The Back Yard

Justin Newcombe's tips for creating a gorgeous and productive garden

Pushing the boundaries with guerrilla gardening

Planting outside your boundary? You're a guerrilla gardener, writes Justin Newcombe.

Extending an altruistic hand tidying up another's unkempt, neglected land could see you labelled a 'law-breaker'. Photo / Thinkstock
Extending an altruistic hand tidying up another's unkempt, neglected land could see you labelled a 'law-breaker'. Photo / Thinkstock

You may be surprised to know that every time you do a little verge planting outside your house you are actively indulging in a guerrilla gardening assault. Yes, even though you planted out your daylilies in broad daylight with not a hint of suspicious behaviour, and no alterations were made to the footpath or the kerbing stones, you have nonetheless acted without permission - you have acted illegally.

So which are you: political animal or merely an overly enthusiastic weekend gardener? Either way the moment you plant out someone else's property without their consent you become part of a bigger global movement to beautify abandoned, neglected or unused land, transforming it into something uplifting.

The guerrilla gardening movement has been slow to catch on here compared to centres in the northern hemisphere. Granted there are plenty of worthy community garden ventures being established in a legitimate fashion, but a rousing call to arms to seed bomb the weed-infested plot opposite the local service station, we are yet to experience.

Maybe we're all just too law-abiding. Perhaps the thought of becoming part of a "cell" just doesn't appeal. Could it be that we don't have the right kind of historical precedents for such revolutionary activity? Or maybe the councils are making quite a good fist of planting up most of our prominent public spaces anyway? At any rate the sole New Zealand representative on the official guerilla gardening blog showcased quite a different kind of revolutionary activity; picking up rubbish. Yes, "1975 Lea" and loveable donkey Rosalie walk up to seven kilometres along the roadside picking up after less than tidy Kiwis.

Meanwhile, one of the most cheering outcomes of the earthquake is the green-fingered folks down in Christchurch staging a holy garden war to help beautify the barren areas of their garden city.

Even if you're not politically inclined, guerrilla gardening has a place simply for aesthetic reasons. As the GG generals say on their website, "Let's fight the filth with forks and flowers". My mother-in-law set an early example. Some years ago, long before anyone started talking about these monkey antics, she "adopted" a strip of neglected land wedged between the edge of the footpath and a property owner's fence at the top of her street . Council contractors periodically weed-whacked the area but generally speaking it was a neglected, ugly ribbon of virtually uncontested land that no one was interested in. Her motivation in this instance was purely altruistic. Well, almost: she couldn't stand to look at the unkempt, uncultivated plot any longer. Being an avid gardener she had the perfect solution; she'd just dug up a whole litter of clivia pups she needed to "relocate". Trudging up the hill to her squatted plot several times a year with spade and supplies in hand she has now done the council's work for them (not without a few terse run-ins with contractors and their spray packs). Her clivia pups have matured into fully grown canines adding form and colour to a once-scruffy section of her street. Not content with colonising one side of the footpath she has also established a swathe of dietes on the other, sunnier, side. Any suggestion that she may be a guerrilla gardener is met with a series of horrified mutterings. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

- NZ Herald

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