On the weekend of 30 – 31 January it will be your chance to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. David Hall was one of half a million people who took part last year, recording a vital snapshot of nature in the UK.
Guerrilla Gardening is about brightening up the environment and transforming neglected areas. Nathan James Dodd has been discovering how people take it upon themselves to plant flowers and tend shrubs in the most unlikely environments.
I don’t know whether it still happens but Birmingham City Council used to lay green tarmac on traffic islands where grass wouldn’t grow.
This was either inspired or a comical attempt to replicate nature.
We’re talking about the 60s and 70s, when concrete was king and tarmac his ever willing assistant. But times change, and if you now notice formerly abandoned areas that boast floral riches, it may be the work of Guerrilla Gardeners.
These activists, who are a mixed bag of people from keen gardeners to others who want direct action against the status quo, cultivate neglected or abandoned land. They don’t own the plots but replace environmental decay with shrubs and flowers.
Modern day guerrilla gardening can be traced back to 1960s San Francisco and New York, but surprisingly enough comparisons have been drawn with ‘The Diggers’ in 17th century England.
This group of dissenters were ‘agrarian socialists’ who took over uncultivated land and used it for agriculture. Their aim was to form egalitarian rural communities and to disrupt the existing social order.
Although laudable, it’s probable that most present day guerrilla gardeners just want our surroundings to look pretty, even if the wasteland, verges and empty spaces they beautify represent a wider social malaise.
Their activities are not really cloak and dagger material, some guerrilla gardening takes place during the day, planting bulbs on traffic islands, bedding plants around the base of a tree or larger scale landscaping projects.
Local people generally approve. Shared community spaces are revived without having to badger the council, who wouldn’t be particularly interested anyway. And who would complain if their barren inner city area suddenly bloomed with colour?
Technically it’s illegal, the perpetrators may even get a buzz from breaking the law for the first time in their lives, but what council is going to put a stop to an activity that improves people’s lives for once rather than blighting them.
The essentials for guerrilla gardening are fairly basic. Good quality footwear for starters, bags and sacks are also necessary to carry away anything you’ve dug up. Then you need hardy plants, tough enough to thrive in harsh surroundings.
Plan carefully, recruit friends or like minded people through social media. And don’t forget that any plot needs continual looking after, you have to be prepared to water regularly (which means carrying it there rather than having the luxury of a hosepipe).
There is certainly some criticism within the gardening community concerning whether guerrilla gardening is ‘meaningful’ or just a quick fix by middle class idealists who see it as little more than a jape.
But, on the whole, I think if you ask anyone whose street has been transformed from Desolation Row into All Things Bright and Beautiful, they’ll be appreciative of the guerrilla gardeners’ efforts.
Nathan James Dodd
Here in Birmingham, the weather has been as changeable as ever, very warm just before Easter followed by a cold spell only last week. During May the threat of further frost will largely pass and, with spring well under way, Robert Hall is in no doubt that this is going to be a busy month in the garden.
The weather forecast is for a sizzling summer and David Coton is already looking forward to preparing delicious barbecued food for his family and friends. Barbecues have become incredibly popular over recent years and here is David's guide on what to look out for when choosing one of these summer essentials.
Sheds of any kind are ubiquitous in the British garden and, due to their popularity, there are plenty to choose from. David Coton explores the basic considerations that need to be taken into account before purchasing one.
Robert Hall, senior partner at GardenSite.co.uk has been elected to sit on the Garden Industry Manufacturers Association (GIMA) Judging Panel for 2017. The news was announced on 31st March 2017 on the GIMA website.