At first glance, Richard Reynolds, 33, isnt much different than most of us. By day he's deskbound at a prominent London advertising firm. But at night, he prowls the streets of his dense Elephant and Castle neighborhood beautifying the landscape as a guerilla gardener.
Whats a guerilla gardener? Its someone anyone who reclaims public space by planting and gardening the area. Guerilla gardening reclaims neglected public space to create beautiful and useful garden plots. Richards love for gardening lead him to start a website, and write a book about guerilla gardening On Guerilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening Without Boundaries.
We spoke with Richard about his guerilla gardening past, and asked him for some tips on getting started.
How did you get involved in guerilla gardening?
I got involved like many people around the world by just doing it. I wasnt even aware of the term "guerilla gardening." But I loved the idea of transforming an area of neglected land.
Eventually I began blogging about it and connecting to other gardeners around the world. I got asked to write a book about it, and the book gave me more time to consider what we all have in common and what are our differences.
Did you have any special relationship with gardening before you began guerilla gardening?
I grew up in a rural part of the UK in Devon. We had a big garden at home so for me, gardening was something of a leisure activity. I never saw it as something just for the elderly or families or for people that have lots of money and time.
I enjoy introducing more people to gardening who come to it through the guerilla aspect of it. As time goes by, the illicitness fades, because you discover youve gotten away with it. What draws you back is the gardening aspect.
Why do you think people get involved in guerilla gardening?
It varies a great deal. The majority of people do it because theyre itching to garden in places and they see the opportunity. There are a minority for whom the act of gardening is a protest. And thats a very different message.
There are a lot of people who want to garden but dont have a garden. And it occurs a lot in parts of the world and towns where there isnt a lot of government investment.
Why do you think local and state governments don't invest more in public spaces?
Well, money. Gardening is quite low down the list of priorities. Lots of what I do [in my neighborhood], for example, is technically the responsibility of the transport authority, and Id rather they spend their money on buses and trains.
Governments need to understand that guerilla gardening gets local people involved and give them a sense of ownership in their community. Thats why New York Citys guerilla gardening movement in the 1970s thrived the city was bankrupt and wasnt spending money on public spaces. Likewise in Berlin, they have a lot of guerilla gardening. It also works in expensive cities, like London. Because a lot of people living in urban centers cant afford a house with a nice garden.
I would like it to go further. Montreal, Paris, Vancouver, Amsterdam there are places where guerilla gardening is not just tolerated but supported.
Have you ever run into problems while guerilla gardening?
The local residents dont have a problem. My local police know me. Ive only been threatened with arrest on one occasion.
What are your tips for people who want to start guerilla gardening in their communities?
1.Look for really local opportunities stuff thats right on your street and on your way to work. That way you can get enjoyment and look after it.
2.Dont wait for anyone else. It wont happen unless you do it.
3.Start small and use the success of that to gain momentum. If youre thinking about a sidewalk start with one plot and spread your way down the sidewalk.
4.Be optimistic -- and pragmatic. Its not all going to work. Learn from your mistakes. Gardening is trial and error.
5.Talk to people about it. Dont be shy, just be straightforward. Explain to people that youre a volunteer gardener.
Get Richard's book on guerilla gardening: On Guerilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening Without Boundaries, $22.22 on Bloomsday USA.And take a look at these great guerilla gardening photos!
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