (a lot) of our help and who don’t naturalise and will eventually disappear. But some plants will find a natural habitat and eventually we’ll find a balanced diversity in a natural ecosystem. 



This map was printed with the help of Track Report
and added to the research magazine Forum + 

About a 1000 extra posters were printed and are distributed
via the Library of the Royal Academy as a free edition.

What we found when started gardening in 2022:

Important species for biodiversity we found in the garden before we started to plant in the Sympoiesis Garden patch.


Trees

  • Taxus baccata
  • Fagus sylvatica
  • Carpinus betulus


Shrubs, perennials and biennials

  • Ligustrum vulgare
  • Prunella vulgaris
  • Plagiomnium undulatum, gerimpeld boogsterrenmos
  • Plantago lanceolata, smalle weegbree
  • Geranium robertianum, robertskruid
  • Jacobea vulgaris of Jacobskruiskruid 
  • Asplenium ruta-muraria, muurvaren
  • Bellis perennis, madeliefje


Not mowing the grass resulted in a wonderful spring lawn full of daisies.


2022 – 2023 The plants we introduced in the Sympoiesis Garden patch (these plants were mostly potted plants, only a few have been seeded):


Achillea millefolium, Duizendblad

Alchemilla mollis ( a garden variety, not a wild plant)

Alliaria petiolata, Look-zonder-look

Aspidistra elatior

Aquilegia vulgaris, Akelei

Bunium bulbocastanum, Aardkastanje

Campanula persicifolia, Perzikbladklokje

Chelidonium majus, Stinkende gouwe

Crataegus monogyna, Eenstijlige meidoorn

Chrysosplenium alternifolium, Verspreidbladig goudveil

Colchicum autumnale, Herfsttijlloos

Digitalis lutea, Geel vingerhoedskruid

Digitalis purpurea, Vingerhoedskruid

Fritillaria imperialis, Keizerskroon

Galanthus nivalis, Sneeuwklokje

Galium odoratum, Lievevrouwebedstro

Glechoma hederacea, Hondsdraf

Hesperis matronalis, Damastbloem

Hypericum perforatum, Sint Janskruid

Iris pseudacorus, Gele lis

Leucojum vernum, Lenteklokje

Lunaria annua, Tuinjudaspenning

Myosotis (sylvatica?), Vergeet-mij-nietje (tuinvariant)

Oenothera biennis, Middelste teunisbloem

Polygonatum multiflorum, Gewone salomonszegel

Primula elatior, Slanke sleutelbloem

Primula veris, Gulden sleutelbloem

Pulmonaria officinalis, Gevlekt longkruid

Ranunculus acris, Scherpe boterbloem

Ruscus aculeatus, Stekelige muizendoorn

Salvia sclarea, Klarei

Sambucus nigra, Vlier

Scrophularia auriculata, Geoord helmkruid

Tanacetum parthenium, Moederkruid

Tanacetum vulgare, Boerenwormkruid

Urtica dioica, Grote brandnetel

Verbascum densliflorum, Stalkaars

Vinca minor, Kleine maagdenpalm

Viola odorata, Maarts viooltje



Screenshot from the online map


You can download this map as pdf via the website of The Royal Academy:

https://www.ap-arts.be/sites/default/files/Research/Publicaties/F%2B_ELINE_Contribution_V10_480x680_Uncoated.pdf




The shells we use to decorate the garden are fossils, they are more or less 4.000.000 years old and come from the seabed deep in the soil of Antwerp. From top left to bottom right: Glycymeris (2), Pygocardia (2), Ostrea edulis (2), Mimachlamys angelonii (1). Many thanks to Stijn Goolaerts for the identification and explanation.


2023 – 2024 The plants introduced in the Making Sense project:

We used preselected seed mixes from Cruydt-Hoeck and added extra seeds from plants we expect to normally find in similar local settings. Seeded in the patches:


G1 Bloemrijk grasland mengsel voor lichte grond 

Achillea millefolium, Duizendblad 

Barbarea vulgaris, Gewoon barbarakruid 

Centaurea jacea, Knoopkruid 

Crepis biennis, Groot streepzaad 

Crepis capillaris, Klein streepzaad 

Daucus carota, Peen 

Echium vulgare, Slangenkruid 

Erodium cicutarium, Gewone reigersbek 

Galium mollugo subsp. Erectum, Glad walstro 

Hieracium sectie Hieracioides, Schermhavikskruid 

Hypericum perforatum, Sint janskruid 

Hypochaeris radicata, Gewoon biggenkruid 

Jasione montana, Zandblauwtje 

Leucanthemum vulgare, Gewone margriet 

Lotus corniculatus var. Corniculatus, Gewone rolklaver 

Luzula campestris, Gewone veldbies 

Malva moschata, Muskuskaasjeskruid 

Oenothera biennis, Middelste teunisbloem 

Plantago lanceolata, Smalle weegbree 

Prunella vulgaris, Gewone brunel 

Ranunculus acris Scherpe boterbloem 

Rhinanthus minor, Kleine ratelaar 

Scorzoneroides autumnalis, Vertakte leeuwentand 

Silene dioica, Dagkoekoeksbloem 

Tragopogon pratensis subsp. pratensis, Gele morgenster 

Trifolium arvense, Hazenpootje 


Screenshot from instagram stories after a field walk.


G4 Bloemrijk grasland mengsel voor matig voedselrijke kalkhoudend grond 

Agrimonia eupatoria, Gewone agrimonie 

Agrimonia procera, Welriekende agrimonie 

Anchusa officinalis, Gewone ossentong 

Anthyllis vulneraria, Wondklaver 

Barbarea vulgaris, Gewoon barbarakruid 

Betonica officinalis, Betonie 

Briza media, Bevertjes 

Campanula persicifolia, Prachtklokje 

Campanula rapunculoides, Akkerklokje 

Campanula rapunculus, Rapunzelklokje 

Campanula rotundifolia, Grasklokje 

Campanula trachelium, Ruig klokje 

Centaurea scabiosa, Grote centaurie 

Cichorium intybus, Wilde cichorei 

Crepis biennis, Groot streepzaad 

Dianthus deltoides, Steenanjer 

Galium verum, Geel walstro 

Geranium pratense, Beemdooievaarsbek 

Isatis tinctoria, Wede 

Knautia arvensis, Beemdkroon 

Leontodon hispidus, Ruige leeuwentand 

Origanum vulgare, Wilde marjolein 

Plantago media, Ruige weegbree 

Poterium sanguisorba, Kleine pimpernel 

Reseda lutea, Wilde reseda 

Reseda luteola, Wouw 

Rhinanthus minor, Kleine ratelaar 

Salvia pratensis, Veldsalie 

Saxifraga granulata, Knolsteenbreek 

Scabiosa columbaria, Duifkruid 

Silene vulgaris, Blaassilene 

Tragopogon porrifolius, Paarse morgenster 

Tragopogon pratensis subsp. pratensis, Gele morgenster 

Verbascum nigrum, Zwarte toorts 

Verbena officinalis, IJzerhard 


In nature reserve Blokkersdijk the plants create wonderful miniature landscapes.


M4 laag Bloemrijk grasland mengsel voor schrale kalkrijke grond 

Achillea millefolium, Duizendblad 

Briza media, Bevertjes 

Campanula rotundifolia, Grasklokje 

Dianthus deltoides, Steenanjer 

Erodium cicutarium, Gewone reigersbek 

Galium verum, Geel walstro 

Hypochaeris radicata, Gewoon biggenkruid 

Jasione montana, Zandblauwtje 

Leontodon hispidus, Ruige leeuwentand 

Leontodon saxitilis, Kleine leeuwentand 

Leucanthemum vulgare, Gewone margriet 

Lotus corniculatus var. Corniculatus, Gewone rolklaver 

Luzula campestris, Gewone veldbies 

Medicago lupulina, Hopklaver 

Origanum vulgare, Wilde marjolein 

Pilosella officinarum, Muizenoor 

Plantago lanceolata, Smalle weegbree 

Plantago media Ruige weegbree 

Poterium sanguisorba Kleine pimpernel 

Primula veris, Gulden sleutelbloem 

Prunella vulgaris, Gewone brunel 

Ranunculus acris, Scherpe boterbloem 

Rhinanthus minor, Kleine ratelaar 

Silene vulgaris, Blaassilene 

Thymus pulegioides, Grote tijm 

Thymus serpyllum, Kleine tijm 

Trifolium arvense, Hazenpootje 


A visit to Blokkersdijk gave us lots of inspiration to extend local nature into the garden.



O3 Onderbegroeiing bosplantsoen

Achillea millefolium, Duizendblad

Centaurea cyanus, Korenbloem

Hypochaeris radicata, Gewoon biggenkruid

Leucanthemum vulgare, Gewone margriet

Lotus corniculatus var. corniculatus, Gewone rolklaver

Matricaria chamomilla, Echte kamille

Medicago lupulina, Hopklaver

Papaver rhoeas, Gewone klaproos

Plantago lanceolata, Smalle weegbree

Prunella vulgaris, Gewone brunel

Rumex acetosella, Schapenzuring

Silene dioica, Dagkoekoeksbloem

Trifolium pratense, Rode klaver

Trifolium repens, Witte klaver

Tripleurospermum maritimum, Reukeloze kamille


Studying local ecologies in nature reserves helped to fill the gaps of all the missing plants and species.



Seeds we added to the mixtures:


Achilea ptarmica, Wilde bertram

Aira caryophyllea, Zilverhaver

Apera spica-venti, Grote windhalm

Anthoxanthum aristatum, Slofhak

Avenella flexuose, Bochtige smele

Betonica officinalis, Betonie

Campanula latifolia, Breed klokje

Clinopodium vulgare, Borstelkrans

Dianthus armeria, Ruige anjer

Dipsacus fullonum, Grote kaardenbol

Epipactis helleborine subsp. helleborine, Brede wespenorchis

Galium saxatile, Liggend walstro

Jasione montana, Zandblauwtje

Knautia arvensis, Beemdkroon

Myosotis arvensis, Akkervergeet-mij-nietje

Onopordum acanthium, Wegdistel

Rhinanthus minor, Kleine ratelaar

Salvia pratensis, Veldsalie

Saponaria officinalis, Zeepkruid

Silene latifolia subsp.alba, Avondkoekoeksbloem

Silene nutans, Nachtsilene

Smyrnium perfoliatum

Solidago virgaurea, Echte guldenroede

Stachys sylvatica, Bosandoorn

Trifolium arvense, Hazenpootje



Reintroduction of the historical forrest tulip, one of the first wild tulips to arrive in the harbour of Antwerp and since connected to historical Stinzen gardens in this area.



Plant species introduced as potted plants or bulbs:


Mostly via Gesamthof, Arboretum Kalmthout, Natuurpunt, Nijssens bloembollen, Botanische tuin Gent, Bloemerij, Ecoflora Halle, and Cruydt-Hoeck.


Ajuga reptans,

Anchusa officinalis,

Asplenium scolopendrium,

Asplenium trichomanes

Athyrium filix-femina

Blechnum spicant

Circea lutetiana, Groot heksenkruid

Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, paarbladig goudveil

Convallaria majalis, Meiklokje

Cyclamen hederifolium, Napolitaanse cyclamen

Daucus carota, peen

Dianthus carthusianorum, Kartuizeranjer

Dianthus superbus, prachtanjer

Dipsacus fullonum, Grote kardebol

Dryopteris filix-mas, Mannetjesvaren

Echium vulgare, Slangenkruid

Euphorbia Amygdaloides, Amandelwolfsmelk

Galium verum, Geel walstro

Helleborus foetidus, Stinkend nieskruid

Lamium maculatum, Gevlekte dovenetel

Lonicera periclymenum, Wilde kamperfoelie

Lychnis flos-cuculi, Koekoeksbloem

Ornithogalum umbellatum, Gewone vogelmelk

Osmunda regalis, Koningsvaren

Polygonatum multiflorum, Gewone salomonszegel

Polypodium vulgare, Eikvaren

Polystichum setiferum, Zachte naaldvaren

Primula eliator, Slanke sleutelbloem

Primula veris, Gulden sleutelbloem

Pulmonaria officinalis, Gevlekt longkruid

Ranunculus ficaria, Speenkruid

Tulipa sylvestris, Bostulp

Urtica dioica, Grote brandnetel



We're rearranging the privet hedge from a formal square shape to an informal big bush. We want to restore the original garden layout in an English romantic style as well as give them more freedom to grow.

The Ligustrum vulgare or wild privet is a good supporter of local ecologies, the shrubs is a safer space for birds and the flowers are visited by lots of wild bees. 



Natuurpunt Bird shrubbery:


Acer campestre, Veldesdoorn

Cornus sanguinea, Rode kornoelje

Crataegus monogyna, Meidoorn

Euonymus europaeus, Wilde kardinaalsmuts

Frangula alnus, Sporkehout

Ligustrum vulgare, Wilde liguster

Prunus avium, Zoete kers

Prunus spinosa, Sleedoorn

Rosa canina, Hondsroos

Rosa rubiginosa, Egelantier

Viburnum opulus, Gelderse roos




We had 7000 liter of compost delivered to add a thin layer (no more than 5cm) in three beds where the soil had become very depleted. This way we don't need to dig in the garden
and don't disturb tree roots nor archaeology.

Archaeology just below the surface


The Academy garden used to be a cemetery, the bones of the monks buried here are still here. As a fan of archaeology I respect the layers of soil and the stories they tell. The garden has never been investigated and everything should remain in place with the care we usually give to a cemetery. Because of this we dig as little as possible and never deeper than 10cm except in the patch where planted the shrubs for the birds. We did this where we uprooted the Cherry laurel, and there used to be an oil tank in this location. The archaeology is already disturbed because of these constructions, but we worked very carefully to take out the root and plant the small shrubs to not further damage anything.


The bird bush is 5 months old and still very open,
the idea is these shrubs will grow to form some kind of shelter together.



Mind the trees.


One of the challenges of this garden is the increasing number of students, staff, and visitors walking on the soil. The compression of all these footsteps over the years reduced oxygen and without the necessary air in the soil tree roots die. Slowly the trees die as well. To decompress the soil we’ll need the help of animals who can dig tiny tunnels, from a mouse to beetles, sandmining bees, ants, and worms. They are the saviours of the trees but only if we create a good habitat in the right places. That’s why the tree beds are so important and why we build supportive fences around them. The SF or string figure in the shape of a supportive fence and the other way around, protects the roots of the trees and all the living critters that are looking after them. In the tree beds we plant species to further increase the health of the soil. Especially the string figure of mycelium with tree roots, minerals, sugar, and nettles has been an interesting discovery. We found out planting nettles with the white strings of fungi attached to their roots helps to develop a healthy network of mycelium patches along the woodchip we added on the topsoil under a tree. 


The fence is low enough to step over,
they are meant to keep safe, focus attention and plant ideas.


This is an ongoing art & ecology project, part of the research program in the Royal Academy. In September a new garden year starts at the Royal Academy of Antwerp. All students are weekly welcomed during the open garden sessions to join in with this project. We restore ecology and build very simple gardening skills from 17 to 19h in the old Academy garden. 


Snowdrops, first hope in a new year.


I would like to thank all the people who helped to realise this project, who supported from the sideline, behind a desk, with boots in the mud or with tea on a sunny evening. You made all the difference. Thank you Roel Arkesteijn, chair of Art & Ecology, Els De bruyn head of artistic research, Lotte De Voeght, Alicia Meerschaert, Kristí Fekete, Maren Rommerskirchen, Nico Dockx, Bruno De Vos, all the students involved in the ecology classes and in the open gardening sessions, Bernadette Zdrazil, Cian Ti Wang, Débora Gomes de Oliveira, Saskia Van der Gucht, Aurélie Disasi, Annelotte Lammertse, Femke Martens, Nele Buyst, Joris Thoné & Pieterjan Pelgrims, Floor Wyns, Myrddin Merlijn Groffi, all the staff of the Royal Academy who helped so often behind the screens in all invisibility, and a very big thank you to Johan Pas, dean of the Academy and avid supporter of our wild garden plans.



 A Sympoiesis Garden

2 July 2023

In September 2022 we started to garden in the old and new gardens of the Royal Academy in Antwerp. In many ways this was a test year to discover the wider and smaller ecologies of the Royal Academy in Antwerp. For ten months we got to know the garden, meet the people who work and study here, kneel between tree roots and scan the sky to find our way into the gardens. Everything was new for us, and we were doing something new as well. Lead by curiosity this was an adventure in gardening. 

From the start this project is deeply embedded in the books of Donna Haraway, Anna L. Tsing, Jamaica Kincaid and Ursula Le Guin, among many others. The garden is the real and tangible contact zone of ideas and engagement for students in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. To garden with students in the historical garden meant that we could think together, humans and nonhumans, about this thick present we're in. We're facing some serious trouble and climate change is so big it can become overhelming.

To garden in a more traditional sense wouldn't make the difference we're looking for, instead we have to become an entangled kind of gardeners and question our actions and relations with our nonhuman kinship. When we touch the garden, the garden touches us. This mind shift is the result of "thinking-with" and "making-with", the very essense of our Sympoiesis Garden. This community garden is about more-than-human-community and we want to change the way we look at nature, using all our artistic skills to find meaningful connections in this nature-culture.


This was the Sympoesis Garden in 2022 - 2023

Find us in the Royal Academy of Antwerp, the community gardens in the patches of soil that have been generously opened up for this participative project. All students are welcome to join in gardening, there is no need for any gardening knowledge and we'll start with the basics. You can join us for as long as you like, from 5 minutes to many hours, as it fits in your schedule and as you feel like. Weekly updates and planning are shared via instagram @royalacademyantwerpgarden
 
 
10 June 2023
After a cold, dark and very rainy spring came four weeks of dry heat and it's still spring. The slow start of many plants (eaten within an milimeter of the soil by a herd of slugs) turned into a roasting of too young leaves and young roots in dry earth. It's a disaster in the garden. Thankfully the birds find the pond to drink and bathe, and the plants around the pond are part of the ecosystem. Lot of aphids sit on the artichokes (planted there as a temporary sollution after the rescue operation and still there) and are farmed by ants, preyed by wasps and snacked by birds. 

This week we lifted the metal frame that was to make the pond safer because the iron was leaking into the water and changing the pond ecosystem. Lucky the secret garden seems quite safe as it is.

The tiny leaves of lemna trisulca float in the water and give shade to keep the water cool. Frogbite floats like tiny waterlilies in the pond.

We're lucky to have so many aphids on our artichokes, beautiful big wasps are building a nest next to the pond and they are smart enough not to eat all of these at once.

If we hadn't been giving water two times per week all the plants would have dried up like the grasses in the other garden patches. The grass can survive, but the Garlic-mustard and Digitalis seedlings can't. The young plants dry up and with them the eggs of the butterflies, the caterpillars, and even the aphids all disappear as well. That's where gardens come in as containers of foods, we're looking after the lunchboxes of our fellow messmates. The swifts, house sparrows and little blue tits have to work hard to find something to eat. Hunger is spreading like oil on water, except it is invisible for lots of humans. I don't hear people talking about the missing butterflies. They don't see the empty garden. Two generations of caterpillars dried up in the heat, as many of last summer's generation didn't live on to be this year's parents. There should be clouds of colourfull dots in the air but I have seen only two butterflies this spring. And now the eggs of these butterflies are on plants that are drying up. We need to make a water plan, we must think of sollutions to contain moist within the soil to live through these dry spells. 
 
27 May 2023
Time passed by like a swift at dusk, the months of April and May flew too quickly. Whenever I photograph the garden I'm surprised how different it looks from how I know this garden. The photo can't grasp the multitude of details, the shape and landscape escapes the lense. It is said that dogs don't know their own size, they look at one another and wonder if they're bigger or smaller. In the garden I feel similar to such a dog, because everything seems relative. Am I even aware of how the others see me? My own little perspective is questioned as a dragonfly sees me while it zooms by. I find myself looking at the others and minutes slipped by while I was daydreaming.
 
 
We're adding oxygenating plants to keep the water healthy.

The pond is green, full of life with plants and little critters.

The yellow flag flowers, lots of bees drink their nectar.

By miracle Ecoflora Halle decided to bring back native -wild- waterplants into their collection, right now when we made the pond. On April 2 we visited the nursery and brought back to the Academy garden:

Butomus umbellatus
Menyanthes trifoliata
Mentha aquatica
Ranunculus aquatilis
Hippuris vulgaris
Alisma plantago-aquatica

We planted them in a big basket and placed it in the deeper end of the pond. Dragonflies and damselflies visit the pond. Several visitors asked if we have fish, but that wouldn't work well with the plants and other critters. The fish would disturb the ecosystem in this small biotope, and they would probably have a lot more freedom in a bigger pond. 
 
Freedom is such a big word, and it feels so strange in the mouth when we're in the garden. How to explain freedom, the big prize in the visual arts, to a plant floating in the pond. What is freedom to bees who are losing habitat? How do we explain ourselves to wild plants that are called 'weeds' by others? When a plant is growing uninvited in a traditional garden, like a dandelion, we don't recognise their freedom. A traditional garden has a design, paths, borders, colour schemes, concepts (like the walled garden or the white garden, a garden without colour) and what traditonal gardens have most of all is tradition. Every garden designer has to find something new in light of this tradition. The art world is not unlike a traditional garden, so many artists - who knew their talent by nature, often even without education - have been undesired through the ages while others were showered with praise for their frills and shine simply because of heritage, cultivation, recommendations, a name and lineage. The rose is a rose is a rose, and those are the rules. But what does freedom mean when we explain it to nature? Surely we lost something along this garden path?
 

11 May
Growing our own letuce.

Who would have thought letuce is so popular? When we put our tray with free vegetables from the organic planter it's empty within the hour. Fresh Rucola with a spicy flavour, crispy Mustard leaves and crunchy Mizuna, they're all gone. Our DIY style is carried in many ways, this is one of the favourites.

The greens from our potager have been given away at the entrance of the Academy in our carrier bag installation.

The name and recipe are also the packaging, practical design for our give away project.

The soil in our garden might have lots of different toxicities, not just PFAS but other toxins as well. That's why we made a very big planter with organic soil for our vegetable patch. It's a big succes and the vegetables are growing well, whenever they are ready we give them away and sow something new.




This poster announced our walk & talk in the garden by guest speaker and ecology specialist Joris Thoné. On May 4 we spent a sunny afternoon in the old garden and listened to Joris' explanation on how gardens evolved in the last centuries. The reason to ask Joris is because he is one of the informal teachers behind this awareness of ecology. 

About this event:
 
The Stinzen GardenOr the characteristics of the Academy garden explained in a guided walk by Joris Thoné.Who knows that wild orchids grow in Antwerp? Who has seen them? They have become very rare now, when so much nature is disappearing. It's incredible to hear that these wildflowers also grow in the garden Joris started over 20 years ago: Natuurtuin. Due to very specific mowing management he mimics the landscape from previous agriculture. To find out that these flowers are equally valued alongside "common" plantain is du jamais vu in most botanical circles. The Natuurtuin of Joris Thoné is such an extraordinary garden where native biotopes are laid out side by side and where special native plants - rare and common - grow together. This garden has been a treasure of ecological value as Joris Thoné works very intensively with volunteers to restore nature here. At the same time, it is a special place where botanical knowledge and native living heritage come together. Because a plant never grows alone, the connection between these species is so important, and exactly these connections are still developing in the Academy Garden. That is why we have invited Joris Thoné to give a guided walk discussing the specific geographical, historical and natural landmarks of the Academy garden.Joris Thoné is an artist and ecological activist who creates the Natuurtuin, a biotope with diversity for native species. This garden in Brasschaat is a living archive of special plants and has great educational value for ecological restoration.
 
Admiring our leaf mould during the garden tour.

 

The garden tour took place along our little woodland patch in the old garden.


 
30 March 2023
 Many artists care about species loss, global warming, the destruction of forests, the polution in the oceans and much more but what can we do about it? When we are still thinking of a nature/culture divide there is not much an individual can do. But when we start to think with nature, the tables turn and we are standing in a different field. This project is about climate change. Gardening is our entry into nature and a way to learn to think with nature, it's part of the art practice. My fellow artist researcher Inés Ballesteros calls this non formal learning, and this is at the very heart of the project. Discovering as we go along - there is no handbook for this project - we are setting up a multispecies community garden.

The new bee hotel, almost finished.
 
Spring is cold and wet this year, it hasn't been easy to work in the garden with seeds in one hand and an umbrella in the other. But people kept the community alive and we found ways to shelter. Somehow we even managed to get some serious construction works done. In the secret garden we made a wooden vegetable planter in a decent proportion. This garden used to be a vegetable plot before renovations claimed the grounds and tiled up about half of the garden. It's a strange sight because because nobody uses these tiles. To reclaim this part of the garden without breaking up the tiles we decided to use containers. Using all kinds of containers will give a more natural feel and reconnect with the rest of the garden. 
 
The vegetable planter in the secret garden.

 
We seeded: green pumpkins, mizuna, mitsuba, dille, spring onions, nasturtiums, brassica, mange tout and rucola. The soil is layered of tree bark in the bottom, organic peatfree soil on top and mixed in compost. Soon we will have to check if the birds are interested in the seeds and if we need to protect some of these.

The garden has a lot of old stones and masonry for insect habitat.


A tiny Sand Mining Bee visited us.


 
 
11 March 2023
Open House! All the studios, aulas, halls, librarie rooms and exhibition spaces were open to welcome curious visitors. In the garden we organised two tours about Donna Haraway's book Staying With The Trouble. During the tour quotes were read from the book and knotted into the garden's practices, history and location. We, the gardeners, gave the tour, which was less about walking around and discussing plants and more about expanding the perceptions of gardening. We, the gardeners, are critters, we are the centipedes, worms, snails, caterpillars, humans, wild plants, trees, stones, micro organisms, birds and so on. Our definitions are inclusive, our perspectives are multiple, our gardening is ongoing. Thank you to all the nice visitors who expanded the practice and shared their enthusiasm.




Two days before the Open House, the garden was covered in a thin layer of snow.



 
8 March 2023
International women's day can only work if it is also international non-binary, neutral, intersex and trans day about saving nature, opposing racism and ableism, and so on. It's a string figure with so many hands and strings we can never leave this complixity entirely behind us. It's 'trouble', and as long as we have trouble there is hope. On Wednesday we made a sign to honour the work by Ana Mendieta, the Cuban-American artist who had a pioneering practice of working with ecology, her performances embody response-ability. The sign explains why we named our garden exercise in the shape of a moss mountain after her, and surprisingly the name fits with the shape of the mountain. 
 

 


We continued on Thursday in snow and rain during one of the greyest days we ever had in the garden. It is hard to imagine now that the Fritillaria raddeana will flower in our garden, but if the bulbs accept this location they will become a living monument that connects the old garden in Antwerp with the wild flowers of Iran. Especially for this flower a ceramic sculpture was made to function as a label, telling the visitors about the plants that flowers here and in Iran.



Donna Haraway's SF, the String Figure, is a working tool in this garden, and the other way around the garden helps to make a practice out of theory. The trouble we read about becomes a real part of the Royal Academy's grounds, extending the subject-object making art practice to the outside of the building.


 
4 March 2023
 "Community garden Silsburg must be empty as soon as possible." On the first of February I read this message on my phone. It didn't mention a contact person, there was only an address. There is a similarity with Agatha Christie's novels and the little detective in me got curious. On a Friday morning I took the tram to the outskirts of Antwerp and visited the garden. The door was open, the shed was locked and there were heaps of wood, stones and compost left and right. Between bare trees were downtrodden plantbeds with brown stalks pointing to where the dormant plants were. A man was helping another man to load a grapevine into a trailer. We talked and it turns out the whole garden will become an apartment block. This meant a crime was about to take place: the murder of all the innocent plants and critters living in this garden. There should be a law that gives people the right to save life and habitat of building areas, lucky this garden sent out an alarm and we could enter without tresspassing. 
 
The community garden in Silsburg (Samentuin)

 
 
The Royal Academy provided a van for the day. Gwyn who runs the wood workshop helped out with the organisation and hands on practicalities. On a cold grey morning we assembled - students, alumni, researcher and colleagues - and went to Silsburg. Within an hour the van was full of old wood, taken to the academy to return empty and be filled again. We had onigiri, a vegan glutenfree and lactosefree lunch with amazing brownies for dessert. We continued to dig up the plants that we could more or less recognise:

 

Acquilegia vulgaris (akelei) 

Anchusa sempervirens (groene ossentong)

Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, look zonder look)

Allium schoenoprasum (chives, bieslook) 

Arum maculatum (lords and ladies, gevlekte aronskelk) 

Crataegus (hawthorn, meidoorn) -not exactly sure-

Crocus (several, unknown)

Ficaria verna (speenkruid) 

Foeniculum (fennel, venkel) 

Geranium (unknown variety)

Glechoma hederacea (catsfoot, hondsdraf) 

Hypericum perforatum (St. John's wort, Sint-janskruid) 

Lamium purpureum (paarse dovenetel)

Narcissus (daffodil, narcis) 

Plantago lanceolata (smalle weegbree)

Symphytum officinale (common comfrey, smeerwortel)

Viola odorata (English violet, maarts viooltje) 


Crocus

Anchusa sempervirens (groene ossentong)

Crocus (Jeanne d'Arc?)

Plantago lanceolata

Lamium purpureum

Lords & ladies and some very small lesser Celandine leaves.
 

While we walked trough the garden we looked for what we could move to the Academy's garden, what would work in a different setting and soil? So many leaves looked interesting, with strange shapes and patterns, but at this time of the year it was really hard to tell what was growing in this plot. At first glance it looked as if there was nothing but trees and grasses. We needed to look differently in order to find the plants that were hidden in the soil. Instead of recognizing plants we looked at the conditions: what might like to grow here, and what would be left in a visible trace at this time of the year? Plantblindness has many forms and this excursion was an exercise in thinking differently. We weren't looking for plants, we were trying to see an ecology and who might be part of it?


We all have at least some plantblindness, some of us have barely any (not me) but even the most educated botanist can learn about a new plant. In Silsburg I have seen more plants I didn't recognize than plants that I could remember the name of. To know that I don't see these unknown plants make a difference because at least now I can try to discover them and remember that very old question: "What is the name for this?".

 

Old logs in our new garden.

At the end of the day the logs have found a place in the garden, and the plants are dug into a strip of soil to create a makeshift nursery. The wood is still full of life, from ants and earwigs to slugs and more. It didn't rain and a narrow strip of bright blue sky appeared between the steel coloured clouds. Birds swooped into the garden to investigate the wood while we left.



15 February 2023
In the Arboretum in Kalmthout we met the Dutch snowdrop specialist Joséphine Dekker and from her we bought the botanical snowdrop Galanthus nivalis. This little white flower is a plant that most probably was part of the old garden in the Academy when it was designed in 1905. While the snowdrops don't ask for much - they will spread slowly into drifts of flowers - they got lost somehow along the twentieth century. Probably mowing their leaves together with the grass didn't help, we'll plant these clumps in the forest patch and hopefully they can stay for a hundred years and more.



Joséphine Dekker brought the snowdrops out of her garden, big clumps were packed in wooden trays.

The botanical snowdrop Galanthus nivalis is a small and gentle flower, it is the wild plant from the forests of France introduced in the Netherlands.

The snowdrop Galanthus S. Arnott is a cultivated snowdrop, sterile and selected for it's beautiful features.

 

Resisting the snowdropmania we're buying only wild plants because they make sense. The small flowers work with the senses of early insects and are vital for survival. That's why we're not going to buy the cultivar, a beautiful plant but no longer connected to a cycle of ecology. 

A clump of these snowdrops consists of 20+ single plants, we count the bulbs (not the flowers).

During the garden sessions frequently clusters of plants were mistaken for 'one plant' and planted out in a single hole in the soil. We had to dig them up and look closer, because what seemd to be one entity was actually a group of small bulbs, seedlings or root systems. This fenomena of not identifying a structure is part of plantblindness, a condition we all suffer from when we don't know what we see, don't recognise what we don't know and don't see what is not recognised. Instead of individual plants we see an abstraction. These snowdrops are a family portrait, not a single plant, and they will be separated bulb per bulb to be replanted in the old garden's forest patch.

The forest patch with the single snowdrop plants.


 

09 February 2023

Big and little works, this week you could find us mostly in the secret garden. A herb mountain and a forrest patch are in the making, we added Hypericum, Asarum europaeum and Geum urbanum tot he forrest patch, the herb garden got a nice old sage Salvia officinalis and garlic. We also added seeds of Lunaria rediviva, Ruta graveolens, Silybum, Malva alcea, Dianthus superbus, Myrrhis odorata, Dystenia takeshimana, Smyrnium perfoliatum and Oenothera. 


On Thursday we gave a tour to the deptartment of In Situ, we talked about gardening to restore ecology as a non-human centred practice.  Artists can use this practice to reflect, to find a different kind of input and inspiration. We talked about Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, Renaat Braem, Napoleon Bonaparte, Plato, Ana Mendieta and the fritalaria from Iran as a living monument. Time went fast and we're very grateful for connecting with such a nice audience.

 

The walk and talk kicked off in the secret garden where we discussed 21th century gardening. Photo by Timothy Laskaratos


02 February 2023

We are in the old garden, the 15th - 18th century Franciscan monastery's cemetery that became an Academy garden in 1810. The moss garden is already a moss garden, by itself and of itself, because the grass won't grow and the moss is forming a gentle carpet. Little ferns pop up between the green patches, rainwater pools to sink into the sandy soil. There isn't much top soil, hardly any at all. Digging gives us bricks, glass and bits and pieces. We went with an intuitive gardening method, following the natural course of the water we extended the path into a little river, and then it split into two rivers with an island in the middle. The excess soil from digging was piled up in the middle, we were surprised to see how much height our mountain gained from only those two rivers. We placed the moss on top of the mountain and planted two old ferns on the river banks. 

 





The landscape looked like a dinosaur, or a camel back, or twins (both twin mountain tops, twin ferns and twin rivers) and it reminded us of the land art by Ana Mendieta. Her close relationship with land, soil, water and local plants is inspiring, her innovative performances and interactions show the land as belonging within an ecology of human and non-human stories knotted together in her art practice. Ana Mendieta is an iconic artist within this emergent art and garden contact zone. In this moment a materiality manifested with a semiology that works. It makes sense. We must remember. We must think. "Think we must" wrote Virginia Woolf at the break of the Great War. Donna Haraway writes about Virginia Woolf's thinking and in a string figure of thought Haraway adds Hannah Arendt's and Isabelle Stengers' ideas on how we think and what stories we are thinking with. This string figure emphasises that it matters which words word words and which world world worlds. This string figure appeared and we could recognise it.

We decided to call this place Ana, and the mountain really looks like Ana.

 

Sketch of the moss patch named Ana.


26 january 2023

It's freezing and the usual preparations (potting overspill of wild plants out of the Gesamthof into the Academy) isn't going to work. The ground is frozen and the plants are in deep sleep. What are we going to do on two afternoons when it's so cold? It's very quiet in the Academy, there are exams and jury days and only a few students walk in the halls. I brought books (from Aldo Leopold and Donna Haraway) and planned on updating the message boards with oil drenched paper to prevent the composting of our communication. Instead we compared soil colours and discussed the similarities between plants and people, like a double name.

Our brave snowdrops.

 

Finding interesting plants.

In the old garden we've planted a few thoroughly frosted cyclamen coum and snowdrops. They were lingering in the Gesamthof and are probably better of in the warmer full soil than in frozen plastic containers. I'm hoping for a carpet of snowdrops, perhaps in thirthy years time? We planted 12 bulbs. And then I started on something I have been nervous about. The moss garden. In my mind I see a landscape unfolding with old ferns and a shallow creek with rainwater, mosses hanging from dead wood and name tags talking about ancient plants. In reality this patch of soil is probably the hardest part of the grounds to grow anything at all. Even the mosses are in doubt, facing north in a corner shaded by shrubs on both ends. At the end of the day we found several baby ferns growing between the false strawberries. 


 

On the second day we worked in the secret garden. When I posted the photo of the new garden on social media, inviting students to join us, I felt it wasn't good advertising. Who would like to work in this dark and empty patch of soil? And this has been often my experience, people like to garden in a garden that looks already good. They don't like to work in a sad and empty bit of shade. When we need the students the most, they won't come, and when the work is done they will volunteer for more. What I can't show in a photo is the satisfaction at the end of the day when after all this digging we have something resembling a natural landscape. And even then you have to be able to see the potential in the mud. Pioneering isn't visible until after it is done.


18 January 2023

This is the first week of our new schedule, the garden sessions are on Wednesday and Thursday. We met in the secret garden next to the printmaking studio. One patch of the garden has a pond and a herb mountain, new plants are pushing trough the soil and it looks promising. In the other patch we cleaned up, made new paths, planted a butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) and have sown Pachyphragma macrophyllum and Smyrnium perfoliatum.

A strange inbetween space.

After an afternoon's work the garden looks very promising.

 

12 January 2023

Our new circle around the sun started with a cold, wet and stormy day and we decided to stay indoors. In order to restore the garden we have to include people. People are a part of the local ecology and we haven't really heard their voice yet. What do the people in this environment think of the future of the Academy garden? We set up a poll station at the entrance of the cafetaria to ask everyone's opinion. While we baked pancakes and made tea we discussed different aspects of the garden and room for improvements. The answers were gathered on notes and pinned on the board between inspiring topics. The result is a grand tour of speculative fabulations of possible futures for the Academy garden.

Our poll station at the end of the day.




We will translate the notes into a document with the gathered information, a tool to share the view of the people who are close to the garden. This document will give a good input towards decision makers in charge of the garden's future.



We gardened with words to extend nature indoors, the paper notes with Speculative Fabulations, SF, a science fiction of the garden, made many of the passersby into gardeners for a moment. By inviting people's thoughts into the garden making we involved people in the garden for a moment.


21 December 2022

Tomorrow is the last community garden day of this year in the patches of the Royal Academy. We're a small group of enthusiasts who continued gardening during the cold last week in minus 3 degrees arranging wood chip in a path and breaking ice for birds. The patch has transformed from three trees in nearly bare soil to a living land although with not much plants at the moment. When I see the patch I wonder what we could add that would want to live there. Conditions aren't easy: very dry in summer, shaded under the trees, not a lot of nutritions, possibly wet in spring and yet quite exposed. There are flowers growing in the desert, but not much is growing here. We planted and seeded lots of wild plants from the Gesamthof.

The woodland patch
Acquilegia vulgaris (akelei)
Alchemilla mollis (garden lady's-mantle, vrouwenmantel)
Allium triquetrum (driekantige look)
Anemone nemorosa (bosanemoon)
Ceratophylum demersum (gedoornd hoornblad)
Comarum Palustre (wateraardbei)
Cyclamen hederafolium
Cygnoglossum officinale (veldhondstong)
Dianthus armeria (ruige anjer)
Digitalis purpurea (foxglove, vingerhoedskruid)
Echium vulgare (viper's bugloss, slangenkruid)
Epimedium rubrum
Eranthis cilicia
Galium odoratum (sweetscented bedstraw, lievevrouwebedstro)
Glechoma hederacea (catsfoot, hondsdraf)
Helleborus argutifolius (Corsican hellebore, nieskruid)
Hesperis matronalis (dame's gilliflower, damastbloem)
Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Iris pseudocarus (gele lis)
Lemna Trisculca (puntkroos)
Lunaria annua (honesty, judaspenning)
Muscari
Myosotis (forget-me-not, vergeet-me- nietje)
Narcissus
Oenothera (evening primrose, teunisbloem)
Plantago coronopus (buck's horn plantain, hertshoornweegbree)
Pulmonaria saccharata
Rosa canina (hondsroos)
Salvia sclarea (clary sage, klareisalie)
Scirpoides holoschoenus (bullrush)
scrophularia nodosa (figwort, knopig helmkruid)
Verbascum (mullein, koningskaars)
Viola odorata (English violet, maarts viooltje)


The secret garden:
Alchemilla mollis (garden lady's-mantle, vrouwenmantel)
Allium schoenoprasum (chives, bieslook)
Allium Triquetrum (three-cornered leek, driekantige look)
Aster (Michaelmas daisy) - unknown variety found in the Gesamthof as a remnant of the monastery garden
Buddleja (orange eye, vlinderstruiken)
Calendula (marigold, goudsbloemen)
Dianthus armeria (ruige anjer)
Eupatorium (snakeroots, leverkruid )
Fragaria vesca (bosaardbei)
Hesperis matronalis (dame's gilliflower, damastbloem)
Iris pseudocarus (gele lis)
Laurus nobilis (bayleaf, keukenlaurier)
Lunaria annua (honesty, judaspenning)
Malva alcea (hollyhock mallow, vijfdelig kaasjeskruid)
Muscari botryoides (grape hyacinth, druif hyacint)
Myosotis (forget-me-not, vergeetmenietje)
Rosa canina (hondsroos) 
Scrophularia nodosa (figwort, knopig helmkruid)
Stachys (lambsear, ezelsoor)
Typha latifolia (bulrush, lisdodde)
Verbascum (mullein, koningskaars)

 With the leftover seeds we made small packages and printed the names of the plants with this incredible print technique: Inés Ballesteros & Michela Dal Brollo gelatin printer. The print plates used to be transparant but all the ink of years of printing coloured them deep blue-violet. The copy works up to ten times before fading.

 






1 December 2022

The making of a pond. We finished our pond in a couple of hours on a cold and sunny winter day. The soil was almost frozen, and we had to move about a lot to keep warm. The pond doesn't look as nice we'd like it to be, there is a rusty grit laying on top as a safety measure. Of course it's not a 100 percent safe, still a lot can go wrong. But comparing culutures I noticed -while abroad- that Belgians aren't really used to accessible open water. Even the city park has a fence around the pond. And just so, to be on the safe side with children running very fast, it seemed like a good plan to cover at least deepest parts. We added pots with bullrushes and yellow flag (the pots are to keep them from spreading too fast), but lots of plants are still missing. We'll add them next time.



The pond was made with the help of many students, they are not in the photos because it feels weird to make photos of people who are gardening and it feels equally weird to ask people if I can take a photo of their face. Instead I promise not to photograph their face and it allows me document the making of these garden patches without accidently taking someone's picture. It also adds a bit of secret, some kind of privacy, if you want to know who's part of our garden group you have to be there and show your face as well.

 


But this garden project wouldn't be possibel without the help of many, there are the weekly gardeners who joined the group and share their enthusiasm. There are the visitors who are curious and like to ask questions. There are the staff of the Academy, the people who work daily to make the whole ecology run smoothly and who let us use their materials like spades, wire cutters, hammers, saws, etc. And then there are the people who give us precious materials, like this dead wood full of life: the fungus filled branches that were given to us to add to the garden. Thank you so much for this gift, it adds life to the soil and is a feast for beetles, worms and birds. They really added a lot of character.



The garden is ready for planting and sowing, it will need ferns and herbs and shrubs and ground cover...


23 November 2022

 The making of a pond, we're halfway. We're digging in a new patch of soil, there was a hole after the demolition of a house, and the landscape was refilled with unknown earth from elsewhere. But the history of a place seems to remember, like a ghost from the past this place sticks to its nature of being a hole.

The secret garden meant working towards ecology from an almost empty patch. The first step is to add water, and here unlike in the old (cemetary) garden we can dig. The academy didn't have water bodies on their grounds, and that's why we added the baby lake in the form of  big bucket in the old garden. In this new patch we can dig a small pond for wildlife without disturbing too many skeletons. With a bit of effort we can make this place a welcoming home for insects, birds and who knows who else. 


We're sculpting the edges, like a big inverted chocolate cake, layer after layer for plant support.

It was cold and wet and after a few hours the 'cake' was ready.

With some preparation we could ad the protactice pond sheet, or shroud it looked like a burial.


Next week we'll add the lining, water and gravel to finish the natural pond. We'll do the planting as well, and if you hesitate to help: know that you can dip a toe and feel if this is your kind of place to be. We are still looking for students to join our garden group and join us on Thursdays from 12 till 18h, when the weather is nice. On rainy days you find us in the cafetaria with tea and dry seed packages.


17 November 2022

 Instead of gardening together we had a Soup Session, the Royal Academy's choice for sharing research practices within the Academy. Every researcher gets the possibility to share their interests, questions, worries and plans while drinking soup together. For this session we had two soups: a big pot of tomato soup made in the Academy's kitchen and a small pot of celeriac soup with miso made by me because I have an allergy for tomato, I'm gluten intolerant and dairy intolerant and it is safer when I cook my own food. The double soup option for participants, the big pot of 'main' soup and small pot of queer soup, was a nice introduction to today's topic: soil. 

Soup session: cooking celeriac soup in the Royal Academy's garden.

Soil and miso have in common that they are not exactly dead material, the fermentation is a living multitude and so is soil. We didn't bring the soup to boiling after the miso was added to keep the fermentation working otherwise the healthy benefit of this soup would be lost. The fermented miso paste is a living action and a direct support for our digestive system which is also full of living actions. Humans - like soil- are also multitudes. We can't function on our own, our ecology is not all that different from a garden. To make a garden healthy is to make soil healthy, it is all about the living symbiosis of a wider ecology. We're working with life in earth, a vast multitudinous togetherness like seas, moving and changing - far removed from the solidity we think of. To touch the infinite grains of sand, the decomposing organic matter, the many critters living inbetween these, the threads of fungus bodies, the seeds, spores, roots, stones, the worm slipping away is to touch the life other life is built on. If we want to look after the garden we have to look at the soil.


With soup bowl in hand we walked trough the garden, discovering different soil types in the forrest patch.

'Academy' comes from Hekademia, the gardens outside of Athens where Plato was teaching his students in the olive grove. The Academy has her roots in the gardens of Athens, of Athena full of wisdom. Before Athena stepped out onto the stage after being born from a man's head she was not a man's idea of the perfect woman, she was a plank falling from the sky. This older story interests me more than the men in the garden, the plank was a divine piece of a tree without human features. This tree, probably an olive tree, was more than a symbol, Greece used to be covered with forests until people started to harvest the trees for precious wood. At some point they realised that without the trees there would be no olives, no oil, nothing to start a fire, no boats, no chariots, no cooking and so on. They knew trees alive and to be respected, a plank was not a symbol but a real piece of wood from real trees. This story is about making sense.

 

Sorry for the inadvertently advertising, I made only 3 photos during the event and this was the best one.

I didn't take a photo of the miso, but I did take a photo of measuring ut the seaweed in wooden bowls, drinking soup from a wooden cup is being involved with 'plank', with the trees around us. The seaweed is a good nutritonous value for people and soil. When harvested with permission it can be used as a fertiliser to improve the soil conditions. While drinking this soup, a nice winter vegetable recipe that blends Flemish tradition with ingredients from Japan, we talked about the research as practice of artistic curiosity. This project is about starting a practice that includes the wider ecology of the Academy: from worms to students, including the lifelong inhabitants like Trees and Robins. During the talk I swithced from I to we according to the content, when I sai I it means me, my pronouns are 'she' and 'her', but when we speak as a garden, as a whole including humans and nonhumans, we say we with the pronouns 'they' and 'them'. This is not gender based: instead of a binary system we use a multitude including all kinds of gender and non-gender. My interpration of woman is inclusive with an open definition, woman can be as masculin, feminin or any kind of 'in' and still be fully woman. Inclusive open definitions are necessary in this research, because they allow for a different kind of story telling. The garden as a whole is a real inclusion of everyone that belongs with the garden.


10 November 2022

 The Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp is a patchwork of walls, with some of the oldest church walls extending into neoclassic and contemporary architecture. Little patches of green can be found in various places, and one of those patches is the secret garden in front of the print making studios. A garden is never an empty space, a white page, but this flat square was almost empty apart from a great fig tree.

The fig tree is growing from the corner, and its roots are probably established in the old wall.

This secret garden is a place that can reflect the students in the Academy, where the historical garden is full of history and we shouldn't dig in it, this new patch is open for play. Restoring ecology is not about separating humans from nature, we are a part of the ecology. The lack of wild boars, moose and dears is a good excuse to dig and root in this rather flat patch of land.


We already planted about a hundred small forest strawberry plants.

  The secret garden, or student garden, is planted with the plants spilling over from the Gesamthof, and especially the herbs are welcome addition. Healthy and gratis these herbs can help students in tea and cooking, while a herb garden is a very nice place to take break. The location wasn't entirely full of sun, and to create a better condition for the herbs we decided to make a mountain. The drainage of the soil as well as added height would give better options. 

 

Drawing with flower on a windy day, it has a Helen Frankenthaler feel.

The new pavement is so clean, we added a dam to keep the soil from spilling over.

Making a mountain meant digging a hole, and with the herb garden we also made a pond, it's not ready yet. There still needs to come in sand and a lining, with lots of nice pebbles, some old wood and possibly a little field of marsh plants. In the right corner you can see the bayleaf we planted, and underneath are arum italicum seedlings. Next to them we added the white asters from the monastery garden at Morpho, the printmakers are in for a nice surprise next autumn.

The most important question now is: how to make this pond childproof? The sides are to be filled with plants, so the real water area is about 1 m² wide but quite deep. Should we add a fence around the garden? Or can we make a metal mesh under the water surface? Tricks and tips are welcome.


3 November 2022

Stones are often overlooked in a garden design, they are used as a building structure or put down as decorative; but this garden patch doesn't work with a design gently sketched and thought through. When looking closely a garden isn't a white page and garden designs are often human centred. Thinking of the Plantationocene, to design nature has an imperialistic taste. Instead we work from within a situated existing ecology and the stones matter a lot. Stone has a dense nature, one side of the stone reflects sunlight and creates a tiny micro climate with a warmer temperature on this side, the stone itself holds the warmth (butterflies love to catch a bit of heat) and it radiates after the air temprature has cooled off. The shade side of a stone is cooler, and will provide shelter in exteme heat, creating a pocket where different biotopes attracts different species. The soil underneath the stone is less prone to evaporation on hot days (all kinds of small animals like to live under a stone), and the stone itself casts a dry shadow on one side. Small pebbles and gravel can improve the drainage and small gaps between stones are prefered beds for ferns and other specilialised plants. To include humans in this garden there is another important quality of stones: when you are looking for a safe space to put your foot, a stepping stone makes a nice garden path working along with plants, insects and people. Coolest of all the qualities of stones is probably their habitat for lichen and mosses as well as the bacteria that break down the nutrition of the rock and started a complex symbiogenesis on this planet, we are many and interdependent as the symbiogenesis theory of Lynn Margulis explains. On this cloudy Thursday we added different kinds of stone to the garden further diversiy the micro-micro climate in our forest patch.

 





It gets dark early and many of us garden after dusk sometimes; it's quite romantic and also terribly impractical. To adjust to winter, we stop gardening in the soil when it gets dark and we continue gardening in text instead. The book 'Staying with the Trouble' by Donna Haraway is not all that far from a garden patch, and reading together might shed light on how we can get better skills in becoming more nonanthropomorphic sensible. When it rains you can find us under the cover of the 'temple' entrance in the historical garden, it's next to the forest patch. Please feel welcome and if you have a copy of this book it would be nice to bring it.



 

2 November 2022


On Wednesdays the preparations are done for gardening on Thursday, usually it means we bring big bags full of plants to the historical garden. But this time it was autumn holidays and most students were away, what worse is that the school was closed. There was nobody to answer the calls, there was no one at the door, nobody would let us in, no bell, no name, no phone nr anywhere. Standing in the rain with plants too heavy to carry, it was a moment to take in. Is this how it feels on non-holiday days for people who can't enter the Academy? Is it related to what Sarah Ahmed writes about in 'Living a Feminist Life'? The invisible walls, now turned visible and quite real. This garden project started with a refusal, the application for the research (this garden work is a research project into art & ecology) was not accepted because of my identity as a lesbian artist. The reading committee considered me as 'polarising', not the project - it's not a lesbian project - it was me, the researcher, who was refused. You might have noticed the shift from 'we' to 'me', I see this garden project as working in a community that I am part of, together with students, staff, trees, bugs, birds, soil and many more. The garden was there before I arrived and will be there after I leave, and I am a part of this wider ecology. The application was refused by the reading committee, and it was the faculty of the Academy who decided their decision was wrong. I am very grateful for the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp to refuse the refusal and press on in making change. Thank you to everyone who went against the decision and helped to realise this garden project.

 

27 October 2022

Another big change is the paths we are creating. Gardening is a way to give people a place in nature, and a path - or in this case a series of stepping stones - is a safe(r) way to let people enter this garden patch. In a small place the soil gets crowded and we don't want to step on plants too often. That's not the full story. Where do we belong in this small ecology, what are we to the others? How will a tree become aware of our presence and how do we feel about belonging in this garden patch. We are not residents like the worms, beetles, snails, trees and birds; we're visitors and a walking path is a visitor's home, it welcomes people in.




Three types of 'soil': sandy soil without organic matter, sandy soil with some nutritions and compost: not actually a soil but the local compost made from the green waste collected in Antwerp.

 

To diversify the ecology is to work with different types of soil. There is a strange human connotation with the difference in soil, we call black soil 'rich' and light soil 'poor', and often gardening is about getting your soil more 'rich' to have strong plants and nice produce. Some plants prefer a lighter soil, a low nutrition and less organic matter. Those are not poor plants, and we can change the story of thinking in terms of rich and poor when an ecology is about specialised organisms. In the garden patch we're creating a part with extra compost and a part with lighter soil, letting the seeds of wild plants choose where they want to grow. If you ever visit Belgium you will find the end of the train platform is often not weeded, and between the gravel and stones all kinds of wild flowers grow on a very light soil. These ends of the platform are often the home of stunningly interesting plant combinations and far more intense than an evenly cared for nutritious border.





We planted Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), Clary (Salvia sclarea), Dame's rocket (Hesperis Matronalis), Dog-rose (Rosa canina) and Daffodils (Narcissus) on a very warm late autumn day. There is still a lot of soil uncovered though it's not the goal to finish the garden as soon as possible. I'm not trying to create my garden and there is no end goal to this project. Instead it's about change and ongoingness, and we're creating it together (I'll introduce the fellow gardeners later) with a multitude of possible outcomes. To leave a patch of open soil for butterflies to land and for seeds to fall is not all too different from creating an unfinished garden for gardeners to enter.


Garden view with the 'study' for the museum of fine arts in the back.

The Royal Academy of Antwerp has a garden that doubles as an open-air museum of old entrances, these gates - portals- porches - entrances...  are from the time when the Spanish ruled Flandres. It's a weird feeling to see students entering the garden full of unreal passages. The gates lead to nowhere and the doors remain closed. The past is tangible in a thick, ongoing presence, the word used by Donna Haraway is   kainos; she writes about in "Staying with the Trouble". This place becomes more and more interesting, the wall with the gates and the pediment is part of a 'small' study for the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp or KMSKA in short(er). While the museum was intentioned to be built in the city park, the plans changed. The location of the citadel in the south of the city was chosen instead, effectively burying the Duke of Alva's fort under the new building that opened in 1890. The KMSKA holds a colonial past, the location was used for the international exposition of 1885. This was the year the Congo Free State was created, and the world exhibition showed a Congolese village to promote the colonial spirit. While the Royal Academy and the museum are both older than Belgium ( we are digging in a garden instructed by Napaleon B.), there is no place untouched by our colonial past. The past is present in this thick presence. 



 


20 October 2022


The patch with permission to garden on the historical grounds of the Royal Academy in Antwerp.

This research project on art and ecology had the work title "The Sympoiesis Garden", inspired by Donna Haraway's book Staying With the Trouble. This and many other books will be our gardening companions amongst other tools. I think of this project as 'making sense', that is a material and figurative description of what artists and gardeners do in this garden patch. Making sense has a history in the visual arts, it's full of curiosity. Making sense is about the senses, it is like the rope fencing off the patch signifying a change in landscape instead of locking nature in. The rope fence is a string figure, as a fence it holds nothing in or out. The garden is full of string figures, from string bean supports and a soil full of fungus strings, to the ropes guiding people around precarious patches of soil. These SF figures work as Speculative Fabulations, Supportive Feminism and Science Fiction in a thick present. The garden group will be submerged in the Donna Haraway concepts, but it is not a requirement to have read her books; her concepts become material-semiotic realities that you can touch, its about making sense. This garden project is not only about Donna Haraway, we will look at many interesting writers, like Anna L. Tsing, Jamaica Kincaid, Robin Wall Kimerer and others. We're also going to have a closer look at the trouble we're in, and find a path trough the mess of queer kinship, situated knowledge, climate change, artist's support, peer connections and how to think together as artists in a garden patch.

 


P.S. The patches in the name The Royal Academy of Antwerp Garden Patches comes from Anna L. Tsing's book 'Mushroom At The End Of The World. Tsing describes a patch and patchiness in a way that comes very close to the part of the garden we are allowed to work in (more about that later).  The patches matter because they are in the historical garden. This old garden in the grounds of the Academy is a protected area, we're not allowed to touch anything because of the Royal Decree from 1974. However, for this project we have a special permission to work in two patches in this garden to restore ecology. I would like to thank everyone involved who helped to open up this densely closed of administration and find a possibility to garden in this garden. 

 

We added small containers for strong plants like Bullrushes (Scirpoides holoschoenus), Yellow flag iris (Iris pseudocarus), Marsh cinquefoil (Comarum Palustre), Coontail (Ceratophylum demersum) and Lemna Trisulca.
 

The first step towards restoring ecology is 'water', when there is no available water in the garden we will make a place for water. This is a recycled cement bucket that we could reuse as a pond. We can't dig a pond because the garden used to be a monastery cemetery in eighteenth century, and anywhere below the ground level we might find surprises. The pond stands on top the soil and to give access to small creatures we built a path alongside the bucket with stones leaves and soil. There isn't enough water for frogs, but one never knows what might arrive. 


The pond looks a wilder than it is, but once the sand sinks to the bottom it will be a nice addition of water.

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