Great Oaks from little Acorns grow

We’re always looking for new ways to try and develop a new relationship with nature. So it’s been great to team up with artist Charlotte Smithson for Great Oaks from little Acorns grow. An installation within the Great Pavilion at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show from 21-26 September 2021 that was awarded a ‘silver-gilt’ medal. The piece responds to the pathways to nature connectedness and Charlotte first got in touch with me in 2019 to plan a collaborative installation – originally in 2020. So, it’s wonderful for it to finally become a reality as part of the Oak Project. We’ve also created a guided meditation based on our original that delivered sustained improvements to nature connectedness and mental wellbeing.

The aim for Great Oaks from little Acorns grow was to create an installation that encourages people to tune into noticing nature and celebrate its beauty. Out of their natural habitat, in transparent vessels and surrounded by empty space attention is focussed on the plants – their beauty and vulnerability becomes more profound. The work also breathes calmness and peace. The plants themselves are chosen for their meaning and it is hoped the work will evoke an emotional connection to nature and instil an improved compassion for nature.

Great Oaks from little Acorns grow – Image by Ray Chan

Artist Charlotte Smithson said, ‘In a mutually symbiotic relationship between two organisms, both parties benefit from one another. Through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the medicines that heal us, humans are inextricably linked to plants, but because we have become disconnected from nature, we’re often guilty of taking, but not giving back. It is vital we redress that balance. This piece is not just a comment on the environmental crises. This is a call to action.‘

For me, Great Oaks from little Acorns grow taps into many of the relationships people have with nature. From plants that have uses, those we control and those we study through to those that bring us closer to nature. Beautiful plants that, through the joy and calm they bring, add meaning to our lives and a desire to care for them. The work celebrates these relationships and is a lesson in the attention and noticing of nature needed for a sustainable future.

Importantly, the environmental impact of each component is minimised. The piece contains organically grown plants, recycled laboratory glassware, reused and repaired mechanics and compostable biomaterials.

Our wider research shows that a connection with nature starts with a moment. A moment to notice, to grow a new relationship with nature based on uniting human and nature’s wellbeing. Great Oaks from little Acorns grow invites people to reflect on their personal role in restoring a more balanced relationship with the natural world.

About Miles

Professor of Human Factors & Nature Connectedness - improving connection to (the rest of) nature to unite human & nature’s wellbeing.
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