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Dear PoPville – What are your thoughts on “guerilla gardeners”?

Photo by PoPville flickr user available_photons

Dear PoPville,

I was wondering if anyone out in PoPville had had any experience with so-called “guerilla gardeners” and what your thoughts were. As a boring regular gardener myself, when I first heard of the concept I had some romantic notion of beautifying abandoned and public spaces in cooperation with their inhabitants, but several incidents within the last few weeks have caused me to think differently. I’ve heard of several instances of friends waking up to find shrubs or something in their front yard. Last week a friend who runs a gardening program at one of the local schools arrived with seedlings for the kids to find the vegetable beds converted into flower gardens and had to spend a morning tearing the plants out prior to the youngins’ gardening workshop. The community garden where we garden has several common plots and several individually rented plots, one of which we have. I had noticed this week that some of my plants had been trimmed in ways that I didn’t necessarily appreciate but figured bored kids were finding something to do, accepting that as part of gardening in a public space. I was surprised to arrive yesterday and find a group of young 20-somethings scattering seeds in several of the rented plots. One of the young women approached me and told me that she’d been “cutting your stuff for you,because it looked like it was getting to be too big, and you weren’t caring for it.” I informed her (too harshly? I still haven’t decided) that I’d been by every day that week tending to the plants and had in fact wanted them to grow (and that, in any case, the garden has a regs committee who monitors overly lush spaces) before she sauntered off.

The first two cases certainly involve trespassing and altering someone’s landscape without permission, and I’m wondering what contribution guerrilla gardeners believe they’re making. In both of the first cases the new plants were ripped up and disposed of because the land owners/occupants had their own plans for it, so the trespass-planting winds up being both wasteful and annoying. I found the guerrilla’s attitude highly condescending, as have some of our neighbors, who see it as another opportunity for yuppies to demonstrate an arrogant paternalism toward the neighborhood. I don’t think anybody really wants to be a curmudgeon and put up a “Keep Out” sign, and since most of this activity has taken place under cover of darkness there’s little chance to directly ask guerrillas to stop their work.

I know this isn’t really a solvable problem, but guerrilla gardening turns out to be much less endearing than many of its participants seem to think it is. I just wondered who in PoPville had been gardened and what their responses have been? Or whether some guerrillas have a different approach and find this one to be out of line?

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