Tag Archives: houseplants

from the art fair

I just popped over to the Art San Diego 2012 contemporary art fair, which runs through Sunday. In addition to art, there was a lot of interesting design. A couple of the pieces or installations employed live plants and I thought I’d share them here.

The first photos are of a wall piece. I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea of planting a staghorn fern in the head of a stag trophy has been done already, but I thought this was fun. Unfortunately the presentation was short on labels or further information, so the exhibitor missed out on an opportunity to get free publicity on a garden blog that must get readers by the millions.

The other was this art installation by local artist Keenan Hartsten, who works with various natural materials. Making up this piece are plants, pots, the horizontal shelves–whatever they’re made of–and white and colored pebbles that have been glued to the wall to form horizontal lines. In this gallery-like context the plants look extremely strange, even though many of them are fairly common houseplants. If I were uncharitable I might say that the plants looked more artistic and wildly strange than much of the art in the rest of the fair. But being a plant person quite frankly I find that’s generally the case: Most plants are far more interesting than most art.

You can see some of Keenan Hartsten’s other works at his website [ here ]. I Especially like the driftwood piece he did for a local surf shop.

the danger of houseplants

Confession time. I have this fixation on Antarctica.

Most people who go to spas and do time in hotels with pool bars don’t understand it. But, as with all other perfectly honorable fetishes, it’s surprising and reassuring the number of people I run into who actually get it.

Sometime in the mid 1990s I was seriously planning a trip there, though it’s a trip that I still haven’t taken. I was trawling around what was then the internet, doing some random research, when I came across some memos from the National Science Foundation concerning houseplants in Antarctica that at the time I found a little bizarre:

In line with requirements of the Antarctic Conservation Act
[Section 4. Prohibited Acts (a) (C)], and its regulations
[Subpart B, Section 670.4 (f)], the Senior U.S. Representative,
Antarctica issued a directive reminding U.S. Antarctic Program
participants of prohibitions against maintenance of household
plants at U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) stations and facilities.
That directive is attached to this Environmental Action

To further implement the directive, this Environmental Action
Memorandum details approved methods for disposition of any
household plants (and associated materials) that currently may be
at USAP stations or facilities.

Disposition of Household Plants

Any household plants, associated growth media (e.g., soil), and
associated growth containers currently at any USAP station or
facility shall be turned over immediately to the NSF
Representative (or designee). Such plants and growth media shall
be incinerated in a suitable metal waste collection barrel (non-
plastic growth containers shall be incinerated at the same time).
The resultant ash and debris shall be retrograded from Antarctica
following approved procedures. No plastic growth containers
shall be incinerated (these shall be compacted and placed in a
suitable metal waste collection barrel for subsequent retrograde

from Antarctica). Special handling or approvals may be required
for the retrograde of these soil “contaminated” plastic growth

Sidney Draggan

Back then I thought it was ridiculous that anyone would be worried about creeping charlies, spiderplants, philodendrons and diffenbachias taking over the pack ice. Even today it does seem to lean a bit towards the overprotectionist direction, but not by much. Caution is always good with fragile ecosystems like Antarctica. Even if the main houseplants wouldn’t become weeds and take over the continent, who knows what damaging viruses and other pathogens could be stowaways in potting soil, pathogens that might threaten the few plants that live there today.

Way back when, Antarctica wasn’t positioned at the South Pole, and it was warm enough to host many plants, including forests of Antarctic beech trees. In this day and age of global warming, who knows how long it’d be before penguins would end up having to roost in fields of someone’s escaped African violets?