Nature confined

Tropical foliage shot through window at tropical glasshouse, Wintergardens, Auckland Domain. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Behind the glass. Outside the tropical glasshouse, Wintergardens, Auckland Domain, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

A visit to the Wintergardens at the Auckland Domain last week (Daily Post Photo Challenge: Vibrant) was both relaxing and uplifting. Both the Temperate and Tropical glasshouses were bursting with well-tended, colourful plants.

The Wintergardens, designed by Auckland architects Gummer and Ford in a style much influenced by the work of Edward Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, were first opened in 1928 (1). Although renovations were carried out in the 1990s, the buildings definitely have an air of genteel decay.

Tropical foliage pressed against mould and dirt-covered window. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Hidden foliage. View from outside the tropical glasshouse, Wintergardens, Auckland Domain, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

As I was leaving, I noticed within the Tropical House plants pressed against the grimy, shabby windows, on which moss or mould seemed to be growing.

On one window, the impression was of an abstract painting, with the mould growth somehow blending into the foliage behind.

Tropical foliage pressed against windows, Tropical glasshouse, Auckland Wintergardens, Domain, Auckland, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Foliage pressed against windows, Tropical glasshouse, Auckland Wintergardens, Domain, Auckland, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Stepping back, the scene reminded me of a zoo. A plant zoo if you like; built to contain nature for the pleasure of humans. There is no doubt that people (myself included) derive enormous joy from time spent in the glasshouses; nor any doubt that those who tend the plants do so with great skill and care.

But in a small moment of contemplation; standing outside the building looking in, I couldn’t help but feel some sadness at the human impulse to capture nature and to use our considerable intelligence and skill to maintain species of life in artificial environments made to simulate their own, in order that we may enjoy those species on our own terms.

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally. This week’s theme is nature.

(1) Domain Wintergardens, Wikipedia.

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17 thoughts on “Nature confined

  1. You have a great eye Su, your photos are very evocative, I have often thought the same. We live in rural predominantly agricultural area but have to travel now to see a wild flower meadow and find that absolutely bizarre.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Julie. As a species we have such power to alter the world, and without understanding our own place in that world, we make other lifeforms, and ourselves, so much poorer. BTW: the Big T and I have been talking about how much we’d love a wildflower meadow when we finally get our place in the country. I think we have our perfect place so clear in our minds, it’s going to be a nightmare to find in reality! 🙂

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    • Thanks; though I wouldn’t attribute me with too much foresight. I’m sure it’s the same with you that sometimes the desire to take a shot comes from an instinctive place rather than an intellectual one. It’s only afterwards that it starts to “make sense.”

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  2. You certainly share my concerns and devotion for nature. What an apt captures to show humanity’s ability to cage and control. Who do we think we are? Your images are lovely and strong examples of metaphors that ring so clear to me. Happy Photo Challenge.

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  3. Pingback: Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge: Nature (and a Seasonal Legacy) | Lens and Pens by Sally

  4. Su, your lovely outside-in photos really do give an Impressionistic feel. While I share you feelings about zoos, plant or animal, to an extent, I don’t think zoos necessarily come from a need to dominate or enslave. Many zoo inhabitants would never be seen by many people were it not for their locations. Some would be extinct, others in danger of extinction.

    Is it a need to dominate or an ache to share and enjoy a beauty that no human, but only the Creator can create? I’m sure it’s some of each or even both in some cases, but it’s certainly far from simple.

    janet

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    • Hi Janet. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree that, these days, zoos and probably botanic gardens too, provide sanctuary for species on the brink of extinction, and do amazing conservation work. Of course, much of this is necessary only because of human activities that destroy natural habitats. We work so hard to preserve that which we are also responsible for destroying. So of course you are right — it is far from simple.

      What got me thinking about the “zoo” feel of the Wintergarden was finding that little corner, grimy and shady — well away from the colourful, tended interior. It really brought home the age of the building and how much it reminded me of the great Victorian project to bring culture and entertainment to the masses. This included public gardens and zoos, which in those days were not really built for conservation purposes, but for human entertainment. Cheers, Su.

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    • I don’t remember visiting them as a child. I remember going to the museum fairly often, but I guess my parents weren’t much interested in the gardens. Or maybe they thought we’d be bored by them. Now they are one of my favourite places.

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    • Hi Karen. I know what you mean; there is something incredibly peaceful and relaxing about the glasshouses, and the fernery. I think the stillness and relative quiet encourage contemplation. Definitely one of my happy places. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Su.

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  5. The plants do look as though they want to break out. In my high school days, I went to the Tropical House in the Botanic Gardens whenever I could. The atmosphere took me back to my home, Fiji, and helped me to feel less homesick. So in that way, I would say the plants may have been confined but they opened windows of hope to me.

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  6. Pingback: Wallflowers and set dressing: behind the scenes at the Wintergarden | Zimmerbitch

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