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In Brooklyn (to be vague) I always walk by an ignored, weedy triangular plot of land; a monument to some bygone religious hero long overgrown. Low-hanging tree branches crowd out benches; trash is caught in the bars of the relatively spit-spot black, wrought iron fence. Within this cold perimeter, a world kept closed by one small rusty-lock, a forgotten path cowers beneath the branchy, weedy jungle. Passing by last week, I was struck by the vision of myself, under cover of night, pruning those unwieldy branches and clearing off the path–shocking the residents with a new green space in the morning. Shortly after that fit of narcissistic adulation, I stumbled upon an international group of surreptitious gardeners who stole my idea (or at least came up with it first).

These stealthy mavens of the earth that I wish to be like call themselves “guerrilla gardeners.” Guerrilla gardening is defined as: “the cultivation of someone else’s land without permission.” Often the role of “someone else” is played by the Department of Transportation, the local (or country) government, and apathetic landlords, who have left road medians, sidewalks, and flower beds empty of greenery. Guerrilla gardening in its 21st century incarnation is the seedling of Richard Reynolds, a 30 year old Londoner who in 2004 found himself using the hours between dusk and dawn to add some color around his apartment complex. By day he began blogging about his adventures, at which point the British media scooped him. Reynolds is officially leader of an international movement–New Zealand, Belgium, Libya, California, England, and Canada all have reported events–that he says first originated in the Big Apple in the 1970s. “Green Guerrillas began cultivating derelict lots around the Lower East Side, either by clipping barbed wire fences or chucking ‘seed bombs’ over them — Christmas ornaments or condoms filled with tomato seeds, water and fertilizer,” Reynolds explained to the New York Times. (Reynolds introduced a new era of seed bombing this past May 1, when all around the world, gardeners united to throw sunflower seed bombs [video] over fences and into barred off areas.)

As with anything good these days, the movement has already spawned a spin-off. Called “guerrilla grafting,” this movement is driven by city-dwelling landscape pioneers who use the dark of night to graft multi-specie trees. Grafting is a horticulture procedure in which the cut branch of one tree can be spliced to the trunk of another tree, causing them to grow as one. For example, apple and pear branches can be attached onto and grown from quince trees, providing fruit; one guerilla grafter reports a tree that he created now growing 9 kinds of pomes.

I’ll admit I’m compelled by the Robin Hood-esque intrigue, international flavor, and gardening spirit surrounding this underground movement. Maybe it’s time to bring guerrilla gardening back to the big city. Keep an eye, or ear, out for my signal. I’m thinking it’ll be something like, “The trowel digs at midnight.”

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Jennifer Yang, The Edmonton Journal

Published: Monday, August 11

Two months have passed since Edmonton’s “guerrilla gardeners” decided to spruce up Jasper Avenue with some stealthily planted marigolds and baby’s breath. But today, a few holes in the dirt is all that remains of their horticultural handiwork.

“Somebody came along and carefully uprooted (the plants),” said Dustin Bajer, creator of Edmonton Guerrilla Gardeners. “They probably took it home for their own garden.”

Guerrilla gardening has been defined as gardening in public spaces, either with or without permission. The movement sprouted in the 1970s, yet there was no organized effort in Edmonton until Bajer’s group formed this spring.

Comprised of mostly students and young professionals, the group is on a quest to beautify the urban landscape through flowers, vines and all things green and leafy.

The renegade planting started in May, and while some of the group’s seeds haven’t survived the summer, their movement is starting to bloom.

Membership in a Facebook group dedicated to the guerrilla gardeners has grown from 30 to 130, and Bajer says he gets at least two phone calls a week from people expressing interest.

There has also been some international attention, as the group was contacted by Richard Reynolds in England — a man who Bajer describes as the world’s “guru” of guerrilla gardening. Another call came in from Columbia Sportswear, which wanted to feature the gardeners in a television commercial. The members declined the offer, suggesting a similar group in California would be a better option.

“The last month or so has been about getting the word out there and making connections,” Bajer said. “There’s so much interest in (guerrilla gardening) that it’s really surprised me.”

To veteran guerrilla gardeners, the important thing isn’t necessarily how many petunias get planted. “Guerrilla gardeners are the ones who are really doing something about the planet, not just worrying about it,” said David Tracey, author of Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto. “Even if it’s a single seed, you’ve done something for the planet that day and it’s a good day.”

Since their inaugural outing this spring, the Edmonton Guerrilla Gardeners have planted an apple tree near the river valley and scattered seeds along freeways in the city’s east end. The group was also given two vegetable plots in Strathcona County, where they’ve planted potatoes, corn, peas and even a row of peanuts.

Members have also been imaginative with their gardening and are trying to create “moss art,” in which a mixture of moss, beer, and sugar is painted onto a rough surface using a stencil. The result, they hope, is a kind of green, organic graffiti.

“That aspect isn’t 100-per-cent guerrilla activity, but it’s fun,” Bajer said. “We’re tapping into the creative side a little bit.”

With planting season now over, the guerrilla gardeners are just brainstorming ideas for next spring.

jyang@thejournal.canwest.com

Someone digs guerrilla gardeners

All flowers surreptitiously planted have been stolen away

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AP

Guerrilla gardeners dig in to beautify Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than a dozen people, some wearing orange protective gear, pulled rakes and shovels from a dingy shopping cart and started working on a parched patch of land along a busy off-ramp of the Hollywood Freeway.

It was a Saturday night and drivers whooshed past on their way to the Sunset Strip club scene.

But the crew was undeterred, and by the wee hours, they had transformed the blight into bloom with green bushes and an array of colorful flowers.

City workers on overtime? Nope, no budget for that. These were “guerrilla gardeners,” a global movement of the grass-roots variety where people seek to beautify empty or overgrown public space, usually under the cover of darkness and without the permission of municipal officials.

“What we’re fighting is neglect,” said guerrilla gardening guru Richard Reynolds of London, founder of the Web site guerillagardening.org.

Getting approval to beautify public property can be cumbersome, so guerrilla gardeners in cities worldwide take matters into their own dirt-caked hands.

click here for the whole story

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The New York Times June 8 2008

The Architecture Issue

Guerrilla Gardening

 

Published: June 8, 2008
Just after sunset on one of the first mild nights of spring, Richard Reynolds parked his hatchback near a traffic circle in the London neighborhood of Hoxton. Tied to his roof were a potted honeysuckle and a dozen box hedge plants, spilling out of garbage bags. Trays of bright white Paris daisies filled the trunk, and cartons of variegated ivy were wedged in the passenger seat. Hipsters drank indifferently outside a nearby pub.
Finlay MacKay for The New York Times

 

The car was swiftly unstuffed. Soon Reynolds and five accomplices were over a short black fence and onto a small, squalid crescent of land at a bend in the sidewalk. They were ankle-deep in food wrappers and beer bottles and the spindly overgrowth of a bullying bush that Reynolds — bent over, wearing work gloves and high black rubber boots — started clipping fervidly.

click here for the whole article

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Los Angeles Times article May 29, 2008

Guerrilla gardener movement takes root in L.A. area

Stealth growers seed or plant on land that doesn’t belong to them. The result? Plants that beautify or yield crops in otherwise neglected or vacant spaces.
By Joe Robinson, Special to The Times
May 29, 2008
BRIMMING with lime-hued succulents and a lush collection of agaves, one shooting spiky leaves 10 feet into the air, it’s a head-turning garden smack in the middle of Long Beach’s asphalt jungle. But the gardener who designed it doesn’t want you to know his last name, since his handiwork isn’t exactly legit. It’s on a traffic island he commandeered.

“The city wasn’t doing anything with it, and I had a bunch of extra plants,” says Scott, as we tour the garden, cars whooshing by on both sides of Loynes Drive.

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