Rocking plants

Have you ever heard a carnivorous plant sing a song or moss play the drums? Well, that's what happened during the National Day of the Botanical Gardens!

On Thursday, September 25, more than two hundred employees from various botanical gardens in the Netherlands travelled to the National day of the Botanical Gardens in Utrecht. Together with Waag, these employees are investigating new strategic ideas for the gardens of tomorrow. What will botanical gardens mean for the generations of the future? What can they do for our future society? How can they reach new audiences or broaden existing ones? Which stories do visitors want to hear? And which format is most suitable to tell those stories?

Green workshops

During several hands-on workshops, we tried to find the answers to such questions through the practice of “thinking by doing.” Participants engaged in drawing, plucking, cooking, listening, tasting, and doing tricks with sensors. All the current employees of the Gardens—from gardener and director to communication employee and guide—were able to contribute their ideas to answer the questions of the future. 

Waag organised two of these hands-on workshops. In the workshop, “Plant seeks audience” by Dick van Dijk and theatre maker Caroline van Veggel, the employees got the chance to put themselves in their visitors' shoes. They researched their own so-called ‘circle of influence’, or, in other words, which people in the target group you already know and can easily be reached.

In the workshop, “Plant-friendly prototypes” by Bert Spaan and Helma van Rijn, plants became different kind of sensors with the help of a MaKey MaKey. Using a plant as a sensor certainly provides us with new food for thought. With the Waag's four-branched band, participants could play “Don’t stop me now” by Queen. By touching one of the plants (and holding a wire at the same time), people were able to switch on a layer of music. So plants transformed into instruments! When you touched the moss, you could drum like Roger Taylor. And you could sing like Freddy Mercury just by touching the carnivorous plants.

Storytelling plants

The participants also came prepared with their own ideas for adding sensors to nearby flora: a row of plants converted into a piano, for instance. Each plant played a different tone. Another group of participants thought up a storytelling plant (not in words but in sounds). This storytelling plant would allow you to listen to how a plant drinks water by touching the roots. By touching the trunk, you would hear a heartbeat. In this way, these participants brought the invisible world of plants to life through sound.

This Autumn, Waag (together with the employees and visitors of the Botanical Gardens) will further develop these ‘Planten voor de Toekomst’ scenarios. Then we will discover whether or not these “rocking plants” will become the plants of the future.



Helma van Rijn