Guerrilla gardening is cultivating land by persons who have no right in law to use the plot. Encouraging wild flowers to grow where they have all but died out due to human activity (or sometimes lack of it) is an ideal way of improving the environment not just visually but ecologically as well. Wild flowers encourage insects, and insects encourage birds. The rapidly declining bee population desperately needs the right floral environment to recover. Guerrilla gardening enthusiasts often target an abandoned plot.
Guerilla gardening is embraced by a diverse variety of people who come to guerrilla gardening with a variety of motivations. Over enthusiastic conventional gardeners who stray over their own land boundary are engaging in guerrilla gardening as are elderly ladies who plant daffodils on grass verges to beautify their villages. But ‘guerrilla gardening’ embraces a wide spectrum of practices including those conducted by people who are highly politically motivated and who believe in direct action to protect the environment. Sometimes militant guerrilla gardening practitioners see cultivation as a shoe in to gaining eventual ownership of the land, to reclaim it from misuse or neglect and give it a proper community purpose. KCS does not condone law breaking but ‘Guerrilla gardening in the form of seeding a neglected piece of council owned wasteland with some wild flowers must rank at the less serious end of criminal spectrum.
The first known so called ‘guerrilla gardening’ ‘cell’ transformed a derelict site in New York into a garden in 1973. So successful was the guerrilla gardening venture that the Parks Department has since given the site official protection. But the alleged ‘guerrilla gardening’ pioneers of New York need not become too smug. It’s more accurate to say that it was they who invented the term ‘guerrilla gardening’ rather than starting up the practice of guerrilla gardening itself. Guerrilla gardening has been going on in Britain since before America was discovered. People have always planted things where strictly speaking they shouldn’t. It is the term ‘guerrilla gardening’ which is modern, not the practice itself. Guerrilla gardening has a long pedigree in Britain. In the 1600s ‘The Diggers’, were already an organised movement campaigning for the freedom to cultivate land.
Modern guerrilla gardening does however have an overtone beyond what elderly ladies have been doing on their grass verges for centuries. Guerrilla gardening has become a movement, although whether a coherent one is another matter. Nevertheless there are Guerrilla gardening social networking groups in up to forty countries at the moment but as guerrilla movements go guerrilla gardening is one of the more benign. Guerrilla gardening may seem like anarchy but it is anarchy that middle-class people are actively embracing to improve the appearance of their local communities. Guerrilla gardening enthusiasts are invariably university-educated, well spoken people who see guerrilla gardening as a community service. And who can argue that planting daffodils or sunflowers in a neglected central reservation is not community spirited. Guerrilla gardening doesn’t have to be a political protest.
Guerrilla gardening can be as genteel as seeding a verge with cowslips or throwing a “seed bomb” out of the window of a train in the hope that the seeds will thrive on the side of the railway track. And very often they do leaving something to look at when the train breaks down or is delayed. In 2004 Richard Reynolds embraced ‘guerrilla gardening’ in order to cultivate the Elephant and Castle roundabout in South East London. In a few months and following media attention the council sanctioned the venture as a ‘community garden’. More recently Mr Reynolds has written a book ‘On Guerrilla Gardening’ which advises potential urban guerrilla gardening converts how to go about their activities. Spokesmen for the right wing think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, appear to approve saying “If people want to make their community cleaner and more beautiful, they should be supported.” and complain that it’s the state’s fail for allowing it insists on owning to fall into such neglect in the first place. But Mr Reynolds sees the movement getting bigger as he argues that people will increasingly look for sites to grow vegetables. That remains to be seen and guerrilla gardening for food is a different matter to planting flowers.
In recent years guerrilla gardening has even penetrated the hallowed halls of the Chelsea Flower Show. Guerrilla gardening practitioners including Tory election candidates arrived with a lorry load of plants to create gardens on derelict land in around Sipson in West London to protest against the third runaway at Heathrow Airport. Exhibitors at the Chelsea Flower Show donated their plants when the show had finished. Even Camilla Duchess of Cornwall is in on the guerrilla gardening act. In 2011 the Duchess turned up in a London bus at a roundabout near Waterloo Station to clear the lavender and help guerrilla gardening devotees create a sanctuary for reptiles. The Daily Mirror speculated as to whether Price Charles’ wife would ‘kiss a frog’.
Guerrilla Gardening Troop Digs and Bomb making
Anyone contemplating guerrilla gardening might consider ‘troop digs’. Guerrilla gardening might focus on a piece of river, clear it of rubbish and old supermarket trolleys and plant some daffodils or other wild flowers. This might be done without anyone’s permission but it might also be a good project for children in the School holidays. But if children are involved in such an organised way however it is essential to get the permission of the land owners.
‘Seed Bombs’ or ‘Green Grenades’ are a useful instrument in the guerrilla gardening terrorist arsenal for use when guerrilla gardening enthusiasts are unable to gain access to sites or don’t wish to spend much time there. Various types of home made ‘bomb’ have been tried and recipes for a variety are available on-line. Most however have disadvantages in one form or another which outweigh their design advantages. But one enterprising Scottish guerrilla gardening enthusiast has started to manufacture his own and sells them commercially. ‘Darren’ sells the ‘Kabloom SeedBom’, ready primed for guerrilla gardening practitioners. The ‘bomb’ is made from recycled paper, seeds, compost, egg boxes, and even tea bags and fashioned into the shape of a grenade making it highly effective. Darren is available on 0141 423 6671 firstname.lastname@example.org, where he conducts what he calls his ‘war on terra’ and incites guerrilla gardening from his bunker in Scotland.
Darren also runs a website which gives further advice on guerrilla gardening. He sells a wide variety of guerrilla gardening munitions including ‘Pollinator Beebom’ ’Cornflower Fieldbom’ and an elegantly styled ‘Poppy Peacebomb’ which (eventually) detonates into explosion of red corn poppies to mark a symbol of wartime remembrance. That must be a device which ticks a box in one way or another for almost all of us guerrilla gardening practitioners or not.
‘Darren says his ‘Seedboms’ are made with ‘an explosive mix of peat free organic compost, coir and a selection of flower seeds embedded in a recycled paper shell’ and that they biodegrade over time leaving only flowers behind. Darren helpfully advises guerrilla gardening enthusiasts ‘not to throw his ‘Boms’ at people’. But Darren might like to watch what words he uses when referring to his guerrilla gardening products. If the Pentagon or GCHQ computers pick up adverts for bombs and grenades for sale by post accompanied by recommendations that they be used by ‘guerrillas’ Darren may find himself tending a garden in Guantanamo Bay. Stranger things have happened.