A few years ago I was idly reading nonsense online – I mean ‘doing some important research’ – when I first came across the concept of Guerilla Gardening. I immediately loved it. The website explains it all much better than I can, but in essence it’s about planting in spaces that you don’t own. Maybe it’s my childhood… I have a hazy memory of my Mum either planting on the roundabout up the lane from my childhood home, or perhaps pointing out approvingly where someone else had done so. Clutches of bulbs. Flowering plants. Fruit and vegetables. It’s all brilliant.
When I was very briefly part of the Steering Group of the wonderful Forest Gate Community Garden we were discussing how to manage the increasing number of ideas we were receiving for other areas we could plant and maintain. We quickly realised that the barrier wasn’t locating possible spaces, the barrier was finding the people who were willing to organise, plant and maintain. So together we established a process that we called ‘Green Shoots’, where if someone wanted to work alongside the garden committee on their own area, they could do so, whilst the committee focussed on bringing the garden itself (then seemingly a pipe dream, now here and flowering in all senses) to fruition.
Perhaps the best-known example of guerilla gardening that we currently have in Forest Gate is the Women’s Institute’s planting of the water trough by the station. I find this glorious: both beautiful in an actual way but also somehow metaphorical as well. In my more poetic moments I feel as though the multi-coloured flowers growing there say something about our past, our present, about variety and multi-culturalism, about tenacity, and new growth. (But that’s probably just the English Literature student in me. On a practical and more measurable note, they look lovely. And any planting of course encourages wildlife, bees, butterflies and more.)
Since then I have noticed some guerilla planting going on in other places: a lamp post in Odessa Road, a little space on Cranmer Road. I also heard on the grapevine that a certain councillor might have planted some snowdrops on the verge of Wanstead Flats, though I can’t confirm or deny anything about that. So when I was contacted by someone wondering about doing some more in the conservation area, I started to wonder whether we might have a mini-revolution on our hands.
So I suppose I am blogging now to ask a couple of questions, firstly whether any has noticed any other examples of guerilla gardening? I’d love to see pictures if so! Tweet them to me using #fgguerillagardening and I can share them here and on twitter. Are other people as childishly excited by this as I am? And is anyone interested in doing any more? Can I do anything to help if so?
I would be really grateful to hear from you. If you’re not a gardener, then it is more than enough to just enjoy, point out these little areas of illicit joy when you see them, and pass on our thanks to the people around us who are taking the trowels into their own hands to make Forest Gate a nicer, more beautiful and greener place, little by little.