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Land Collective at the PHS Flower Show

We were recently honored with the invitation to return to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Flower Show to curate an exhibition of our Founding Principal, David A. Rubin’s antique tool collection. This marks our third year participating in the nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural event. In 2022, DAVID RUBIN Land Collective’s exhibition garden, Embrace, was awarded the PHS Silver Medal, and last year, the display of antique garden tools was presented based on typology. This year, we wanted to showcase the various ways the physical objects in the collection reflect the social customs that shaped their users who, in turn, shaped the land. Throughout history, considerable effort has been dedicated to crafting and refining gardening tools to address contemporary horticultural needs. The study of antique garden tools offers us a glimpse into how users viewed themselves.

These task-specific tools range in age from the late eighteenth to mid-twentieth centuries and in origin from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, other areas of Europe, and the United States. The collection represents the human past of “writing” the earth: a long tradition of invention and ingenuity in elevating and manipulating nature to inform the human world. From the oils left behind on wooden handles by the hands of past gardeners to the blows of a blacksmith made visible in hammered metalwork, these tools connect us to the people that wielded them to render order in a complex natural world, to define culture, and to describe how landscape is physically written.

The most desirable of the 18th and 19th century blacksmith-made hedge clippers feature a fabulous wing nut and heart-shaped closure. Imagine the blacksmith’s realization that these forged implements can speak to the empathy of gardening – the gardener thinking beyond themself to appreciate what is required for the non-communicating plant to thrive. The heart is a beautiful symbol for the joys of gardening.

In addition to the diverse tools, the collection includes ephemera – posters, leaflets, and catalogs – which represent the industries that have grown to support the ever-expanding need to “improve” and disseminate horticulture, including purveyors of seeds. They speak to marketing both the industry and the safe, dry distribution of the product. They also speak to a history of implicit bias in gender and representation of gardening.


Gardening is for everyone, to be sure, no matter how one identifies oneself. But over the years, advertisements have used gender identity to influence purchasing power by emphasizing a correlation between what gets grown by whom. Here are advertisements in the form of posters and catalogs that represent these stereotypical alignments. One of our favorites is the lovely French model declaring “Faites Commes Moi” (Do As I Do) looking as beautiful as her fruits and vegetables grown from Le Paysen seeds. Roughly distributed between lawn and vegetable gardens for men and flower gardens for women, there is clear bias here, sometimes to amusing effect.


If you couldn’t make it to the Philadelphia Flower Show, don’t worry! You can still see David’s collection of antique garden tools on permanent, rotating display at GALLERY Land Collective in our Philadelphia studio. Stay tuned as we will be announcing upcoming exhibitions on GALLERY Land Collective’s Instagram page.

GALLERY Land Collective is a conduit for the representation of thoughtful explorations focused on landscape. We present the work of landscape architects and designers, ecologists, sociologists, anthropologists, artists, and others whose work informs the breadth of the discipline. It is a collective consciousness that raises landscape to the highest ideals. We invite your participation.