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Project Five: St George’s Circus, Southwark, London, SE1  Guerrilla Gardening: Monday 4 August 2008 Last time we were here a Transport for London foreman thundered over to ask “what are you doing with my plants”. He was out late resurfacing the road, which was unfortunate for us, but we took the chance to tell himGuerrilla gardening at St George's Circus
All The Fun Of The Circus04.08.08
these were really more our plants, since we had planted them (all but the two old Cordyline that is). It was a reminder, that even though we have been regularly gardening this roadside location, territory is never secure. Regardless, we continue to take responsibility for this old circus (clown free mind you) and it’s slowly maturing into quite a show. Since our last big visit in mid June my brief stops have been insufficient to keep the performance up to scratch so I called up five troops to do a clear out and mulching. Several previously thriving specimens (euyonumous, heather and sunflowers) had prematurely succumbed to the hot blasts of bus exhaust fumes and wayward stomps of stray short-cutters so with bright rakes and forks (looking strangely similar to the Star Wars lightsabers on a passing bus) we ripped them out and made space for new planting with a couple more dark spiky phormium.
The Early Days 31.01.06Today 08.08.08
Guerilla grown sunflowers 08.07.08Weeding 16.06.08
News: The Recycled Garden is recycled.
Royal show plants get recycled in guerrilla gardens and beyond
Most guerrilla gardeners make use of neglected land and from time to time we make use of neglected plants too be they surplus, damaged or even a bit diseased. One place to find discarded plants is at a grand flower show - exhibitors bring more than they need to ensure only the best make it into their gardens and after the show some plants are discarded because the cost of removing them is too great. It’s all rather sad and embarrassing for them, but rich pickings for those who know where to look. So with all this in mind (and after having dispensed with the idea of protest stunts outside their shows) I wrote to the Royal Horticultural Society to see if I could make a garden entirely from discarded plants and materials
from the Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace flower shows. They said yes. The drama of making this showOur show garden at Hampton Court
garden is on another
once the show was over I had a great bounty of plants to distribute. Some went to a legitimate community garden in Brockwell Park, some to my first guerrilla gardens outside Perronet House, some to St Mathias primary school in Hackney, some to the guerrilla lavender field of Westminster Bridge Road, some to guerrilla gardening in Camden and some to my brother’s back garden in Herne Hill. If you have
plants to spare please leave a note on the Community section of this website offering them to locals.
You may recall that in February the gardens I tend beneath my tower block were attacked by some youths on bikes. I’d forgotten all about their visit until this morning when I met one iof the vandals again in very different circustances. The encounter confirmed my approach of ‘bug a hoody’ (and not the ‘hug a hoody’ as some English politicians have been advocating recently). The technique involves interupting their mischief, aligning your self quickly with their flagrant disregard for law and appealing to their sense of recklessness (if only it was that easy, but in my case this time it was). So this morning I was in a bicycle shopBug a hoody
buying a new inner tube and cycle pump and the attendant comes up tome and says “are you that guerrilla gardener?” I confirmed I was one of many, and he then reminded me that we‘d last met when he was trampling my shrubs. Remarkably he was keen to say how he and his stunt gang now avoid all flower beds when looking for urban corners to jump around in and when it came to totting up my bill he gave me a 10% discount. It just goes to show what comes of grabbing a vandals bicyle and shouting! (Of course I take no responsibility if your action in the garden leads to being stung by nettles or bottled by thugs.)
Global guerrilla gardening. New GG websites and content sprout regularly now. You can find out more about these and post news of your own guerrilla gardening websites within the Community pages and Links page or click on the websites below.
Los AngelesEdmontonNetherlands
Thursday 24 July 2008 In March Sarah 265 led the transformation of a barren traffic island into a promising garden of box hedge (see previous blog entry). A month later when we met to give the bushes a trim we were amazed to discover our first case of ‘rip up and replace.’ Our garden had gone and in it’s place was an immaculate assortment of dazzling new evergreen shrubs, including euonymus and phormium. A lot of money hadReclaiming Camden!
At work and our sunflower seeds gratefully receivedAfter Our Blitz
been spent on the work and we presumed it was the work of a municipal contractor. It looked much better than what we had done, remarkably imaginative actually, but we were miffed that our promising new project had been taken back by the authorities - perhaps we had provoked them with our work or perhaps the replanting had always been planned and our box hedge (which admittedly was in need of a trim) was dismissed as unkempt mess? Either way we’d lost a garden. We’re not ones to dig up someone else’s shrubs so instead we hung around and met girls from the local youth centre, gave them sunflower seeds and planted a few in a weedy patch near by.   Now fast forward three months and Sarah 265 discovered neglect had once again struck this sorry patch and the council’s new shrubs were swamped in a blanket of bind weed. (This perhaps was of no great surprise) They seemed not to have touched it since putting the new plants went in! Some were dead and pint glasses and beer cans nestled in the undergrowth. This land was ours to reclaim! So with Swamped in bind weed before
Jean-Francois 5088, Rosco 17 and Olly 4672 along to help we uncovered the remains of the garden beneath and filled in the gaps with a couple of fuchsias and two more golden euonymus. This time the local youth didn’t take so much interest in the garden and turned down my offer of hand tools but cheerfully sat around the bed chatting while we gardened just mildly bemused by our activity. We were done in an hour and were encouraged to see nearby one of our sunflower seeds planted in May had shot up ready for flowering. The troops
The cabbage palm were growing in this central London traffic island long before we started guerrilla gardening around them, but one has been doing so at an increasingly unruly and frankly wmbarassing horizontal angle. Should we let it be or try and upright it? Well after some debate Andrew 1679, Christopher 1178 and I staked it upright several weeks ago… but this was the beginning of the end. The stake was weak and the palm got blown around, roots cut and it withered. So this afternoon we sadly dug it out and carted it off to be pulped at Battersea dump.Out with the poor old palm
An MG is the funeral hearse for the palmWeeding amongst the sunflowers and montbretia
Read your garden and it will tell you messages - that’s one of the techniques a practitioner of permaculture uses to plant sympathetically and create a low maintenance garden. Here for example we do not dig the soil but just occasionally add top dressing. But there is still litter to collect and that tells us messages too. I’m convinced our plastic bottle blight is the activity of one high energy drink addict. I am regularly picking up Lucozade bottles (seldom any other brand) from the same clump next to the traffic lights. Does anyone have a remedy for this? Perhaps it’s the soporific aroma of our lavender that triggers the fly tipper’s energetic outbursts. Dig deeper (metaphorically that is not of course actually) and you may even find more messages. I almost cut myself on a sharp spike pinning a letter to the ground. It was addressed “To the Urban Gardeners” and simply thanked us for our work transforming this corner of London. Secret Messages. A note is concealed TO THE URBAN GARDENERS
The lavender filed poised to bloomRed hot pokers bloom in the guerrilla garden
So much news, so little time. My inbox has been inundated this last month  with many reports of new guerrilla gardening  around the world. I shall be adding reports  from these to the website soon. Right now  troops with their own pages (Los Angeles,  Edmonton, Netherlands) are now on the Links page. Here in London June has been busy with weeding and watering, (and the police even cheerfully honked me) but now a few of us are distracted planting theGuerrilla mallow and broom outside my flat
Recycled Gardena simple gesture
make good use of discarded plants.
Maintenance Mission: Albert Embankment Guerrilla Gardening: Saturday 31 May 08 Earlier this month late one night three of us planted sunflower seeds (Helianthus annuus ‘Russian Giant’) in a weedy rose bed opposite parliament and bumped into an ex Deputy Prime Minister while we gardened. I didn’t blog it here at the time but now that the seedlings are showing am keen to share the story in hope they flourish to blooming maturity. The biggest threat to their survival is now bind weed, which has surged up and over the roses too. Despite the grand view the riverside The Parliament Plot, the houses of parliament on May 6
The bindweed has taken over the beds since we first visited. Christopher talks to Kate with the sweet corn
gardens here, are in long term neglect, and we fear that some day perhaps a brutal strimmer will come and flatten the lot, as is sadly the case when the guerrilla plants
within the mess rather than removing it altogether. And so it was that we set about pre-empting this with a careful weeding. A grey Saturday afternoon was chosen as most practical but I wore a high visibility jacket and green jump suit to disguise myself as a council contractor, (though Christopher 1178 took no such precautions!) We were soon spotted, but fortunately by a sympathiser. It was Kate from who I’d met at my book launch. She had a bicycle full of sweet corn (Zea mays var. rugosa) and donated us a few plants, which we couldn’t help but add to this increasingly agricultural patch of central London. It’s a high risk, experimental location, but fingers are crossed.  Sweet corn and sunflowers

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