Image 01 - Hackney Road Open In Series Iteration 2: Oddworlds, panoramic view.

The plant kingdom houses many wonders, often found in the most unexpected of places. Harsh habitats do not prevent life, in fact these environmental pressures can force speciation as a necessary survival method, resulting in a group of dominant species that can master inhabiting inhospitable landscapes through incredibly detailed evolutionary mechanisms. These ways of survival put our minds to the test when trying to give sense to such extraordinary shapes, sizes, textures and colours. Many of us are, after all, raised where the elements are kinder and there is less need to adapt to simply survive.

Image 02 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, Aloe on the left, columnar cacti in the centre and Kleinia on the right.

Image 03 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, panoramic view of the rockery with Brachychiton on the right and Kleinia on the left.

Open In Series Iteration 2: Oddworlds, is a celebration of nature’s resilience within arid environments, showcasing species and specimens that have developed to survive against all odds. Almost to the extent that we, as city dwellers, have an urge to touch them just to convince ourselves that they are real and alive, not simply obscure structures existing in an otherworldly landscape. Within xeric habitats there are species that have evolved intricate water-management techniques, defence systems to protect these crucial water reservoirs and safeguarding measures against temperature fluctuations and scorching sunlight.

Image 04 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, Lophocereus schottii major in its surroundings.

Within Iteration 2: Oddworlds, our team worked to source mature specimens of many curious species with scale in mind, raising each on densely planted islands where visitors could observe in close detail.

Image 05 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, Espostoa melanostele.

Image 06 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, Kalanchoe beharensis.

Image 07 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, window view.


The elongated bodies of the columnar Pachycereus (syn. Lophocereus) and crested Myrtillocactus have been a constant source of fascination since Conservatory Archives began. Pachycereus (syn. Lophocereus) schottii f. monstrosus and Pachycereus (syn. Lophocereus) schottii f. minor are slow-growing and trunkless cacti which produce ascending stems, not typically growing in a straight line. In habitat, Pachycereus (syn. Lophocereus) schottii f. monstrosus are found within a small locality of Baja, California and continues their reproduction largely through ‘cloning’; breakage and subsequent propagation of new stems. The major form of these thick-stemmed succulents are characterised by particularly knobbly, irregular lumps (tuburcles) along the stem.

Image 08 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, planting of the columnar cacti.

Image 09 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, details of Lophocereus shottii major.

Although crested plants can be found within the wild, many specimens of Myrtillocactus geometrizans f. cristata are nursery cultivated. The crested, or fasciated, form of the standard Myrtillocactus geometrizans produces dense, bright blue stems that fan out and contort themselves into shapes that resemble puffs of smoke. Positioned within a sun-drenched corner of Oddworlds, two specimen plants were particularly spectacular in appearance, with a disordered, undulating growth habit enhanced by their dusty blue epidermis.

Image 10 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, details of Myrtillocactus geometrizans f. Cristata.

Image 11 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, view of the rockery with Brachychiton rupestris on the right.


Many succulents grow in grouped communities composed of multiple species rather than lone individuals within natural habitats. For Iteration 2, the watering station was transformed into the antithesis of its original purpose and our team carefully created a microcosm of the many rocky, dusty outcrops found in deserts. Planted within this landscape, visitors could find a multitude of tiny, fleshy succulents nestled amongst gritty soil and stones, with some almost completely camouflaged into their surroundings. Immersed between the sand, grit and grass  were species of Lithops, Conophytum and Astrophytum, with a neighbouring Xerosicyos tripartitus, itself appearing as a giant stone, with life only shown through a number of creeping vines emerging from the centre.

The incredible but tiny Lithops, known as living stones, have adapted to the dry deserts of South Africa. These little stemless succulents camouflage into the surroundings to avoid being grazed by animals in their native habitat.

Image 12 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, details of the rockery.

Image 13 - Group of different Lithops planted together.

Image 14 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, view of the large Kleinia neriifolia.


Senecio kleinia (syn Kleinia neriifolia) is the centrepiece of the Oddworlds display; narrowly missing the ceiling, this enormous succulent stands at approximately four metres tall (a height that is rarely achieved in habitat). Originating from the rocky slopes of the Canary Islands, Senecio kleinia is characterised by its swollen, almost caudiciform stems and delicate tufts of blue green leaves at the tip of each forked branch. Within the display, our team planted several specimens of Senecio at differing heights and shapes, to mirror the clusters found in the volcanic landscapes of the species’ natural home.

Image 15 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, view through the internal door.

Image 16 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, close up of Aloe comosa.


Alongside Agave, Aloe is a genus that has repeatedly captivated the Conservatory Archives team over the years; there have been several specimens of huge proportion that have found a sometimes temporary, sometimes long-lived home both in-store and within projects, often due to their distinctive scale and form. The oldest specimen within Oddworlds is a grand Aloe thraskii. Although characterised by its large crown of leaves, Aloe thraskii can produce a large inflorescence which almost matches the magnitude of its form. The flowers gradate from yellow to warm orange as they develop. This species rarely produces offsets within habitat, so the vibrancy of the flowers is integral to pollinators within its coastal locality and plays a crucial role in ensuring seed production and establishing the next generation.

Clustered at the base of Aloe thraskii sits Aloe comosa and Aloe ferox. Similarly to Aloe thraskii, Aloe comosa produces a single, unbranched stem, with a dense rosette of blue-green leaves. The leaves of Aloe ferox are lined with sharp red/brown spines to deter herbivores, ferox translates as fierce in latin.  

Image 17 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, close up of Aloe ferox.

Image 18 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, Aloe thraskii

Image 19 - Hackney Road: Open in Series Iteration 2.2, view of the main room with the specimens planted in pots.

Iteration 2: Oddworlds was a planted landscape within the Hackney Road store. The premise of Iteration 2: Oddworlds was to showcase not only remarkable plant species on a substantial scale, but to also demonstrate the variety of life found within environments that many of us may consider to be infertile due to the severity of the landscape. Planted amongst the specimen flora were many grass species, sedums and drought tolerant shrubs. What can be considered odd to some is largely due to experience and understanding; for these plants, they have simply adapted to the habitat that they exist within.

Considering the strangeness of these plants led to a further investigation in Iteration 2.2. Although these plants exist and grow in the habitats they find themselves in, we as human beings seek to bring them into our homes, constrained within a container. Iteration 2.2 displays similar species and specimens, but in pots. Pots bear the importance of both fitting aesthetically into our interiors, whilst simultaneously sustaining the entire life of a plant and its future growth. Nonetheless, they can often be an afterthought and are overshadowed by the many choices of eye-catching plant specimens available. Pots are the vessels that carry live plants into our indoor spaces, and although visually they should fit to our interior design choices, the substrate housed within is the foundation to providing the resources necessary for healthy growth over many decades. 

Image 20 - Hackney Road: Open in Series Iteration 2.2, potted plants in the small room.

Image 21 - Iteration 2: Oddworlds, view of the Aloe planting group through the internal door.