Thursday, February 17, 2011


According to both the biodynamic planting guide and also the Māori lunar calendar that you, Andrea, posted the link to, yesterday was an optimum day for planting seeds. The name of the 13th day after a new moon according to the Māori calendar is ‘Ōhua’, and is described as “a very good day for planting food.”[1]
Earlier, when thinking about the possibilities of this lunar planting proposition, I had the dilemma of what should be planted. It felt appropriate that the chosen plant/s be something related specifically to the site of Alterations or to the experience of being a ‘resident’ here. Two lines of thought led to different activities.


First, after the suggestion of looking into the plants that were growing in the vicinity of the Book House building, I went on a number of video walks investigating in detail what was sprouting out of cracks and gaps, up walls and in between drain pipes. It was quite an adventure. (The first version to be added here shortly - while I am considering the possibility of screening another version in the gallery...)

Here’s a preliminary sketch of the route followed; which takes in the driveway entrance to the high-rise behind Book House, the car park between them, the stairs down to Plimmer Steps, the next block down with the humming lower car park, the stairs beside this car park leading to the concrete balcony flowerbed, and of course the stretch of walkway back up to the gallery. Along which, I must add, is a large oak tree, signposted with a plaque describing its origins in John Plimmer’s garden. Apparently it was grown from some acorns given to him by former governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey.

I had a vague thought that it might be interesting to catalogue these incidental plants in some way and perhaps get a botanist to analyse and name them, however I’m not sure whether this is achievable in the timeframe of the project. Maybe it’s something to consider afterwards as some kind of extension.

While I originally had the intention of collecting some cuttings to grow in the gallery, I decided against this for the moment, in favour of my second line of thought; although, according to the Māori calendar, I still have tomorrow afternoon to do some more planting.

Some other plant observations:

Since the beginning of the week I've been noticing different types of plants growing around Wellington, including a kind of garden down by the harbour, which apparently represents the type of vegetation that would have been present before European settlement; and the tenacious plants growing between rocks on the beach at Island Bay, where I've been staying since Monday.

Also, the plant we both noticed growing between the paving bricks outside Alterations on the first weekend, mysteriously disappeared on Tuesday afternoon.

And I collected some moss from a walk up the hill to the Carter Observatory on Tuesday (I went with the intention of discovering whether the moon would pass directly over Alterations at any point, but am none the wiser now.)


The second thought relates back to an encounter at Raewyn Martyn’s artist talk at Enjoy, which Laura and I attended last week. I was strongly recommended to try some green plums, which happen to be in season now, by someone we met on the stairs. (Apparently they are a specialty of New Zealand, though my brief research tells me that Greengage plums are a very old variety of plum known since the sixteenth century in France. Nevertheless, I haven't come across them anywhere else in the world.)
When I moved houses last Friday to Liz and Chloe’s place, Laura drew me a map of how to get there, including on it the location of Moshi’s fruit and veg shop on Cuba street which is said to sell green plums. For some reason I couldn’t find this particular shop, perhaps because, as I later found out, they close at 3pm.

Instead, on Tuesday, in the course of an afternoon walk, I decided to visit the organic shop. There I found some yellow ‘Luisa’ plums which I didn’t recognise, but unfortunately no green plums. I bought some yellow plums anyway and enjoyed one in the sun by the harbour.

Then, by chance, yesterday on the way to Alterations I walked past Moore Wilson’s (the supermarket that we visited together on my first day in Wellington) and was surprised to finally find the elusive green plum! I bought a handful. It occurred to me then, that the pips of the green plums would be the right thing to plant. Somehow though these various encounters, conversations and searches, they had accumulated enough significance to my experience here.

After all this, there seemed a need for a certain amount of ceremony in the partaking of them. I ate the first two slowly, while sitting in the fleeting finger of sun that shines into Plimmer Steps once a day. (They tasted amazingly sweet.) These were then planted into paper cups I’d collected from coffees next door with some soil dug from the flowerbed opposite the gallery, then watered with the tap in the corner of the space.

Later in the afternoon I visited Laura at the Adam Art Gallery and together, over a cup of tea, we had three more green plums and one yellow one. (We talked about work and about the direction that this project was going in.) Back at Alterations, I invited Matt to come by after work and eat another plum with me. (We sat on the green blanket and watched a YouTube video in which a woman was made temporarily colour-blind by some kind of psychological trick.)  Fortuitously, Amit and Joel appeared shortly thereafter, on their way to photograph a banner for the next show. They both had a green plum each and then continued with their project.

In the evening, after the moon had risen, I went back to Alterations to plant the rest of the pips in the dark. I planted one of the green plum pips shared with Laura in another coffee cup, and one each for every person who ate one that day in the flowerbed opposite the gallery. Then I went up to the balcony flowerbed around the corner and planted two yellow plum pips amongst the overgrowth. 

A video will come soon.

Now all there is to do is water every day, and wait for the influence of the moon to take effect and aid in the germination of the plum pips. It could be that nothing happens, but there is a small possibility that one day in the future there will be a green plum tree growing on Plimmer Steps...

(Just one more thought: I wonder if some sort of event should happen on Saturday during the full moon? It seems that this date is gaining significance in relation to the project...)

[1] Matariki facts and figures, retrieved 15 February 2011, available from <>

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