personal views

Here is a selection of personal views on guerrila gardening taken from email lists, mail sent to [email protected] and online discussions. Please feel free to contribute….

Opium, kebabs and graffitis
Years ago a friend and I were walking past what used to be a beloved Greek restaurant. It had been recently demolished and replaced with a parking lot for the ever-expanding hospital across the street. As we passed, I glanced at the plants in the new parking strips and was amazed to see a single red opium poppy. The flower’s signifance? The former restaurant had been named Poppi’s and someone had sought to honor its passing very slyly. The symbolism of that moment was not lost on me, and several weeks later I returned to gather the ripened seed. This happened more than ten years ago, and a descendent of that poppy still finds its way into my garden each year. The opium poppy provides an apt example of guerrilla gardening.

It is one of the most intriguing plants to spread about randomly. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, this is one of the few plants whose seed may be bought legally even though the plant itself is illegal to grow. Over time, many seed companies have sought to confuse the average gardener by referring to this poppy by its many common names: bread seed poppy, peony poppy, and Danish flag poppy are just a few names that have been attached. In the end, however, they are all Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy. Nearly every nursery carries seeds of at least one form of this plant.

So were did it all come from?
This movement was born of fanatical gardeners during the 1970s, people who felt themselves unconstrained by such things as property lines and defined space, who sought to beautify or alter the world at random. In the early days, guerrilla gardening was primarily a means of protest.
Pot plants would sprout up between petunias in front of police stations and federal offices, to the consternation of officials.
The movement has grown, however, to encompass a much greater ideal. It offers endless possibilities of expression, less destructive than graffiti tags but no less effective. Graffiti doesn’t have to involve the defacement of property; vegetable-style graffiti may take a bit more patience and planning than tagging, but in return it offers much satisfaction and the tra-la-la joy of sharing beauty with passersby. An easy and gratifying means of altering your landscape is through seeds. If you live in an apartment and have the luxury of a short wait for the bus, take a glance at your surroundings. Like most bus stops cities, it is undoubtedly adjacent to an apartment building or office complex, with a boring rhododendron ghetto and lots of bare bark-o-mulch in between. It’s an ideal spot to start altering the landscape; think of it as blank canvas.
Guerrilla Gardening – what it is to me.
Guerrilla gardening is not just planting veg in cities and towns, and is more than one-off stunts, useful as they are. It is the day-by-day use of plants and other visible events to surprise people and make them re-evaluate their position within the natural world. Detached from nature, cynical and closed off from the dulling bombardment of everyday life, we have lost a connection to the whole and ultimately ourselves.

Putting plants where they are not expected – something common in an unusual place, or an unusual plant in an everyday situation – takes them out of the ordinary and allows them to be seen again for what they really are – beautiful, incredible, life.
Labelling existing plants allows them rudimentary communication, perhaps a plants characteristics can be explained, or (a little more out-there) how it might feel about the world.

The principles of guerrilla gardening can be applied to minds as well. We can plant things in the ground and we can plant things in peoples’ heads.

“Just as we sow seeds on a street pavement, not knowing whether they will take hold or die, not knowing what influence the tiny flowers will have on the ecology or passers-by, so we can sow beautiful ideas to grow in peoples minds, not knowing where exactly they will go but hoping for some beauty.”

Thoughts that convey the beauty of life, things that make people stop and wonder, ideas that evolve on their own (and hopefully evolve the mind-soil in which they live) can be sown everywhere, along with a culture of their propagation. Pavements, roads, lamposts, bridges, walls, stickers – with nothing to sell but the ideas that they carry – are the pots, our minds are the soil to transplant into.

A nature park recently found they had most success reducing vandalism and plant theft when they put up quotes and poems on the beauty of nature. This was more successful than when they had direct signs asking people not to do it. Carefully chosen phrases, separate from politics and ideology can effect everyone, wherever their thoughts lie. Beauty has its own message and power to transform.

Mind Games – John Lennon – 1973
We’re playing those mind games together
Pushing the barriers, planting seeds
Playing the mind guerrilla
Chanting the mantra, peace on earth
We all been playing those mind games forever
Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil
Doing the mind guerrilla
Some call it magic, the search for the grail

Love is the answer and you know that for sure
Love is a flower, you got to let it, you got to let it grow

So keep on playing those mind games together
Faith in the future, outta the now
You just can’t beat on those mind guerrillas
Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind
Yeah we’re playing those mind games forever
Projecting our images in space and in time

Yes is the answer and you know that for sure
Yes is surrender, you got to let it, you got to let it go

So keep on playing those mind games together
Doing the ritual dance in the sun
Millions of mind guerrillas
Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel
Keep on playing those mind games forever
Raising the spirit of peace and love

(I want you to make love, not war, I know you’ve heard it before)