COLLABORATIONS: Greenhouse Journals

Greenhouse Journals
A socio-material afternoon at the University of Oulu Botanical Gardens
notes by Päivi Jokinen

The botanical gardens, Monday, August 28th 2017

The August sun is shining at twelve o’clock sharp as we gather together at the Botanical Gardens:

Margaret Somerville from the University of Western Sydney
Abigail Hackett from Manchester Metropolitan University
Pauliina Rautio, Riitta-Marja Leinonen, Tuure Tammi, Anna Vladimirova, Anna Itkonen, Ayako Shimada, Marian Tumanyan and Päivi Jokinen from the University of Oulu

With head gardener Tuomas Kauppila and docent Ari-Pekka Huhta as tour guides

As we enter the greenhouse, it feels as though we start living through a poem
becoming an assemblage of moist air, rich in oxygen constantly photosynthesized by all the green leaves,
enchanted minds and nomadic bodies mingling with English and Finnish and Latin named plant species

We are told how one of the most important tasks of the gardens is to foster biodiversity,
saving isonuijasammal, endangered moss, here grown in liquid nitrogen by the botanists
Has green in Oulu ever been as green as this afternoon?

“This plant has no roots and no leaves”, the head gardener says,
“and our students steal parts of it to their shower rooms.”

“And this one here is the carnivore”
“Did you know that in Finland there are carnivores growing as well,
kihokit and siniyökönlehti!”
But he promises that this particular lihansyöjäkasvi eats its catch very slowly

How could a PhD student resist the “doctoral flower” from Brazil
tohtorinkukka, brunfelsia pauciflora
And how could the mother-of-three resist its companion, the “housewife”
kotimuori, peperomia glabella

We all need to touch and sense the softness of the blossoming cotton
And Tuukka tells us to read about the secret life of trees,
Puiden salattu elämä,
about how mushroom rhizomes intra-act with their symbiotic tree partners

We all move slowly
Angraecum sesquipedale
It was Darwin who predicted the existence of a yet undiscovered moth
since the orchid with such a long spur, 8 cm, on isolated Madagaskar
had to be pollinated by some insect with a proboscis long enough

The scent of omenapelargoni, pelargonium odoratissimum,
makes you realize you would never need to drink apple cider again
were you growing this geranium in your kitchen with its delightful smell

And we love the various shades of red diffracted by the afternoon sun


My own favourite turns out to be called aavikkopaksujalka,
“desert thick foot”
pachypodium lamerei from Southern Madagaskar
only blossoming once in every 30 years
today here blossoming white for us!

As well as rauniokilkka, cymbalaria muralis, the ruined cactus,
for those days when your writing is ruined
(because, there are those days)

kivikukat, lithops aizoaceae 
the true Cinderella Story
as Anna I. would say
pretending to be stones, camouflaging in the desert landscape
but then suddenly blossoming like mad

Stunned by the poem we have just lived through
we enter the seminar room and sit around the table and struggle with the projector

greenhouse4before Margaret begins to share her images with us
whether on the screen or in her narration

water, rivers, lizards,
stones in children’s pockets like in Pauliina’s beautiful paper,
women, mothers, pregnancies,
writing, academy life, the abstract and the everyday.

And we ask
how to put the “post” into practice in writing
how to do “the analysis”
how literacies could be defined
how meaning and matter intertwine
how to make sense of sense-making
and what new materialist multimodality could possibly be.

And Margaret has brought three (3!) copies of her Body/Landscape Journals (doctoral dissertation, 1999) for us here in Oulu
And since she is my rock star, I ask her to sign one for me
And I love the journals, the two women dreaming,
the octopus and the wompat.

“You are longitude and latitude, a set of speeds and slownesses between unformed particles, a set of nonsubjectified affects. You have the individuality of a day, a season, a year, a life – a climate, a wind, a fog, a swarm, a pack.”
(Deleuze & Guattari, 1987: 287–288).

Thank you all,
the endangered moss
the minds the bodies the hugs
the greenhouse oxygen
the laughter the love
the haecceity of this August afternoon
And especially the blue heron

It was such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s