Putting annuals to good use


Faggot Picc Nobody can accuse English artist Paul Harfleet of using annuals in a conventional way.  What he does is plant single pansies at sites of homophobic abuse, then photograph, name and compile them into his Pansy Project. It’ll be featured in the ‘Conceptual Garden’ category at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010 next month.

From his website:  “The humble planted pansy
becomes a record; a trace of this public occurrence which is deeply
personal and concurrently available to the public on the city streets
and on-line.”

The pansy planting above is titled “Faggot!”


  1. Very interesting idea! I always thought how weird it was that calling someone a ‘pansy’ was considered derogatory, since pansies are some of the best and hardiest cool weather plants. Really, how can you not love a pansy?

  2. How lovely, a pansy titled “Faggot”, and on their web page a pansy called,”You Queer Cunt”.

    You have to be kidding! There is nothing enlightening about this display at all. Gee, let’s start planting flowers at sites of “abuse” and give them outlandish names designed to make you feel uncomfortable.” Yes, I know it’s suppose to make you feel uncomfortable. It does and it’s silly. Not all gay people are angry and in your face.

  3. @trey. Maybe you should have done a bit more reading. Those “outlandish” names *are* the abuse. It made you uncomfortable to read the words “you queer cunt”? How about having them shouted at you in the middle of a public street?

  4. I think this is a wonderful project. To me, the pansies don’t represent being angry or “in your face”; they are a beautiful, non-violent way to mark a terrible thing that happened, so that we are all mindful that it’s going on, rather than sweeping it under a rug or turning the other way and letting it happen again and again. The “outlandish” names are only visible on the website, for those who are offended by them (although I’m with Cheryl on this one).
    There is enough abuse of all kinds (not just homophobic) in the world; if flowers were planted for all of it, we’d live in a paradise where maybe people would get along….well, I can hope, right?

  5. You know what bothers me about this project is that it seems to perpetuate the idea that flowers can take care of themselves. Is anyone actually going out and watering these symbols of moving forward from homophobia? Is anyone taking any care to plant them where they’ll live out their six month life?

    If so, then that’s very nice. But I don’t see evidence of that on their site. It seems like a plant once, take a photo, and move on feeling like you’ve done something all countercultural and artsy that will somehow make the world better type of thing. Which annoys me.

    It is not truly changing anyone’s mind about gay people. Why not spend all that effort doing something real like helping the victims of hate crimes or helping AIDS research?

  6. I think I would agree with Anne’s sentiment – had I not taken part in the project a few years back.

    I stumbled across the Pansy Project stand on a hungover afternoon with some friends I had been clubbing with the night before; great friends for going out, but not friends that had discussions about homophobia or our experiences of it. We decided “what the hell, it looks like fun” and got a pansy each from the stand.

    We spent the next couple of hours walking around Manchester together, planting our pansies and telling the stories of abuse we had each received on the streets. Far from being depressing we found it a really uniting experience; our friendships seemed to deepen as we showed support for each other.

    Helping victims of hate crimes and helping AIDS research are incredibly important projects. This project provided us with a unique chance to share and understand and, ultimately, feel less alone. I think that is also essential.

    But you’re right Anne, we didn’t go back and water the pansies after. Mine was planted in the middle of a car park so I doubt it survived for more than 24 hours – it wasn’t there next time i checked. What did survive, however, were the friendships that were strengthened that day, which I believe is down to that experience at least in part…

  7. Kinda awesome, but I agree w/Genevieve in that I’d like for them to be memorials beyond a one-shot. I hope the artist plants the pansies in cooler weather so they at least have a chance at living out their lives.
    Maybe other plants should be recruited into this? I know narcissus, hyacinth, and passionflower (amongst others, I’m sure) have gay-association in various parts of the world.

  8. I think this is beautiful and thought-provoking. I’m vastly dismayed by some reactions on this thread.

  9. @Paul: Thank you so much for providing your first-person experience of this project.

    Art is not meant to be functional. Art is not meant even to last forever (some day, even the pyramids will be sand again). Art IS meant to provoke conversation, to linger in your mind, and to live on through its viewers and — in the case of conceptual and environmental art — its participants.

    Paul’s experience of this project as an active participant not only helped me connect deeper with the project than its description but brings the rest of us even closer into the projects vortex. We all now “know” one of the collaborators, making the point of the project even more personal for all of us.

    Thank you for sharing this, Susan. It even makes me like pansies a little more. 😉

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