Documenting Britain

Gardens and Empires

My photographic practice is concerned with the evolving relationship between politics, landscape and art histories. I intend to continue my ongoing exploration of the politics of gardening, examining the relationship between formal public gardens and empire.

The Red Jan Line

January 30, 2015


I am spending Christmas in Leeds this year. I write this from my childhood bedroom, which has been taken over by my grandmother’s geraniums. Dozens of small pots of cuttings spill out from the shelves of what once was my wardrobe.

I never met my dad’s mum Janet, she died before I was born. Since then, every year my auntie Brenda took cuttings from Janet’s geraniums. Since Brenda died last year, my dad has taken over.


Today I asked my dad about the geraniums. ‘Red Jans’ he and auntie Brenda named them. I expressed an interest in growing some, and dad thought that in the tropical microclimate of my roof terrace they would probably flower all year. He then produced the Mother Plant. This sturdy looking plant with the stems cut short was one of Janet’s original geraniums. All the cuttings come from this. He said he would put it in a plastic bag so I could take it home and plant it. I suddenly became fearful. I am a neglectful, impatient and clumsy gardener. What if I was given the Mother Plant and it died? What if I were responsible for breaking the lineage?