Botanical Projects

Interviews with Succulents


A winter residency at Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center provided me with the opportunity of spending an extended period of time in the enchanting greenhouses on the property. I found myself irresistibly drawn to the alluring succulent section and got permission from the garden crew to "borrow" six different succulents for a few hours at a time. I took them to my studio and using my training in plant communication conducted a brief interview with each.

Wave Hill Greenhouse, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010 Wave Hill Greenhouse, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010 Interviews with Succulents (Installation view), Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010 Interviews with Succulents (Installation view), Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010 Interviews with Succulents (Installation view), Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010 Interviews with Succulents (Installation view), Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010

#1 Echevaria

Echevaria<br>Interviews with Succulents, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010

AKS: Hello—you are gorgeous.

E: I know, I've been noted for my beauty from when I was very young, and I can't contain myself from the desire to create more and more beauty. In fact, this pot is starting to be a bit too tight for me.

AKS: Tell me about your colors.

E: Most other succulents are uni-tone, mostly green. I like to be noticed, so I thought that besides giving my leaves a plump, sexy look, I'll add some rose tones—good for my complexion.And I'm very good at detail work.

You'll notice that even some of the green leaves on top I drew a very slight red line, with an attractive red tip, like a nipple.

AKS: How old are you?

E: It's my beauty that counts.

AKS: What are those big leaves on the side?

Oh, just a variation in pattern.

AKS: How come I can't detect your energy field?

1. Its winter 2. I'm very private.

AKS: Where do you come from?

E: A sunny spot by a rock, overlooking the ocean. I like the breeze and the view.

AKS: Do you like the company at the greenhouse?

E: Yes, in fact, it's not bad. I'm by nature more solitary, but I am happy to get admired, and the other succulents around me are not bad looking either, so I believe we make for an attractive crowd.

AKS: Do you need a bigger pot?

E: For now I don't mind working around this one, eventually that might be necessary, though.

AKS: What word defines you best?

E: Goddess. Fierce goddess, actually. I know what I want, and I usually get it.

Do I sound overconfident?

By the way, did you notice my plump skin?

No need for moisturizer.

#2 Aeonium Undulatum

Aeonium Undulatum<br>Interviews with Succulents, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010

AKS: Hello! I love the shape of your leaves.

AU: Thank you. It took many centuries to achieve this specific shape. One of my ancestors had the idea that rather than just oblong leaves it would be more interesting to widen them towards the tip.

It took many generations to achieve this shape.

AKS: Are you happy with it?

AU: I wouldn't mind even wider tips, but I won't complain.

AKS: What's that brown edge on some of your leaves?

AU: Age, I suppose. Nobody is young for eternity.

I really don't mind it, it shows character and wisdom.

AKS: Your center feels very crisp and young.

AU: Yes, it constantly regenerates itself, and it's always giving me the

sense of freshness and suppleness.

AKS: How do you like being in this space?

AU: It really feels great to be placed on a pedestal. I wouldn't want to be here for too long, but it's quite nice to be showcased like this with the spotlight shining on me. Also, I'm really pleased with that big portrait of me you have hanging on the wall there, makes me feel like a movie star.

AKS: You're generally very quiet, right?

AU: Yes, I'm normally very private. I am a yogi of sorts. I'm basically stretching out my leaves and creating contemplative poses that help me be in harmony with my surroundings and with the universe. I also pay a lot of attention to the spacing, to the empty spaces in between leaves. Emptiness is important.

Are you noticing the nice curvatures on my leaves?

AKS: Sure, absolutely.

AU: Do you think you could re-photograph me without that big shadow on top? I think that might make me look even better.

AKS: I will be very happy to do so.

#3 Sedum Maganianum

Sedum Maganianum<br>Interviews with Succulents, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010

AKS: Hello, I like the geometric patterns in which you arranged your leaves.

SM: Thank you, it really takes a lot of patience and precision work.

The hardest part is to get the spiraling movement correct—you don't want it to be either too loose or too tight.

AKS: I see. And tell me about the way you are draping yourself over your basket.

SM: Obviously, that's not what I would do in nature. In nature, I walk and I expand myself for as far as I can. I am a nomad, basically, it's hard to commit to just one place.

AKS: I perfectly understand. Why are you making your foliage so dense?

SM: Again, it's mostly a way of compensating for not being able to expand into the landscape. I like the feeling of lushness and fullness this conveys, tough. It's also a good way of protecting my leaves from too much evaporation.

AKS: Your leaves look particularly juicy and succulent—they should be delicious to taste.

SM: Don't be fooled. I make them extremely bitter in order to discourage animals from nibbling on me—can you imagine what a great source of moisture I would be for all those critters out there?

AKS: There is something grape-like about the arrangement of your leaves.

SM: Grape? I don't know what that is.

AKS: Are you male or female?

SM: I believe I am more on the male side. Strong, muscular, toned—can't you tell? I do have some feminine traits, though, like the softness of my skin.

AKS: Thank you, I really enjoyed our conversation.

#4 Aloe Picatius

Aloe Picatius<br>Interviews with Succulents, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010

AKS: Hello. You look very majestic on that pedestal.

AP: Yes, I've really been enjoying the extra height this is giving me. In the greenhouse I have been placed on the ground behind some other plants, and people don't get to quite see my entire shape.

AKS: You have a strong, warrior-like quality.

I am very strong, indeed, and extremely resistant to the elements. Although my leaves are pretty and quite decorative, and they certainly do store water, my largest water storage system is my trunk.

AKS: I notice a few cracks on the bottom…

AP:They call them signs of wisdom.

AKS: You seem to be very comfortable being alone.

AP: Yes, in fact, I really don't need much company. To tell you the truth, the chatter and the crowded energy of the greenhouse are not so much my thing. Not that I mind any of the other plants in particular, however I would much rather have a space for myself with more emptiness around me.

AKS: I see that sometimes your trunk splits into two branches and at others the leaves grow out of one stem.

AP: I'm not so fixated on just one design, either way works.

AKS: Is 14 leaves your maximum size?

AP: Yes, that's twice seven, a sacred number, I like it that way.

AKS: Are you into sacred geometry?

AP: Why would it surprise you that a plant is into sacred geometry?

AP: We are a lot more knowledgeable than you humans believe, and you have much to learn form us.

AKS: Thank you, I greatly appreciate your advice.

#5 Senecio Citriformis

Senecio Citriformis<br>Interviews with Succulents, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010

AKS: Hello.You look so pretty in that pot.

SC: Yes, I am glad you notice. I used to live in a plastic container, and I set my eyes on this one quite some time ago, until they finally transplanted me into it.

Call it creative visualization.

AKS: Are your fellow Senecio Citriformis resentful about your good looking home?

SC: I'll have to admit, it's created a bit of jealousy. Being in this beautiful container has allowed me to expand and to thrive, whereas the other ones are not exactly great looking, as you can tell. But that's life, if you're in a good place there will always be others who are envious and jealous. I try not to think about it, and instead I fully cherish life and each moment.

AKS: Actually your pot looks very solid and it seems like it's protecting you.

SC: Yes, I sort of feel as if I were on top of a high fortress.

AKS: What is your higher mission in life?

SC: To be solid and grounded. Not to let external factors upset my existence. To always store water for longer periods of drought, and to prove that with the right knowledge and technique conservation is very much possible.

AKS: What are your thoughts about desertification?

SC: It is really happening, and human, animals and plants will have to learn to be much more careful and conservative in how they use not just water but all other resources as well. And if they just listened to us succulents, they could learn quite a lot.

AKS: So you are saying that you are at the forefront.

SC: No, we actually are preserving a lot of knowledge from the past, which is crucial to humanity's and the planets survival. Many species are going extinct, as you know, because their resources are dwindling – whoever will learn to survive on very little will do fine.

AKS: Thank you, that was a very informative chat.

#6 Greenovia Aurea

(Crassulaceae), Canary Islands

Greenovia Aurea<br>Interviews with Succulents, Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, NY, 2010

AKS: Hello! Those are really daring shoots you are sending out.

GA: Yes, I do this on a seasonal basis. I like to play with boundaries and explore the world surrounding me, and this helps me in the belief that there are infinite possibilities. The stars are the limits.

AKS: That's a quite surprising worldview considering your size and the fact that, being a plant, technically you cannot move about.

GA: Things are not necessarily what they look like, you'd be surprised. If we want to, we can extend our energy way beyond our actual size. In fact, we have a vast and complex communication system that humans know nothing about.

AKS: Does that mean that you can communicate with your family members in the Canary Islands?

GA: Certainly, the way I get information is through sensations in my leaves. Various types of tingling or thumping sensations. You'd be amazed by how much information I can get.

AKS: Do the new shoots function like antennae?

GA: No, my entire body is like an antenna, the shoots are mostly a form of exercise and stretching.

AKS: Tell me about the little yellow flowers.

GA: They are mostly a frivolous touch, really help with attracting the attention of insects during pollination time. They are not essential for the reproduction of the species, though…

AKS: Really, I'm surprised to hear that.

GA: Yes, succulents are quite an unusual family, and there are a lot of things that people wouldn't expect from us.

AKS: Thank you, that was most informative.