Week 14 (6th March – 12th March)

Sunday 6th March: The tree felt over stressed to-day. It may well be that it is me that is over stressed but I have trust some instincts within this co-relationship. I decided to switch the lights off and reset the temperature to switch off at 8 pm and to come back on at 6 pm. The trees in the standard light of the study looked so fragile. These trees are very beautiful.

Two of the trees looked very ill and I removed them to bring them back to my studio where I can place them into a better environment and, more importantly, take a good look at what the problem may be. Back in the studio I very carefully removed the trees from the soil. At first the roots looked ok but on closer inspection I detected the blackened roots of root rot. I re-potted them and placed them into the grow tent which has heat, fans and lights all independently controlled to try and give the trees the best possible chance.

I know that root rot will kill the trees and so plan to try a procedure on Monday to remove the rot and help the tree recover.

Monday 7th March: I went to Nottingham Contemporary to replace the lights and reset the timers. The trees had not suffered from the lack of light but were looking unwell. I tested for moist and decided to capillary feed them with approximately 2 fluid ounces of water.

I then set off back to the studio to try the procedure to remove the root rot. Firstly I cleaned and disinfected a washing up bowl. I filled the bowl with warm water and added 3 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide to the water. The hydrogen peroxide is known to be affective on root rot. It also has the advantage of adding oxygen to the soil. I removed all 5 trees from their pots and carefully placed them into the liquid. They will sit in the solution for an hour or so. Meanwhile I threw away the old soil from all of the pots and cleaned the pots with warm soapy water. I also gave each pot a spray of anti bacterial liquid. It is important to keep each of the processes as clean as possible.

After an hour and a half I filled all the pots with new, uncontaminated compost. I carefully removed each tree from the dilute hydrogen peroxide mixture and replanted them. I then placed them back in the grow tent and crossed my fingers. The procedure is tricky and does put the trees at risk but I felt it was a risk worth trying at this moment. One thing I did notice when the roots were soaking that a couple of trees seemed to increase a purple tinge to their tops. Whilst this may indicate a phosphorous deficiency I hope it is a simple indication of new growth. I won’t know for a few days if the procedure has helped the trees or not. If it has helped I will apply the treatment to the trees in the environment.

I also spent some of the day experimenting with producing water colour paint from the Moringa leaf powder that I have been making from the leaves I have collected. As they dry out they crumble into a fine dust of Moringa leaf powder. To date I have worked out the relationship between the glycerine and gum arabic (1 part glycerine to 4 part gum arabic). I need to make this solution slightly wetter by adding a little boiled water. The tests I have done using other powders are currently drying but I think the Moringa paint will work.

Tuesday 8th March: After the hydrogen peroxide treatment yesterday I fully expected to be confronted by the awful sight of dead trees in the studio. I was amazed to see trees showed little sign of shock and I think I may even have detected the beginnings of new growth. It is a thing of wonder to see how resilient these trees are proving to be. To me they look remarkable having long stems with just a few leaves at the top. It is early days but I really hope they can start to re-grow.

In the study I gave the trees a flood watering containing a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide. Flood or flush watering can is of benefit for some plants although there are inherent risks in the process. The thing to do is monitor the trees carefully a few hours after watering and assess the situation.

I returned to the study in the afternoon and made the decision to wash the roots and change the soil. I removed the trees from the soil and soaked them in water for about an hour. I checked all the roots. All of trees seemed to have very dry soil almost glued to the roots and I can only conclude that the roots were not getting enough oxygen. If this was the case then the peroxide will have helped. I also detected some brown roots that were indicative of root rot. I carefully cut these away. Finally I noted that three of the six trees had very well developed tap roots whilst the others had poorly developed roots in general and very small tap root development.

Next I the soil from all the pots and cleaned each pot, treating them with an anti bacterial spray to ensure any possible virus was not left in the pot. With terracotta pots it is best to through the pots out if a virus is possible. This is because of the porous nature of the pots. In this particular instance I am sure the anti bacterial spray and washing with warm soapy water will have prevented any further infection. I filled each pot with nutriment rich compost and replanted the trees.

Returning them to the environment I knew that this procedure may be too much for the trees but also knew that it needed to be done. I left hoping that they had a good night and started to recover.

Wednesday 9th March: I was apprehensive as to what I would find in the study. All of the trees looked stronger and healthier. I can only conclude that yesterday was a success and that these remarkable trees will survive and grow. This was the first visit in many days when I didn’t change anything. It is early days but I do sense the trees are feeling good; as am I.

The temperature at soil level is 27 degree Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity is at 60%.

Thursday 10th March: Much the same as yesterday with trees looking much better and the signs of new growth coming on is encouraging. Given all that has happened through this co-relationship I do realise that I must not over relax at this stage. It was only a couple of days ago that I was washing the trees roots in a dilute hydrogen peroxide so vigilance is needed. That said I am amazed that there appears to no signs of plant shock. I had set the temperature control to run slightly longer than the light phases as I did not want the new wet soil to get over cold in the evening. However I may reinstate the synchronised relationship between light and temperature tomorrow after I have checked the trees more closely and assessed the moisture levels of the soil.

I have now mixed and made the water colour paint from the Moringa leaf powder. The paint appears to be soil brown in colour but, when water is added, it is more of greenish colour. The pigment is 100% Moringa Oleifera leaf powder suspended in gum Arabic, distilled water and glycerine. My practice does attempt to transform materials both as actualities and metaphysically; attempting to make layers of connections both within and without the context the installation. All of which broadens the possible readings of the work.

The temperature at soil level is 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity is at 57%.

Friday 11th March: The trees looked like they were still recovering this morning with good signs of new growth. I checked the soil of each tree. The soil was still pretty wet from Tuesday when the old soil was replaced. I decided not to synchronise the light with the temperature as that would give a longer period of time when the environment was cooling. The soil felt a little cold and so I increased the temperature from 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at top soil level. The humidity was at 47%, a 10% drop from yesterday. I am considering the possibility of closing the vents for a day in order to hold the heat in the environment or to increase the temperature at 1 degree a day over the next 3 days.

Yesterday I planted 18 Moringa Oleifera tree seeds in pots of soil and placed them in small unheated propagators. To-day I placed these propagators over the heating vents in the study. Germination should happen between 7 -15 days.  I hope that some of the seeds will germinate and I can complete the project with Miracle trees that first experienced light in the specific context of the study in Nottingham Contemporary.

Later in the day I moved 3 of the trees from the grow tent in my studio and placed them in a south facing window space in the room where I work on the computer. These trees were all but dead last Monday but have started to signs of new growth. At present they are essentially slender stems with a little growth at the top; very beautiful and very frail. However I have seen that each of these stems are beginning to flush with the purple tinge that seems indicate recovering growth. I have found out that the trees may start to regenerate their branches in a few weeks time.

Saturday 12th March: The trees really got to me to-day. I was tired when I visited the installation but the sight of these six 13 weeks’ old trees was quite overwhelming. It was clear that they were still pushing out new growth but were also struggling with lower branches and some of the new growth. All in all they looked so very fragile and, to me, miraculous all at the same time. The metaphor of the miracle and its death was always underpinning this project from the outset. In this moment I could see both and it really moved, upset and disturbed me.

The work is real and alive. It is vulnerable and many times during this study I have encountered a heady mix of sensing what I do not and cannot know. This space of uncertainty, perhaps beyond reason is the space I try to occupy. It is a space at the limits of my knowledge. The co-relationship of me and the miracle trees is suffused with the experience of knowing nothing but trying, all the same, to rigorously critique the unknown. It is a project that generates question after question. Many of the questions are pursued through an incremental change of the environment; temperature, light hours, humidity and so on. Each change adds to my knowledge of the cartography of the relationship; a map that insists on territory that is not known but is hinted at. It is a map whose borders are mysteries that dare me to walk along them; each walk is transformative. To me the trees are exquisite, complex and perplexing.

I checked the trees and found the soil to be surprisingly cold. I increased the temperature to 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit at top soil level. I also adjusted the times the heat is on from 5 am – 9 pm (16 hours) to 5 am – 12 midnight (19 hours). I will check if this is helping the trees tomorrow. I also checked the propagators behind the curtains to see if the surface of the soil was still moist. It was and I will check again tomorrow.

Whilst writing this text I can look to my left and see the tree Moringa Oleifera trees that I removed from the environment as I thought they would die. They are thin but are alive and growing.

There has been some growth this week.

Approximately 1.5 cm (.5 inch) of growth this week.

The tallest tree, now in my home, remains 54 cm (21.25 inches).

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