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Future Gardens

Future Gardens are a series of works we call Future Gardens that began in 1995, with the Garden of Hot Winds and Warms Rains. The concept of Future Gardens is that every place that has survived heat and drought in its past has present and historical plant species in its history and present that can survive in a heat-stressed future. Local botanists can collect such species, propagate them, and generate the scaffolding for more rapid regeneration of local ecosystems as warming occurs. 

These clusters of species, when propagated in Future Gardens then act as educational scientific experiments, works of art, public gardens and nursery beds of future plant ensembles that have the capacity to regenerate heat-stressed ecosystems far more rapidly than the life web can unassisted.

The goal of Future Gardens is to determine which plants are best able to thrive as the region warms and to create the scaffolding for a more rapid adaptation of the local ecosystem as the climate shifts. The geodesic domes of the Arboretum provide the perfect setting for imagining a future in the face of climate change.

Project Locations

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UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

A Future Garden for the Central Coast of California

We consulted with Newton Harrison and the Center for the Force Majeure on a Future Garden project located at the Arboretum on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The work began with three geodesic domes remaining from a 1970s greenhouse experiment. The domes were adapted to accommodate a new experiment: as climate and weather patterns change, how will native plant communities respond? What new plant ensembles will emerge? What will the landscape of the Central Coast look like in the future? The research is clear that there will be winners and losers as historic rainfall and temperatures change. New ecologies will emerge, as “each place becomes a story of its own becoming.” 

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Pages from Future Garden plant book_red.

We selected a representative group of plant species native to the Santa Cruz region. Each greenhouse has the same species ensemble, temperature increase of 4°C, and the same soil. However, one greenhouse is irrigated at twice the normal average rainfall in Santa Cruz, the second receives half the annual rainfall, and the third has an erratic watering pattern. The exterior landscape is acting as an informal control to the experiment.

UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

As consultant to
Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison


Institute of the Arts and Sciences, UC Santa Cruz

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