On a recent lunchtime wander around the neighbourhood, I was astonished to see this example of guerrilla gardening in the heart of Marylebone’s Harley Street medical district.
For those not familiar with the term, ‘guerrilla gardening’ describes the unofficial planting of seeds and plants to improve the urban environment. Typical sites include neglected planters and flower beds beside housing estates and other buildings, abandoned wasteland sites and bulb planting on grassed road verges and roundabouts. So in an area which is generously planted with street trees and displays of bedding plants, it is surprising to find this example of a much wilder and frankly ‘untidy’ gardening.
For the background to this movement and to see examples of guerrilla gardening, take a look at the following guide written by one of the London pioneers of this movement:
On guerrilla gardening: a handbook for gardening without boundaries
– Richard Reynolds
As the Weymouth Street example proves, one does not need a large ‘canvas’ to create a guerrilla garden. The sunflower and tomato plants have been planted around a tree in a space only 1m x 0.5m. Frankly I am astonished that they are flourishing in such an inhospitable situation! Rather embarrassingly, the exuberant tomato plant puts my own plants to shame. Apart from the hostile growing conditions next to the road, I am surprised this planting has survived the attention of human hands, whether by vandalism or ‘tidying’.
Nearby in Fulham, residents of Fabian Road are actively planting up the bare soil around pavement trees with the backing of the council, whose website currently features this short YouTube video of interviews with the gardeners:
Meanwhile, searching the library catalogue for ‘guerilla gardening’ unexpectedly turned up a novel: Guerrillas in our midst, by Claire Peate.
If unofficial gardening to brighten up the urban landscape doesn’t appeal, why not individually plant up window boxes, pots etc. or join together with neighbours in a community project? The Royal Horticultural Society has initiated the Greening Grey Britain campaign, one of several RHS campaigns which includes the Britain in Bloom and the School Gardening initiatives set up to improve the urban environment. The RHS website gives advice and support; you can also search for volunteering opportunities. Remember that your library service stocks a number of books relating to urban and container gardening. The following titles are three examples which can be borrowed to assist you greening the urban landscape with ornamental and edible plants.
One local initiative is found at Westminster’s Church Street Library , the site of a flourishing community garden. Information about and images of this project can be found in the recent post: A green oasis and a lot of fun.