Thursday, June 3, 2010

community property

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Banksy and other graffiti artists who run around late at night decorating urban architecture. I think it's a wonderful idea but not many of us are talented enough or energetic enough to adopt the lifestyle. Admittedly too, many examples of graffiti are little more than the results of unsightly vandalism or gang tags. So I began to wonder what an ordinary person could do to become an active participant in a form of subversive cultural protest without the likelihood of getting arrested? It was then that I discovered guerilla gardening.

Gardening on public or vacant land has been around for a long time but in the past few years it's become an international underground (☺) movement ever since Richard Reynolds wrote a book about his efforts. It began with him creeping out late at night from his apartment in East London, digging little holes, and popping in plants he'd grown on his windowsill. Here he is to tell you himself:

What all attempts at guerrilla gardening have in common is a deep challenge to relations to property. If the gardening isn’t illicit, if it isn’t on someone else’s land without their permission, then it isn’t guerrilla – it’s just gardening. I'm off to make my first seed bomb. Now is a good time to reface the planet one GARDEN at a time


  1. I love it. We save seeds every year. I'm going to get some and toss them into the patch of earth next to the covered bridge. It could use some color.

  2. If everyone were to do this it would be great. Another concrete way to DO something rather than just talk about it (like I sometimes do).

  3. I love the idea of guerrilla gardening. THe seed bomb is a great idea.
    I will forthwith form the PFLPP THe Popular Front for the Liberal Propagation of Plant-life

  4. What a brilliant, fun idea. Plus it feels like a nice opposite to all the suburban loons in my neighborhood who spend FAR too much time trimming and manicuring their greenery of all personality as if it were a 1920s dilettante's moustache.

  5. lisa - I remember reading about Japanese salarymen who threw seeds from their commuter trains on their way to work. This was probably before bullet trains.

    liberality - I think a lot of us spend more time thinking than acting but this is a good and simple way of sowing a little happiness.

    jams - That's definitely an idea that could spread.

    randal - Well put.

  6. 200 lavendar? holy cheese whiz, batman. i bought 2 lavendar for my "pot garden" (um, plants grown in pots) and they cost $8.99 apiece.
    but i'm learning how to sprout seeds. i have three small bowls of seeds sprouting next to the computer: red peppers, wildflowers and bush beans. i put them in folded, damp paper towels until they sprout, then transfer them to pots on the patio.
    heh. except that i'm running out of pots, and pots are so damned spendy too. so maybe i should "guerilla' grow some of these seeds here and there about town.
    but... hmmm... does that mean i have to walk around and water them?
    i don't know why this year i've decided to grow so many garden plants. maybe it is the recession. maybe i've become mentally ill.

  7. The whole idea of course, delights me.

    On my old commute to and from work along a stretch of rural highway 2, someone planted daffodil bulbs for several miles. It made me so happy.

  8. sera - It's a plant that grows like crazy around here once it starts so if I wanted to plant it somewhere else I might just dig up a bit. I love plants too but haven't had a garden since the one time ever we had a house of our own which as I remember was five years of renovation disaster. The garden was okay though. Since then it's been nothing but pots which are nice but they can only handle just so many seedlings. I think you would have to walk around with a watering can for the first few weeks but if you plant things that like the area they'd get by.

    pagan sphinx - There are lots of daffodils that grow on the wild side of the park road up here that we know weren't planted by the city. They're always a treat to see.

  9. its a great idea, I wonder how many people enjoy those free gardens without any idea of how they grew to be there.

  10. I really like this idea of growing things - even in a manner like squatting or street art, where no permission is gotten...

    Though, as a gardner, I then imagined an area getting a well meant (but undesirable or even disastrous) infusion of some invasive plant, like stilt grass, or bamboo, or silverberry. These and others can actually render an area (and surrounding ones) useless to native wildlife.

    So seed bombers should take care what they include in their arsenal, perhaps limiting themselves to local natives?

  11. claire - In my experience there are many people who don't pay much attention but the neat thing about gardens is they can have an effect at a subliminal level.

    steve - I recall a number of people were upset at the idea of those 'wild flower' seed packages that were being distributed a few years ago for that very reason and that's a point that Richard Reynolds and many others have stressed when they plan and discuss guerrilla gardening. It's best if the plants sewn are already native to the area where they're planted as well as providing some sustenance to local wild species.