Biodiversity Days: Plant Propagation for the People

On Saturday, May 15, UBC Botanical Garden, in collaboration with SEEDS Sustainability Program and the Climate Crisis in Urban Biodiversity Initiative (CCUB), hosted a workshop to tackle the barriers in gardening. The workshop was part of Biodiversity Days, a series of virtual and in-person experiences happening in the month of May.

The virtual event, titled Plant Propagation for the People: A Workshop, served as an introduction to propagation and an opportunity to discuss sharing among gardeners. The workshop, facilitated by Tara Moreau, featured Egan Davis, principal instructor of the UBC Botanical Garden Horticultural Training Program, and current Artist in Residence at UBC Botanical Garden, Erin Despard.

Propagation is defined as the reproduction of plants when facilitated by humans, so according to Erin Despard, propagation is a “fundamentally creative act that draws on numerous relationships and produces numerous kinds of positive impact.” For this reason, Despard and others believe it important to steer the field of gardening to a more inclusive and (bio)diverse future.

Introduction to Propagation

Egan Davis, like all the participants and speakers at the event, shared a keen enthusiasm for propagation. Davis talked about his own experience as a horticulturist and the many scales of propagation he has encountered. He emphasized that propagating and gardening can be satisfying at all scales and you do not have to be a professional horticulturist to be innovative and successful.

To make propagating easier at home, Davis recommended tip cuttings and if possible, to make your own sustainable cedar planter boxes. Lastly, Davis shared how exciting germination still can still be to someone who has seen it hundreds of times, whether it takes three days or three years. (If you’re looking to witness the seed-to-seed cycle quickly, try Marigolds.)

Sharing seedlings and joy

Later on, Despard shared a short nonfiction story she wrote over the pandemic from her experiences giving away her extra tomato seedlings through an online community. When Despard’s offer was met with an outpouring of interest she decided to truly embrace the situation and hand-deliver the seedlings.

This chance allowed Despard to explore how “gardens themselves [can be] a form of social media, as they enable people to connect.” The story titled “The Tomatoes Between Us” reminds us of the value of human connection and that it can be a “wonderful thing to give something you made to someone you do not know.”

The workshop ended with several resources introduced, such as the UBC Seed Library and near-campus community gardens. Seed libraries are a wonderful way to start gardening and they help make food security more accessible and promote biodiversity in plants.

While the event was more sociological than anticipated, it brought to mind how even gardening can be made to be more inclusive and affordable, especially with the rise in Facebook Marketplace cuttings being sold for upwards of twenty dollars. I certainly felt motivated to pick up gardening after the workshop, especially when surrounded by enthusiasts on a relatively early Saturday morning.

The UBC Botanical Garden is hosting a repeat of the workshop on Saturday, June 5.