An Ephemeral Garden of Decomposing Books

February 12, 2013 by


Within pages of the literary canon, gardens endure for eternity. Think Romeo and Juliet’s garden of the Capulet or the orchard garden in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

And literature grows into a garden inside a forested area at Les Jardins de Métis (also known in English as the Reford Gardens) in Quebec. The Jardin de la Connaissance (Garden of Cognition), a temporary installation for the International Garden Festival, exposed timeless cultural artifacts to the process of decomposition to become an evolving ephemeral library for the senses.

Artist Rodney LaTourelle and landscape architect Thilo Folkerts of 100landschaftsarchitektur, assembled approximately 40,000 discarded books into walls, benches, and carpets to explore how, in our world of overwhelming information, a single “tree of knowledge” can explode into a forest.


The books at once framed a number of outdoor rooms which would in time decompose, dissolving into the earth, stimulated by a variety of mushrooms cultivated within their pages–or leaves.


Arising from the festival’s paradise theme to illustrate a post-paradise life cycle, the garden grew out of the mythical relationship in paradise between knowledge and nature.






The designers cultivated, and the books nourished, eight varieties of edible mushrooms including Winecap or Oyster, which they pre-cultivated from spawn sets, prepared for insertion into the book walls in bundles, then regularly watered and humidified them.


Brightly hues wood plates structurally supported and marked the books, binding them and the stacks together with colors and textures that complemented the surrounding forest. While the assemblage offered seating for contemplating its temporal nature, visitors would leave the installation with lasting impression.


The International Garden Festival is the leading annual contemporary garden festival in North America. Presented at Les Jardins de Métis in Quebec, the Festival is held on a site adjacent to the property’s historic English-style gardens, establishing a dialogue between conservation, tradition and innovation. Each year along the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Grand-Métis, Quebec, the Festival exhibits more than twenty conceptual gardens created by landscape architects, architects and designers from a variety of disciplines.

Originally private, the gardens were opened to the public in 1962, designated a Canadian National Historic Site in 1995, and as a Quebec heritage site by the Ministry of Culture and Communications of Quebec in 2013.

Photos © Thilo Folkerts.  



  1. Lynn said:

    Hey Robin, I just showed this to my husband, who asked: “Are they comic books that encourage fungi (fun guy)? He’s a cornball. On a more serious note, what a great idea for all those decaying books we have in storage. Lynn

    — February 17, 2013 @ 14:09

  2. Short Saturday: Thought for Food Pingback said:

    […] We’ve been talking a lot lately about thinking in pictures as opposed to thinking in words. I tend to do the latter, and as a result on these short Saturdays I often point you to a link with words. Today, though, some interesting pictures: […]

    — August 17, 2013 @ 20:29

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