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Plants Out of Place

In this world we tend to judge a thing’s worth depending on its use or its beauty. Here, Raphaëlle de Beaumont writes on weeds, and how what we consider to be both ugly and useless in our culture is in fact revered in another- the exhibition ‘Plants Out of Place’ aims to prove this. 

‘Weeds are considered outlaws, disobedient plants that don’t belong in cultivated gardens’ Richard Maybe

Weeding the garden for hours and hours to keep the lawn perfect. Crying out in disgust when walking on a seaweed mat before reaching the sea. These are common reactions we have towards weeds, the troublesome plants that grow out of our control in places where they are not wanted. Nevertheless, according to the founders of the project ‘Plants Out of Place’, part of the London Design Festival (18th to 22nd September), weeds may play a crucial role in building a more sustainable future, be it in cosmetics, medicine or alimentation.

‘Plants Out of Place’ was initiated by the design studio Aikieu based in the UK and Coloni, a Swedish gardening house. They will hold an outdoor exhibition inspired by these undervalued species in conjunction with other designers like Formwerks Architectural or DCPP Arquitectos.

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The project also includes activities such as workshops and tastings designed to lift the veil from the lost knowledge on the life and properties of weeds. As the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said ‘A weed is simply a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered’. Indeed, they are cultivated for medicinal or dietary purposes in other countries. Following this topic, ‘Foraging with the Outlaws’ and ‘Theatrum Bonaticum’ are two herbal walks organised in conjunction with The Handmade Apothecary in this purpose. The first one was designed to show the participants how to identify cultivable edible wild plants, while the second focuses on how to create herbal remedies with local plants.

The events also engage the public on questioning their approach to sustainable practices. Studio Aikieu’s founder Jenny Lee explains ‘As the world’s population expands and climate change continues we will need to look to our feral cousins for survival.’ Why not use wild garlic leaves as a garnish or a daisy infused oil as a base for an ointment to replace arnica? Victoria Chown and Kim Walker from The Handmade Apothecary will deliver a workshop, Wild Beauty, on how to identify and use key weeds to ingest and apply to the skin. Beyond its extraordinary potential for cosmetic uses, weeds may also be the food of the future and answer scarcity issues. Chef Christopher Jordan will be hosting Mauvaises Herbes, a unique foraged supper in collaboration with a mixologist from Platterform who will be serving botanical infused cocktails, using weeds as the main ingredient. For example, wild garlic leaves or flowers can be used as garnish and daisies infused oil acts like arnica in an ointment.

In a nutshell, the goal of ‘Plants Out of Place’ is to positively influence the way we perceive such undesirable species and enhance their potential for a more ecological future.

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For more information on the events visit the ‘Plants Out of Place’ website. 

All images courtesy of Plants Out of Place.

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