>> Wendy Tremayne (
gaiatreehouse.com) is renovating an RV park into a
100% reuse, off-grid B&B in Truth or Consequences, N.M. Another project,
swaporamarama.org), is a clothing swap and DIY
workshop designed to offer people an alternative to consumerism.
The I♥Roswell project: It’s free, adapted, and homegrown.
A while back, I received an email with a
curious subject line: “Would you like a greenhouse?” Links in the email led me to a Flickr page
of photos. The greenhouse in question is a tall,
translucent igloo made of 5-gallon water bottles
(Figure A). This wondrous object of utilitarian
garbage-art was part of an exhibition that took place
in Roswell, N.M., created by Flo McGarrell during a
residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program.
McGarrell’s creative task was to live on the land.
His challenge as a gardener was to use tools made
from waste materials found lying about the urban
landscape. Locals who heard about his I♥Roswell
project recalled the numerous Roswell artist-resident gardens that didn’t work. A
Observing that the town’s cultural hub seemed
to be the local Wal-Mart — a place where teenagers
go on dates — and noticing that shops selling UFO
trinkets saw more traffic than the town’s two impressive art museums, McGarrell, 34, turned his attention
toward research rather than to local lore. He read
books about permaculture, gardening, and soil
building at the local library, with little regard for
the stories of previously wilted leaves.
McGarrell observed life cycles and decided that
he would create agrisculpture: “compost, plant in
compost, water, harvest, preserve, save seed, and
repeat.” There were mini cycles too: “Eat, wash
dishes, feed plants dishwater, poop, flush with
A conversation with the dumpster also helped.
“It called out, ‘Flo, you come from a line of thrifty
cheapskates (hunters and gatherers)’,” McGarrell
recalls. “‘ You cannot resist. C’mon, see what’s
inside. It could be treasure!’” The final work featured
worm bins made from supermarket racks, bucket
planters, and that stunning greenhouse.
McGarrell compares the process to “blowing on a
dandelion puff … seeds, spores, and memes infect,
inoculate, and ferment in the world.” He categorizes
his work as open source and has published the
Roswell project’s “code” on recipe cards displayed
beside the exhibit.
While not a gardener at the onset of the project,
McGarrell now sports a cigar box of seeds (saved,
stolen, and swapped). He plants them regularly by
means of “graffiti gardening” as he travels, though
he recounts that our society does not always
welcome thrifty-minded sorts. “I was reprimanded
by the police for ‘stealing from the city’ while diving
the recycling bin in the Roswell Wal-Mart parking
lot,” he says. “There ought to be ‘Free’ boxes in
McGarrell reminds us that when using junk as a
creative material, “You don’t have to settle for what
you find. You can modify to your specifications
and all the while learn about tools, methods, your
environment, and life! That’s the low-price-high-value deal that Wal-Mart can never beat.”
Photography by Flo McGarrell
» To see more of McGarrell’s work, go to