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Fight the filth. Grow guerrilla gardens


The 2008 Guerrilla Gardening Elephant & Castle Flower ShowGuerrilla gardening on London Road

Where my guerrilla gardening began outside Perronet HouseAllium tower beneath my tower block
Handover Mission: Brixton Road, SW9 Guerrilla Gardening: Sunday 18 May 08 Between bus stops F & G on Brixton Road in South London is a raised brick planter that has sporadically been guerrilla gardened since March last year. It began as a local effort in which I joined as chief strategist and arms supplier but sadly the indigenous forces moved away leaving me with a problematic territory too far for regular patrol. Attempts to recruit new locals had failed and the land was slipping back into neglect. That was until this weekend when two old-timer guerrillas returned to the fold, fresh from cycling across India, Pam 184 and Gary 728 live near byHandover of full sovereignty in Brixton
and enthusiastically agreed to take it on. So once more I returned to fight alongside the locals and restore civilisation to the mess. The mission was just in time. The lavender, artemisia and geranium were being over run with weeds so out they came and in went mallow, foxgloves and lupins. Lyla 1046 and Meike 155 joined in for the dig and a few passersby stopped to share their appreciation. We celebrated the handover with a fine meal back at Pam and Gary’s. (Locals - check the Brixton Community strand)Before and after guerrilla gardening on Brixton Road. Just wait for it to start flowering!
Troop Dig: College Rd, Kensal Green, NW10 Leader: Lyla 1046 Guerrilla Gardening: Monday 5 May 08 Budget: About £280 In the last report of improving the shabby London suburb of Kensal Green I did not mention the more miserable neighbouring planter. This had to be tackled soon for fear that our improvements on one side of the road would be destroyed in a misguided occasional ‘tidy up’ by a strimmer happy contractor. So we came to weed, with even more hardy drought tolerant plants
including cotton lavender (Santolina), broom (Cytisus), pyrethrum (a natural insecticide), rosemary and lavender. Nine of us (four local) were joined by Christine and a film crew from the BBC1 One Show and brought with them some very helpful bright spot lights which made gardening in the  shadow of the sycamore trees much easier. At 11 they surprised us with a scooter pizza delivery, a welcome break from another hard graft at the horticultural front line. The final task involved watering the new plants 	including cotton lavender (Santolina), broom (Cytisus), pyrethrum (a natural insecticide), rosemary and lavender. Nine of us (four local) were joined by Christine and a film crew from the BBC1 One Show and brought with them some very helpful bright spot lights which made gardening in the  shadow of the sycamore trees much easier. At 11 they surprised us with a scooter pizza delivery, a welcome break from another hard graft at the horticultural front line. The final task involved watering the new plants 	and this was kindly provided by a keen and supportive neighbour who spotted the blitz.and this was kindly provided by a keen and supportive neighbour who spotted the blitz.
	Lyla has passed this scrubby patch near Kensal Green tube thousands of times on her way to and from home, and had noted that the only care it got was the occasional slashing and mulching. So she summoned troops on this website’s Community forum and braving thunder and rain we gathered. Local newcomers Anya 1389 and Niloufer 059 joined us too for what became a fairly Putting The Green Back Into Kensal Green Monday 28 April 2008
gruelling evening of heavy weeding. It was a troublesome dry and shady location in planters but we took guidance from where the weeds flourished and once more put in, lavender (but the fancy ‘Hidcote’ cultivar this time), some lilies, lupins and lobellia (yes, thinks beginning with L). The land was more brown than green when we finished, but a great garden does not grow over night.  Guerilla gardening in Kensal Green London
Project 30: Gaywood Estate, Southwark, SE1  Guerrilla Gardening: Tuesday 22 April 08 Budget: £128.20 For the second week now I’ve been looking for new patches or neglected orphaned land close to me. I found these two bare circles in the scrappy lawns of the Gaywood Estate barely a minutes walk from my own tower block and decided to add them to my growing acreage of responsibility, and perhaps encourage some of the very local people to join in too. A clue to what had once been in these bare patches was the  ring of tired daffodils which matched those around trees in the communal space. I stocked up with the old faithful lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Paris daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens) and Pinks (Dianthus ‘Tiny Ruby’) Guerrilla gardening on the Gaywood Estate
and called up six troops for help. The earth was an easy dig. The tree roots had (almost all) been removed - these were beds waiting to be filled. The stash of plants and troops were split in two. Christina 037, Lyla 1046 and Helen 2233 did one patch and Andrew Before and after guerilla gardening two new patches in Southwark London
1679 and the American duo of Lindsay 3105 and Lindsay 3106 did the other while I wandered between the two occasionally prodding something and talking to some journalists.  I’ll be back to tend these but the hope is this will encourage even more local people to make more of their green but bland land. There was an appreciative dog walker and a couple of onlookers waved down and raised their thumbs in thanks for our nocturnal planting. Guerrilla gardening propaganda
Guerrilla gardening on the Gaywood Estate 1Guerrilla gardening on the Gaywood Estate 2
Guerrilla gardening on the Gaywood Estate 3Guerrilla gardening on the Gaywood Estate 4
Project 26: Elephant & Castle North Roundabout, SE1 Guerrilla Gardening: Wednesday 16 April 08 Budget: £110.42 For the first time in four years I was forced to retreat from the horticultural front line or face arrest. Let me explain. Horticultural council contractors had recently laid new turf over part of the tired compacted weedy lawns of the roundabout. This turf was the left over trimmings from work in a local park and had been put down as if it were laminate flooring on concrete – no preparation, little trimming, even a man hole cover was partially covered. I decided the finish off the halfEncounter between guerrilla gardeners and the police
The tatty work of council contractorsThe improvements after guerrilla gardening
-hearted council improvement with some guerrilla gardening. I expected no trouble having successfully cultivated a bed of bright nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) on the roundabout last summer. The plan was to tidy up the lawn and replace the weeds beneath the road sign with a new bed (which would also save an occasional council mower-man from getting out his strimmer). Ben 2110, Clara 005, Lyla 1046, Andrew 1679, Lindsay 3105 and Lindsay 3106 gathered at my flat and we struck at 8.30pm. No sooner had we edged the turf and cleared the weeds than a police car startled us by driving across the pedestrian foot bridge and pulling up next to us. Another police car and then a police minibus circled us and about ten or so officers stepped out. Never have I seen such a force arrive during a dig, nor with such ferocity. As with previous police encounters we give them the facts and let them conclude common sense. This has always passed with good humour and we have not been stopped, but this time the force from Walworth Police station were seeing no sense in our gardening. “Criminal damage this is, put down your tools or we’re taking you in.” I tried every line in the book (that’s my book) and lectured them for about twenty
 minutes on the logic of our action. They listened with stony faces and insisted we would be arrested if we so much as dug the ground again. I even desperately cited Al Gore’s verbal support for us on TV last year, but sadly Gore has no jurisdiction in the Elephant & Castle nor sympathy from bloody-minded officers. I chose not to be arrested and we all tactically retreated to recharge with red wine at Ben’s flat and work out how and when the attack could be finished. An hour and a half later we returned, but this time in rapid fire bursts, with troops running two-by-two with de-potted plants ready to trowel straight into the ground. With more efficiency than we have ever gardened the plot was soon filled and watered. It was an exhilarating but very depressing night, a very sorry reminder of why were are guerrilla gardeners. This whole miserable adventure was fortunately videoed by a crew from a Swedish children’s TV show and The Guardian newspaper to the police officers irritation. The TV camera is mightier than the truncheon.
Troop Dig: Old Street St, Hackney, London EC1  Leader: Heather 1986 Guerrilla Gardening: Thursday 3 April 2008 Budget: £48.20 Heather 1986 spotted this putrid patch of trendy London and called a meeting to plan a rescue mission. What we saw was grimmer than any location ever before tackled in London. The orphaned arc of land, fenced in between the pavement and a car park was a swamp of beer cans, bottles, fancy dress outfits and a few wallets. Drowning in this detritus of good times was something privet-like and one bold butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) in need of comfort and retraining. The plan was to clear out the muck, enrich with compost and plant cautiously and resiliently - ‘a garden home fit for a gnome’. The Guerrilla Garden Party Old Street
Guerilla gardeners in Old Street LondonGuerrilla gardeners in London
While some relished diving into the filth with thick gloves and boots others numbed the horror by knocking back fresh beer before carrying bags of bottles to the near by recycling bins. Once again we found excellent soil underneath and evidence that this had once been cultivated. The growing crowd were put to work emptying fifty packets of Californian poppy seed (Eschscholzia californica) into a bucket which one drunk fool dropped on the bed... but a more sober troop picked up and carpeted instead. The remaining supply of Henrietta 2899’s posh box hedge (Buxus microphylla ‘Faulkner’) were planted in an arc around the tidied butterfly bush and small creeping variegated ivy (Hedera helix ‘Oak leaf’) were zig-zagged at the front and a few clumps Paris daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens). Passers by were fascinated, camera-trigger-happy and virtually all bloggers as well. An assistant at the near by bar lent us a broom to sweep up (to the furry of his boss) and all that was left was for Heather 1986 to introduce the gnome to his new home. She planted him cosily up to his belly and left him to Guerrilla gardening on the junction of Old Street and Great Eastern Street, Hackney London
to keep watch. For more photos visit Heather’s gallery here.
Brief arty moment: Breakspeare Rd, Brockley, SE4 
Occurrence: Wednesday 2 April 2008
Guerrilla gardening at its best involves long-term cultivation and care for some otherwise miserable neglected land. At worst it’s a brief flurry of flower arranging, a stunt in which the plants are just inert objects and may die. But stunts can be tempting fun and a chance to learn... so when a friend’s flatmate called me to ask for help with his Goldsmith’s College art project I said, “Yes, let’s do it, but as long as I get the plants back and you pay for them.” He needed help Skip planted with flowers is not guerrilla gardening
filling his rented skip. For the last few months it has become his ever-changing canvas. What comes next is, please note, not guerrilla gardening, it’s just ‘having fun with plants for half an hour’. Horticulturally the project nonsense! Olly 3748 filled the skip with old wooden palettes and covered them with carpet and a thin layer of mud from his garden. I arrived with potted plants that we plonked directly into the dirt to look as if they were growing there. I also brought Jon with me, from the New York Times, but we didn’t plant him, he helped plant the skip as well. In no time Olly’s yellow icon-of-grot was superficially blooming marvellous, but as ever there was something to learn. A passer by pulled over in his van and enquired, “rubbish then are they, can I help myself.” He had no chance to even try and lift them, I was on him in an instant, “No, no no,, this is art you see, not rubbish, nor even a garden, these will be out of here in no time and planted elsewhere.” He left disappointed and very confused. Jon pointed out to us that “dumpster diving” was of course an informal common sense response to rubbish in the same way guerrilla gardening is to orphaned land. Filling a skip with plants to make a garden is illogical tomfoolery, (but it makes a lovely photo). Don’t expect your flowers to stay in there for more than a few minutes! Fortunately we never planed them to last for long, for these plants it was merely a short adventure down the road. Once Olly had his snap shot we them out and I took them home ready for when they could be planted somewhere for real.
The transformation of two years guerrilla gardening outside Morley College on Westminster Bridge Road London

For blogs earlier in the year clickFor blogs earlier in the year click here