On Guerrilla Gardening by Richard Reynolds: A Review

daffs on the towpath

Heres a pic of the the daffs I planted on the towpath last year.  I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but what I was doing was indulging in a spot of guerrilla gardening.  Richard Reynold’s definition of this in his book ‘On Guerrilla Gardening’ is “the illicit cultivation of someone else’s land.” 

Of course, my intentions were fairly innocent, I thought firstly they’d look pretty and secondly they stood more of a chance on the towpath side of the wall, rather than on the brambly garden side of the wall.   I didn’t go out in combats and beret, I wasn’t confronted – it was far too wet, windy and miserable for anyone to be around- and so far the legitimate owners of the land, British Waterways, haven’t insisted I remove them.

There is, I’ve learned, far more to guerrilla gardening than this, it is about more than the simple prettying up of spaces that are a bit neglected, all though this does play a big part.  It is about challenging concepts of land use in a world where many people face scarcity of land, either because of inequality or geographical location.  It is about fighting neglect and abuse of land.  And it is definitely about gardening.  The author is clearly passionate and serious about this and I salute him for it.

On Guerrilla Gardening is a fascinating and thought provoking read.  I’m not sure I was always entirely in agreement with Reynolds.  I’m still holding an internal debate as to whether planting a few nasturtiums on a roundabout in Basingstoke is really following the same imperative as Brazilian peasants appropriating land to grow food for the much needed supplementation of their diets.  It depends on whether you think the differences are superficial or profound.  However, I am sure both acts could only make the world a better place.     

I occasionally felt uncomfortable with all the military metaphors, I never really wanted to hear the phrase ‘shock and awe’ again, but maybe I’m just a tender petal!  I also felt, as someone who is terrorized by a fast approaching clump of Japanese knotweed, that more emphasis should have been given to responsible planting and maintaining ecological balance, but these really are minor quibbles and it’s a great read.  To find out more you can also go to www.guerrillagardening.org.  

I will be continuing my guerrilla gardening efforts with greater focus from now on, I thought it would be a great way to contribute to the ‘corridor of flowers’ I wrote about in my post on Bees.

On Guerrilla Gardening by Richard Reynolds is published by Bloomsbury, if you can wait, the paperback version is out in May.


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1 comment to On Guerrilla Gardening by Richard Reynolds: A Review

  • I have to admit I haven’t read the book, I found out about guerilla gardening from some old school community gardeners who started growing illicitly 30 or 40 years ago. I was so touched, impressed and influenced by what they did, which was something between the Basingstoke roundabout nasturtiums and what the Brazilian peasants did. I agree with you that it has to be done sensitively; I’d hate to think of environmental carnage being wreaked by some innocent seeming yet rapacious ornamental being strewn all over the countryside. Mind you, most of those don’t need our help anyway :)

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