Hello Neighbor : cultivating relationships with your bioregion through neighborhood plants




Graham, Kristen Janaye

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Most people notice and care about plants only when they are at their showiest and most colorful: covered in spring blossoms, in full fruit in late summer, or aglow with fall colors. The rest of the time—especially in the wintertime—plants fade into the background for most people. Western scientists Elizabeth Schussler and James Wandersee coined a term for this phenomenon: plant blindness (Allen 2003, 926). It refers to the fact that humans tend to not notice plants that are not actively serving human interests. This blindness has created an obsession with constant perfection and production from plants ranging from manicured, green lawns to having certain produce like berries available year-round. My thesis builds on the work of Dr. Robin Kimmerer and other Indigenous scientists, who argue for the importance of seeing plants in ways that are not agricultural or exploitative, but symbiotic, even neighborly. Community, in my mind, goes beyond a single species and includes all the species that live in an area: a community is an ecosystem that includes every level of life from humans, to birds, to snails, to plants that grow between the cracks in the concrete, and even to the insects and fungi that break down organic matter. The book I wrote, designed, and bound for my thesis project, Hello Neighbor: cultivating relationships with your bioregion through neighborhood plants, shows plants during a stage of their life cycle that is usually ignored and overlooked in field guides and books about botanical illustration. It emphasizes the ecological benefits of leaving dormant plants in place, and suggests what less exploitative and more “neighborly” and symbiotic relationships with plants might look like.



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