SOMETHING WILD & COMPOSED FOR WINTER, with HORT & POTT
This week, as tend toward the winter solstice, we continue our exploration of garden and seasonally based winter cheer here in the northern hemisphere.
Hort and Pott is the botanically driven design work and vision of Todd Carr and Carter Harrington whose work strives to embrace the seasons of their home-place in the Catskill Mountains. This vision is in many ways an effort to reimagine their own relationship to the wider natural world around them and an encouragement to us to do the same.
Todd and Carter are gardeners, designers, creators and educators whose creations capture their own love of place and of seasonal garden-based ritual which they hope will awaken an ever greater and more sublime meaning when we bring the outdoors in or take ourselves out.
They joined me via remote recording, the two of them sitting together in their home, sharing a headset, laughing together, looking to one another to double check perspective, memories, and thoughts, to speak more about their shared, loving, and ever evolving home and garden in the Catskills.
"I think magic happens with the branches and the forms, and although they will not last forever, a think a couple months of something wild and composed....I hope it makes people happy.”
Todd Carr, Hort & Pott
When I asked Todd what being in the "wreath making zone" felt like for him, he wrote:
"When I dive into the wreath making process, it feels a little bit like ‘leaving the station’ - my thoughts are moving while my hands trail behind, weaving, tying - embellishing, it feels exhilarating. Similar to an adrenaline rush, I always feel excited working through the creative process building with each new adornment the chapters to every woven story."
When I asked them both if making garden and plant based art this time of year felt different than at other times of year, especially this year, they wrote:
Todd - "The energy surrounding this time of year for me begins more in the fall, September , and builds into a rhythm. In this season of culmination, I feel like I have the opportunity to celebrate all of the seasons, incorporating botanical materials harvested, foraged grown and preserved from the entire year with the wonderful added and final layer of the evergreens. It feels like a waltz at at the height of its score, and what follows is the great rest; the winter. It probably is the most emotionally invested and personal because of course everyone has a special place for holidays but symbolically it also represents the ‘end of the year’ and what we’re aiming to do is create and share the beauty of this idea. "
Carter - "I think that there is certainly some emotional attachment because the sole purpose of the work we're creating now is about celebrating and appreciating not only the year but the moments leading up to this time, even with the stresses of the world- it’s an even better reason to carve out time for decorating and celebrating, no matter how intimately. There is a real opportunity for us to get in touch with our selves and come little closer to nature during a time that literally exemplifies bringing a tree indoors!"
One of the aspects of Todd and Caters's life journeys and Hort & Pott's professional evolution that struck me is how adaptive and responsive it is.
As they enter this newest phase in relationship with a new-to-them piece of land, with its forests and wetlands, its meadows of milkweed that they dance through to get most of the seeds to disperse before they harvest the pods, they are leaning into this shifting time and taking their time to consider what the physical shop of Hort and Pott should and will look like in the new year. It is interesting to hear them share this process with us.
You can follow Todd, Carter, and Hort and Pott's work and journey on line at: HortandPott.com, on Instagram @hortandpott/
Join us again next week when we celebrate the coming winter solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere in conversation with gardener and designer Amber Tamm, an undaunted gardener, farmer, floral designer and very human justice seeker. Her work gives us visions for a future we can grow on. Listen in next week!
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- On Creativity, Life in the Studio with Frances Palmer
THINKING OUT LOUD this week..
Hey, it’s Jennifer –
One of the things I love about the work of Hort & Pott is how the design work as Carter articulates early in the conversation is in many ways about listening and hearing, about looking and seeing what is going on in the world around them throughout the year in order to make the most responsive designs in that time in their place. I like this idea of us as gardeners all being in truer conversation with the larger land and lives of our places.
Conversely, I was really heartsick recently when John shared with me the news that in the state of California four highly pressured and declining bumble bee species were excluded from protections under the Endangered Species Act.
As reported by Western Farm Press: "The superior court in Sacramento has ruled the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) does not cover insects and that bees, as invertebrates cannot be included under the same classification as fish – which are covered by the act.
"The Almond Alliance of California and seven other agricultural groups sued the California Fish and Game Commission" in order to ensure that the bumble bees were not granted protections.
"The case followed a 2018 petition from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Food Safety to add the four bumble bee species -- the Crotch, Franklin’s, Suckley cuckoo, and Western bumble bee. The bees would have been the first insects granted protections."
IN response to the industry win, the Almond Alliance said "The California almond industry recognizes that pollinators are integral to many natural habitats and are crucial for the production success of our industry,” but that they were pleased with the ruling and they reiterated “that the California almond industry continues to be committed to protecting the health and well-being of bees."
While that sounds good, the fact is that the Almond Alliance of California and seven other industrial agricultural groups opposed to the protection of these bumblebees “feared that pesticide restrictions, grazing rules, and other habitat protections could then be imposed.”
I guess I am missing which natural habitat insects aren’t crucial for? and how maintaining our economic structure dependent on pesticide use, on not altering or advocating for better grazing management and on not protecting and caring for all our natural habitats could ever equal being committed to protecting the health and well-being of bees?
In more bad news, the winter count for the western Monarchs are even more dire this winter than previous lows.
And I marry these two thoughts - that of the adaptive and responsive creativity of Todd and Carter and that of the short-sighted non-responsive and non-adaptive to our exact time and place on this beloved planet of our larger agricultural industries and economies because I think this is one of those disconnects that gardeners can weigh in on. This is one of those breeches into which gardeners can enter into with all the conviction and love that they exchange with their gardens and places every day, every season.
That we can advocate, and role model, and vote with our own gardens, and voices, and choices and dollars – for the economies of our places to be built on listening to and heeding the nature of our places.
All habitats are dependent on insects and all of our insects need us – and we desperately need them.
How many chemically dependent almonds are four entire species of bumblebees worth to you and your garden?
For more information on this and how to get involved and learn more – head to xercessociety.org.
Together we can and will grow better.
AND I know, I REALLY REALLY do, how fatigued and stressed and checked out we can become in the face of so much bad news – across the board – we as a species – and some of more than others – have a lot of work to do to improve our species’ part in this evolutionary and planetary dance….but let me also remind you of how important even small steps are. Like Teresa Sabankaya’s Fortitude posy of last week, and Todd’s wild and composed creations of this week to greet the coming winter, like the story of every women in my book The Earth In Her Hands, like every interview I host here on Cultivating Place, just as every bumble bee matters, so too every one of our caringly cultivated gardens makes a difference.
Every one of our gardens that rejects chemicals, that nurtures listening humans, and the beauty of healthy plants, insects, birds, snakes and frogs, flowers and fruit – every one of our gardens that responds and adapts to changing seasons and circumstances and needs – makes a difference.
We gardeners can be powerful intersectional agents and space of life giving change for the better, for the our individual growth and well-being, for our families, for our communities, and our economies of humans and all other beings from bumblebees to monarchs to the very soil, water, and air.
As we head into the solstice season and the restorative dark rest of this winter of 2020, dream on this. Dream and gestate on this...what wild and composed magic might result?
The winter reminds us that rest (and dreams) are required for all healthy growth.
All photos used courtesy of Hort & Pott.
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