Guerrilla gardening in the UK is a sign of failure; a sign that the local community is not functioning properly; that citizens are not talking to elected local councillors; that people feel isolated. It’s not a solution.
Guerrilla gardening is a selfish response to a situation; “no one will let me do what I want so I will go out and do it anyway, whether the community wants it or not”. And that’s a good point – if people are guerrilla gardening there is nothing that anyone else in the community can do about it if they don’t like it, because by its very nature it is secretive. Oddly enough, those that are enthusiastic about such an approach are often not that knowledgeable about plants. Where I live in the north east of England we have a special Local Wildlife Site designation for urban meadows; collections of native and alien plants that arise on derelict sites which are important to the history and biodiversity of the area where I live. …but they often look messy… if you didn’t know what the plants were then you might think the area would look better covered with poppies or sunflowers.
Far better to have community gardening. Indeed Ron Finlay is reported as saying he does not see himself as a guerrilla gardener but as a community gardener who helps grow communities. As a community group in the UK you can usually get support from your local council and gardening charities like the RHS as well as raise money for your work from grants. You can pay for experts to help you so you don’t waste time making mistakes.
Some examples. Two community groups in villages making a difference to their area ,one with a community orchard which acts as a focus for village events in the Yorkshire Dales, and another that has won gold medals from Britain in Bloom.
If you think that sort of thing works in villages but it’s different in towns then what about the conservation group working to improve and maintain wild areas in Middlesbrough, Boro Becks group, or the community group at Fairy Dell which has raised thousands to celebrate and improve their area. This year they commissioned an archaeological dig in which local schoolchildren took part and then held a medieval fair for all the local people. They don’t creep around pretending they are ninjas battling against a cruel and uncaring world – they are too busy making a difference for all that nonsense. And they negotiate – all the time: With local people, with local experts, with council officers and with grant providers. Talking is what builds communities.
The language of war (guerrilla gardening, seed bombs) sits ill at ease with something that celebrates the cycle of life as much as gardening does and I wish journalists would stop holding it up as something good, when there are better, more effective alternatives available in the UK.