ISSUE #1 – 2008 STRICTLY UNEDITED JOURNAL ON THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF NATURE IN THE URbAN ENvIRONmENT
TOMATO LOVER RENSKE JANSSEN It was the start of a wonderful summer. The kind you rarely ever experience. The sun and the sea, or the balcony in the city. The latter in my case. It was the summer in which I fell deeply in love for the first time in my life. I swear that it was because of his tomato plants. But perhaps it had more to do with the way he looked after them, the undivided attention he gave them. I visited him at home for the first time late on a Saturday afternoon when the sun was still shining brightly. It was warm. In fact it was sweltering hot. E., after the E. for Eduardo, had invited me to eat at his place. While I was parking my bicycle in front of his door, I was so nervous that I contemplated calling him to cancel the visit. I thought about previous boyfriends that didn’t work out. The one from Amsterdam for instance, who communicated his thoughts and feelings through endless monologues on art house films and the motivations of their directors. He was a real film enthusiast. I was never able to intervene. But still, I decided to persevere and rang the doorbell. E. opened the door, looked deep into my eyes, kissed me lingeringly on the lips while holding me close, took my hand and led me to the back of his apartment. ‘To show me something special’. And sure enough, I could not believe my eyes. I saw a whole series of different sorts of subtropical, deep red tomatoes, which he had carefully arranged in ten large pots between all kinds of other plants and flowers. A world of difference compared to the front of his apartment, which looked out onto the ghetto of Rotterdam. E. pointed out the small Cherries and the oval Pomodoris and a strange-looking mutated species, the name of which I don’t recall. The tomatoes on this plant looked simultaneously like bright red peppers and pears. ‘The little ones are the tastiest, and the big ones are only tasty if they get a lot of sun’ was E.’s introduction. He let his fingers glide slowly across the leaves of the plants.
E. looked like Heathcliff, well-built and with that black curly hair. He was wild and intense, sweet and untameable. ‘These are for the salad,’ he said, as he picked a couple of ripe Pomodoris. Pavarotti could be heard in the background. E. and I had exactly the same passions. But his went far further than mine. I had only ever grown Moneymaker, the most popular variety of tomato. But E. had at least three. ‘Shouldn’t they be planted in soil, in a garden instead of in pots?’ I asked while being overwhelmed by a feeling that I didn’t know what to say. And in the meantime, I noticed that my voice broke. ‘No, no,’ he said in a calm tone. ‘With tomato plants, it is actually good for them to stand under a lean-to, in a pot with soil.’ ‘Then they never get too much water and as you can see, they are still standing in the sun.’ I watched a movement he made. He pushed a couple of pots closer together. An hour later the sun was gone. I had drunk too much wine. I thought in flashbacks, about my own tomato plants, about my time in Amsterdam, about how I could conquer this man, or whether I ought to. I’ve no idea anymore how I intended to do so. ‘A tomato plant will fail if it gets too much rain. Then the fruit goes brown,’ while he topped a few plants. ‘This topping the plants is very important to prevent them from growing too far’ he implored me. ‘Otherwise they continue producing new flowers, those yellow ones, from which new fruit keep growing’. I tried to focus my gaze. ‘These new ones prevent the others, which were there already, from ever really growing fully. They don’t ripen properly like that.’ He made no eye contact during his explanation. ‘So you have to turn your concentration to the existing green globes and focus.’ I suddenly remembered all the things I still had to do before tomorrow. But that was just an escape thought. ‘Did you know that the tomato plant was originally brought from
Mexico by an Italian priest?’ ‘No’, I answered. He continued while he slowly strolled back and forth in front of his plants: ‘Some time in the sixteenth century. Then in Italy, they were used only as ornamental plants for a couple of centuries.’ ‘That was because they thought that the whole plant was poisonous.’ I didn’t know that either, I did think that I should have known it. The more he spoke, the more I had nothing to answer back, for the simple fact that I didn’t know the facts. ‘Pomodori means “yellow apple under the sun”, so they were yellow originally.’ I felt like an idiot. On that evening and the evenings thereafter, the tomato lover monologues developed. On the history of tomato plants, the best maintenance, the new varieties on the market, and about the death of Pavarotti. The tone was gradually set for the rest of what initially seemed such a sultry summer. I gave E. a few more Saturday evenings to talk about something else, naturally. But his devotion to the tomato plant blossomed to a fever pitch. Then, I would sit on one of his two white garden chairs waiting, longing for the moment when his obsession would blow over. For him to look at me again, to embrace me instead of his window boxes. I was not yet ready for someone like E. Tomato love is generally short-lived and intense according to my grandmother – who is still alive. It usually lasts six months. It begins with high hopes and fantasies that run away with you. She once said with a sigh, completely disillusioned: ‘Rens, it all generally comes to an end with the sun-ripened tomato between lettuce leaves.’ I don’t know if that’s entirely true. Because where, then, does it all begin exactly? Well anyway. Directly afterwards, after the summer, our love died. Coincidental? I think so, but I’m not entirely sure why.
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GREENERY & COMMUNiTY HARRY DEN HARTOG American metropolises such as New York, Chicago and Washington are renowned for their fantastic green structures, parkways and municipal parks. Nevertheless, some entire districts remain devoid of public parks and gardens and the distance to the original landscape seems ever greater. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of citizens’ initiatives are emerging to help greenery retake the city. American cities were booming after the Second World War, and a fast-growing group of affluent car-owners departed to the newly constructed leafy suburbs, leaving behind those who were less well-off in the old districts that rapidly became run down. The race riots in the late 1960s were particularly instrumental in prompting the local residents to take action themselves to improve their environment. In 1973, on New York’s Lower East Side, local resident Liz Christy set up the ‘Green Guerrillas’; a non-profit organization that activates neighbourhoods to claim waste lands as sites on which to establish community gardens. The plots of land, where stray dogs frequently slept or junkies injected their drugs, were cleared out and renovated by local volunteers. The Green Guerrillas distributed pamphlets containing instructions on how to make ‘seed grenades’, a recipe to foliate inaccessible terrain by throwing a balloon or a Christmas bauble filled with seeds+ water+fertilizer over the fence. The number of projectiles necessary was dependent on the subsoil and the size of the plot. Balloons had to be thrown overarm, baubles underarm. Thanks to the seeds, more and more wild flowers are burgeoning between the walls of the city. The Liz Christy Garden, named after the founder, who died long before her time, is seen as the mother of all gardens. This community garden, situated above the Houston Street subway station, consists of a wafer thin layer of topsoil supplemented by donated organic material. The garden is home to the tallest Metasequoia in Manhattan, there is a
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fishpond and a beekeeper also works there. The first small gardens were a great success and were soon being imitated. The owner of the land, the Housing and Preservation Department of New York City, tolerated the gardens. For a symbolic payment of one dollar per year, a Green Thumb label could be obtained: a user-permit subject to thirty days notice. Some less valuable plots of land can even receive lease contracts for five to ten years. Neighbourhood meals, children’s parties and workshops are organized in the gardens. The layouts of the gardens are just as varied as their users, from somewhat unfortunate to slick design. Sometimes it is vegetable garden, or it may be a paved square with a podium for folk art, a playground or an oasis of flowers with an altar to 9/11. The utilization is usually organized collectively, but there are also sometimes individual vegetable gardens. To prevent any inconvenience, the owner requires that the gardens be fenced off. This makes access to the gardens dependent on the sporadic presence of a volunteer supervisor with a key. Local residents are themselves responsible for the maintenance and supervision, and also have to organize the fund-raising. Many of the trees, plants, seeds and the fertilizer are donated in kind. The generosity was such that a sign has been placed next to the pond in the Liz Christy Garden, requesting people not to leave behind any more fish or tortoises. In poorer districts, particularly in Chicago, people are earning incomes by planting crops to be sold, analogous to similar initiatives in developing countries. Sometimes a commercial sponsor is willing to contribute in exchange for publicity, such as Disney, which supports a number of gardens in the Lower East Side. In 1994, the then newly elected mayor Rudolph Giuliani decided that a large number of New York’s gardens would have to go, to make way for housing development. The city needed money. Local residents sprang into action again and
successfully appealed the decision on the grounds of existing law, which requires that a minimum of 2.5 acres of public gardens be provided per 1000 inhabitants in residential districts. Thanks to active citizens, this city currently boasts more than 750 community gardens. An interesting variation on the concept of the community garden is the Mobile City Farm, an initiative of the nonprofit organization Resource Center Chicago. The Farm is constantly being relocated to temporarily undeveloped plots of land. It is a kind of antisquatting measure, which prevents the land from degenerating and having a negative influence on property prices. At the same time it offers an opportunity to people in desperate situations, who receive training in horticulture. A share of the vegetables goes to charitable institutions. The bulk of the produce is sold at farm-markets; even some of Chicago’s top restaurants are regular customers! By now, the first cautious initiatives by citizens seeking more informal land utilization are also emerging in American suburbs. A few years ago, the architect Fritz Haeg started the project ‘Edible Estates’, in which he demonstrates that the tidy green lawns in the suburbs can also be used as a vegetable garden. The results of a series of interviews he had with residents are alarming. The top three reasons they gave for choosing to roll out the trusty lawn instead of planting flowers or vegetables are: fear of falling property prices, fear of vermin, and fear that neighbours would steal the vegetables. There is, thus, still a long way to go. One thing is certain, that the counter-movements mentioned here are able to combine idealism with pragmatism. The value of this lies not so much in re-establishing contact with nature, but primarily in bring people into contact with each other. The community garden is unsurprisingly a synonym for a church or bar. It is a place for reflection and offers the possibility to meet interesting people.
ViOLA ERNST vAN DER HOEvEN Fredrikstad, summer 1968 Summer in Norway. Clouds across the sun, sun between the clouds. A three-year-old brat in red overall and Wellington boots squatting in the brick dust. Aunties at a safe distance, chatting under a faded parasol. They stood together motionless. Pale wild pansies, uncultivated seedlings, weeds, full of vitality but of such a fragile beauty that even my aunties experienced a moral dilemma and were able to keep their constantly weeding hands to themselves. Pansies that allowed themselves to be discovered by a child. A discovery, the sensational moment of which I can still call to mind today, almost forty years later. I saw flowers, but I also saw colours melting into one another and felt the velvet sensation of the petals, like the faces of tiny kittens. These friendly soft coloured creatures, whose flowery heads nodded smartly across each other, altered the way I have walked through the world ever since. Because with the pansies, a world full of flowers opened, a boundless universe, the perception of which dovetailed perfectly with my own dreamy character. Still hyper sensory but now with a reason. Full of pansies.
throw ‘sinaasappels’ (oranges) through the air. It is hailing while the sun shines. There is no rainbow. In the silence that follows, spring is palpable for a brief moment via the pansies. Standing in the front garden with a recognizable scent of flowers, safe and sweet, reassuringly familiar. They are endearingly large pansies in garish colours with dark flecks, velvety soft and piercing yellow on the inside. He cannot choose and picks them. Swiftly, all of them. And he hides them away between the pages of a book. Crushed beauty, retained in dried form.
Venice, Biennale 1999 Permesso! Lasciare libere il passagio! The pontoon is full of people. Dolled up in anticipation, staring into space. Sunglasses, polished shoes, hair shining in the sun. The boat draws a white trail through the green water, salty wood slowly passing the sepiacoloured island with the tall cypress trees. An invasion of pansies steps aboard. They appeared out of thin air. Pansies everywhere silently captive on white paper bags: pale scattered flower faces, bushy eyelashes and eccentric moustaches, threadbare as dandies in an English gentleman’s club. Colonial pansies bleached by the tropical Sittard, carnival 1971 sun, surprised by the softly fluttering Venetian Everything is new. Including the house with large light. windows and empty front garden. Paving stones, everywhere the same new paving stones in straight rows and a lot of loose sand. On the street lies a London, Chelsea Flower Show 2007 decorated child’s bicycle. Fallen over. The crepe It is hot. Thousands of visitors jostle in the paper weeps coloured tears in the rain. A boy with air-conditioned party tent. All are authorities/ long straight hair, squatting on Swedish clogs, enthusiasts for flowers and gardens. English admires his sister who is skipping rope. She has gentlemen and ladies with walking sticks, hats and freckles drawn on her cheeks and the orange Pippi handbags. Scottish caps and wellingtons. A hybrid Longstocking wig dances along in tempo. Braids culture of sweat, wax, tweed and corduroy. cheekily raised aloft. A lorry with jubilant princes Spectacular flower arrangements. Stands full drives by. Ap-pe-le-si-ne! Ap-pe-le-si-ne! They and neatly aligned in rows, grouped according to
variety. Perfectly timed flowering splendour. All species in full bloom and indescribable varieties. Of course there are the trusty winners: ingenious roses, dahlias, tulips and lilies, but there are also exceptionally beautiful delphiniums, and there is a prize-winning foxglove and sweet peas in incredible pastel tints. And for the devotees, breathtaking collections of fuchsias, peonies and geraniums. In the warmth, the clamour is interrupted by a less raucous collection. A stand full of pansies look down brazenly on the crowd, heads all facing the same direction. With painful precision, this grower has brought his entire seed catalogue to life and surpassed it in authenticity. Each one potted with the same unparalleled love and attention. Pansies with catchy names like Hobbit, Antique, Velour and Sorbet. Joker, Black Jack, Tiger Eyes and Padparadja. I am overwhelmed by a mixture of sadness and admiration. The concentration and dedication that underlie this (life’s work?) are beyond my imagination. Painfully aware, I have to admit that my love of pansies has reached a limit. Bewildered, I buy a small packet of seeds from the (diminutive and timid) agriculturalist. Instinctively I choose: PANSY Radiance MIX F.1. Hybrid, beautiful blend of unique ‘Whiskered’ Flowers. Pansies with striking moustaches. Where have I seen those before?
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EMPERIC HARVARD UNIVERSITY >THE GLASS FLOWERS COLLECTION WWW.HMNH.HARVARD.EDU/ON_EXHIBIT/THE_GLASS_FLOWERS.HTML YOUTUBE: THE STORY OF RUDOLF AND LEOPOLD BLASCHKA During the late 19th century, the Dresden studio of Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895) and his son Rudolf (1857-1929) produced beautifully detailed glass models of exotic plants and bizarre sea creatures for natural history museums and aquaria all over the world. For over a century, thousands of people have peered into the cherrywood cabinets in the Botanical Museum at Harvard University to see hundreds of astonishingly life-like glass replicas of exotic ﬂowers. Each ﬂower was made thousands of miles away from Harvard in the German city of Dresden by the artisanal glassmaker Leopold Blaschka and his son Rudolf. The Blaschkas not only supplied Harvard’s Botanical Museum with some 4,400 replica ﬂowers, but over a period of 50 years they created thousands more remarkably realistic glass ﬂowers and sea creatures for natural history museums as far aﬁeld as the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and India. © Design Museum BLUMENLADEN BERLIN >BRUTO GUSTO Gartenstrase 1/D10115/Berlin DUNEDIN AND OTAGO PENINSULA LARNACH CASTLE WWW.LARNACHCASTLE.CO.NZ Discover New Zealand’s only Castle, built 1871 by William Larnach, merchant baron and politician, for his beloved ﬁrst wife Eliza. BOOKSHOP AMSTERDAM >ARCHITECTURA & NATURA Leliegracht 22/ 1015 DG/ Amsterdam HIDDEN BEAUTY ROTTERDAM >SCHOONOORD Schoonoord is a small park in the Scheepvaartkwartier of Rotterdam. This park is situated on the Kievitslaan in the Netherlands’ smallest polder, the Muizenpolder. On the other side of the Kievitslaan lies the better-known and much larger park. Schoonoord is around 1.2 hectares and dates back to 1706. In the 19th century, Schoonoord was the garden of the residence belonging to the Mees family of bankers. Jan David Zocher designed the park in its current form in 1860, whereby the garden of the Mees family formed the basis. The most well known trees in the park are the Cedars of Lebanon, which are over 250 years old. SEEDSWAPPING AMSTERDAM >DE NATIONALE PROEFTUIN WWW.DENATIONALEPROEFTUIN.NL On healthy bio diverse seeds, and on the harvesting, drying, conservation and swapping thereof. Furthermore, you are naturally welcome to use our exchange mart to swap other forms of botanical base materials, such as cuttings, grafts, bulbs or tubers. The transportation by post will indeed be somewhat more complicated, but experienced swappers know how to deal with that. COMMUNITY EINDHOVEN >DAHLIA SOCIETY MARIA MIDDELARES WWW.DSE.NL/~MARIAMIDDELARES/MARIAMIDDELARES.HTML The garden is kept by the dahlia society ‘Maria Middelares’. Each member is free to determine the size of his or her plot, as well as the number and variety of dahlias that he/she wishes to grow or order. Gardening equipment is provided by the society. In the summer, members can enjoy the ﬂoral splendour in a multitude of varieties and colours, unimaginable beauty. A wealth of ﬂowers made possible thanks to the good care of our members. The ﬂower inspections take place in August and September. And because we are a society, we meet each other at several parties during the season. THIRST-QUENCHER ELDERFLOWER LEMONADE For 10 litres of water, you will need 30-50 elderﬂower ﬂorets, 1kg sugar (preferably cane sugar), 3 unsprayed lemons in slices, and the juice of 1 lemon. Place the water, ﬂowers and lemon slices in a large earthenware or glass pot and leave to soak for 24 hrs. Then remove the ﬂowers and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir well and leave for another 24 hrs. Due to a slight process of fermentation, the lemonade is now ready to drink. JARDIN EXOTIQUE ANDUZE >LA BAMBOUSERAIE Domaine de Prafrance/30140/Générargues Anduze
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Club Donny is a biennial magazine on the personal experience of nature in the urban environment. CONCEPT Ben Laloua / Didier Pascal EDITORS Frank Bruggeman Ernst van der Hoeven Ben Laloua PAGE 01 / 24 Hong Kong, Soho, Ernst van der Hoeven PAGE 02 / 23 Brussels, La Demence, Ari Versluis PAGE 03 Tomato lover, Renske Janssen PAGE 04 Greenery and community, Harry den Hartog PAGE 05 / 20 Hong Kong, Lamma Island, Barbara Helmer PAGE 06 / 19 Arnhem, Nocturnal ﬂower, Melanie Rozema and Marten Terpstra PAGE 07 / 18 Basel, City food, Alleta de Jong PAGE 08 / 17 New York, Taxi repair station, Bert Jan Pot PAGE 09 / 16 London, Physic Garden, Frank Bruggeman PAGE 10 / 15 London, Chelsea, sidewalk, Ernst van der Hoeven PAGE 11 / 14 Zandvoort, Bas Princen PAGE 12 / 13 Rotterdam, Viktor & Rolf Bouquet, Frank Bruggeman PAGE 22 Viola, Ernst van der Hoeven PAGE 23 Donny’s favourites TRANSLATION Mike Ritchie PRINTING Die Keure, Brugge PUBLISHER episode publishers www.episode-publishers.nl Club Donny Postbus 25038 3001 HA, Rotterdam Netherlands email@example.com © 2008 Club Donny The authors and contributors. Reproduction without permission prohibited This publication was made possible by Gemeente Rotterdam Dienst Kunst & Cultuur. (Municipality of Rotterdam Department of Art and Culture)