My interest in guerrilla gardening – where individuals or the community come together to plant up unloved spaces in their local area – was piqued after attending a talk in the summer by Richard Reynolds about the transformation of empty flower beds around Elephant and Castle. Since then, I got hold of a copy of his excellent book On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening Without Boundaries, and my eyes have been drawn to some of the sadder tree pits and litter-filled flower beds around Walthamstow. I’d started to think about how cuttings from herbs in my own garden could be used to fill up some of these spaces come spring, mentally adding to possible designs and arrangements every time I walked past.
By a fantastic stroke of luck, it seems that a lot of other local people and the folks at Waltham Forest Borough Council (WFBC) have been thinking along the same lines too. WFBC’s Neighbourhoods Directorate is offering each Ward a Biodiversity Grant of £1000 and my own local Ward are looking to match this with a £1000 Ward Forum Spend. Planting up tree pits and flower beds through Council-approved guerrilla gardening is top of the list, and an initial meeting of like-minded residents has shown that even at this early planning stage there is a lot of interest. The next step will be recruiting a good handful of residents on each road to help out in the spring when WFBC have been able to get hold of trees, bulbs, shrubs and other materials. For more information Councillor Louise Mitchell is taking a lead on organising, or see this Facebook post.
I’m looking forward to seeing what those unloved tree pits, flower beds and public spaces might look like in 6, 12, 18 and 24 months’ time. Here’s what Richard Reynolds recommends (see page 122 onward of his On Guerrilla Gardening):
- For colour, plant daffodils in autumn that will return every spring, canna lilies with flowers in reds, pinks and yellows, and primroses for winter and spring pops of colour.
- For incongruity, plant sunflowers for height, and Christmas trees for a feature to decorate each December.
- For fragrance, plant lavender for sweetness and useful dried flowers, sage for savoury scents and use in cooking, and the mock orange shrub for a summer flowering citrus treat.