Guerilla gardens, turning disused space city into a garden, it sounds exciting. Gardens can make all kinds of political statements from the gardens at Versailles that demonstrated Louis 14th control of the nature to guerilla gardens questioning property rights and greening the city. And everyone wants to recreate that lost wonder of the ancient world, the hanging gardens of Babylon.
Guerrilla gardening and “seed bombing” was started by Liz Christy 1973 with a community garden in Manhattan. The Liz Christy Garden is still there. I didn’t see the Channel 10 program Guerrilla Gardeners but I did see guerilla gardening covered in Around the World in 80 Gardens. (Monty Don Around the World in 80 Gardens, 2008, p.281) Like me, other people are aware of guerrilla gardening in Melbourne but I haven’t seen much evidence of it. It has been in the hard years of drought for any kind of gardening in Melbourne so I’m not surprised.
There is a lot of disused land in the vast metropolitan sprawl of Melbourne and there is probably a lot of guerilla gardening that I’m not noticing. The lone rubber plant by the Coburg railway station has now grown into a small tree. Some guerrilla gardening is surreptitious, growing vegetables in disused land or marijuana in the thick undergrowth along the Merri Creek. But I’m haven’t seen any of these secret gardens – I am more interested in the guerilla gardens that are visible and part of the street art culture, the botanical urban interventions. The miniature gardens created in the most unlikely places in Melbourne. I am interested in the reclamation and aesthetic improvement of disused and neglected urban space.
I’ve been told about a guerilla garden tree in St. Kilda with the pots nailed to the top. In Centre Place I saw that someone was trying to grow some grass/bamboo in plastic bottles on top of a box. Elsewhere in the city I’ve seen failed attempts to create hanging gardens in suspended piles of newspaper. With all the recent rain I would have thought that guerrilla gardens would be growing but in both cases the plants died.
Melbourne’s most successful piece of guerilla gardening is in Flanigan Lane. There is an installation of plants in a ghettoblaster and a series of pots gaffa taped to a pipe by La Pok. La Pok has studied landscape architecture and this planning has allowed this micro garden to succeed where others have failed. Over a year later it is the only one; most of the other little guerrilla gardens that I have seen in the city are dead or dying. (See my post Street Art Notes July 2010 for my original report on the two garden installations) Gardens require maintenance (tell me about it, I have a blister on my hand from pulling up weeds). Guerilla gardens sounds like a great idea but there are all kinds of problems with guerilla gardening: neglect, inappropriate plants and inappropriate placement.
Sustainable Gardening Australia has a good article about Guerrilla Gardening.