• Photography Douglas Atfield

  • Photography Douglas Atfield


Museum of Garden History, London

Import/Export was part of the group exhibition Tempered Ground, which invited artists to collaborate with a head gardener: I chose to work with Martin Duncan from Audley End House, an English Heritage property in Essex. The rigorous pursuits of the Victorian plants hunters, who satisfied a passion at the time for rare and exotic plants, was integral to the work, which focused on the Wardian case, an invention crucial to plant hunters as it allowed plants to be kept alive over long and arduous sea journeys. I created a mock Wardian case for the exhibition, its design referencing the architecture and use of glass in the vine house at Audley End House.

The case contained two significant images. The first showed the Howard Oak (Quercus audleyensis), a unique hybrid tree that has grown in the grounds of Audley End House since the 1800s. I was intrigued that in an era when even the rarest of plants could be obtained, for a price, this tree remained one of a kind. The second image was of the recently discovered Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) in Australia, my place of birth. Thought to have been extinct for two million years, the newly discovered pines are one of the greatest botanical discoveries of our time. They would have been a treasured prize for the Victorian plants hunters.

Tempered Ground was curated by Danielle Arnaud, Jordan Kaplan and Philip Norman.