Death, absence and afterlife in the garden

Franklin Ginn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers what we might learn about landscape from how certain gardeners respond to death, absence and afterlife. After situating the domestic garden amid recent work on landscapes of memory and absence in geography, the article presents a circuit of the garden in four movements: passing, touching, weeding and sitting. Each draws on encounters with experienced gardeners living in British suburbs. In particular, these movements focus on: commemorabilia, including plants, which offer the possibility to materialize and anchor something of what would otherwise be lost; how absences are teased into awkward presence through conversation and reminiscence; and the importance of the ‘people’ who continue to produce the garden landscape after their death. Collectively, the practices I describe are an attempt to domesticate – that is, to coconstitute more malleable and familiar relations with – absent presences, and in so doing to seek a comfortable, even if ultimately impossible, alignment between self, past, memory and landscape. I stress that this seeking requires work: practical projects of digging, planting, weeding, of making memory and losing it again. In so doing, the article suggests that the spectral does not always arrive from the outside but is something that can be fabricated. I conclude that we should look to the practicalities of living rather than ideas of life, and to acts of landscaping rather than concepts of landscape, in seeking to ascertain the ways in which absence comes to matter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalCultural Geographies
Early online date16 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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