In the Gardens of California’s Prison Landscape

Author and horticulturist Elizabeth Lara explores how horticulture has factored into the prison landscape, and the relationships between plants, people, and places defined by histories of violence.

In this Second Thursday Garden Talk, Elizabeth Lara contextualizes her experiences volunteering in prison gardens by exploring some of the many ways horticulture has factored into the historical layers of the prison landscape. Her research is informed by volunteer garden and orchard work at what she frames as carceral heritage sites—not prisons in a strict sense, but sites that are nonetheless defined by histories of violence, punishment, and human captivity. A plant sale follows the talk.

Lara is a recent Ph.D. graduate from the Anthropology department of Deakin University in Australia. She has visited public gardens on five continents and integrates her expertise in the industry while working as a tour guide at the newly accredited Dodger Stadium Botanic Garden in her home city of Los Angeles. Lara’s work has been published in the edited collection The Promise of Multispecies Justice (Duke Press, 2022).