Picture this: Kids sneaking around campus, looking for unusual places (that won’t be mowed) to stealthily plop daffodil bulbs into the ground, without raising suspicion amongst the maintenance crew (or anyone else on campus for that matter). It’s happening this week at Green Chimneys, but shhhh… please don’t tell or it will ruin our springtime surprise!
Where did this idea come from? Sometime ago, I was amazed to see an interesting YouTube video featuring Ron Finley, a guerrilla gardener from south central LA, where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.” Further research on Ted.com showed that he began by planting a food forest in an unused strip of land in front of his home. After much controversy and a long battle, Finley won the right to keep his garden when city council chose to waive the enforcement of a law that requires sidewalks and curbs to be “free of obstruction” in the case of vegetable gardens designated for community use.
But Finley isn’t alone, guerrilla gardening is actually a global movement with documented happenings in over 30 countries. According to Wikipedia, it occurs on land that gardeners don’t have the legal right to use, but is either abandoned or not cared for by anyone. There is a great diversity to those that participate, from the enthusiastic gardener who is looking for more plantable space to the political gardener who is trying to initiate change or make a statement. For examples, check out the community pages on GuerrillaGardening.org.
While only a small percentage of my students come from urban areas where guerrilla gardening could actually be applied, I find it a thought-provoking concept that can capture the imagination of our children. My fantastic interns, Alison and Angela, who are finishing up their time here too soon, have been helping the process by pulling one student at a time from my classes. The student is given a trowel, a daffodil bulb and the freedom to plant it anywhere they see fit. While this may not be your typical guerrilla gardening tactic, I think the random appearance of flowers flourishing come April will make a statement.
We may not be growing crops for a food desert (an area, usually urban, where fresh produce is unavailable) or making a political declaration, but the spirit of planting in an unsanctioned area, giving rise to a springtime show of beauty and color in unexpected places will speak volumes about our gardeners: inspiration and awe can often come from where you least expect it.
See how one student completed the mission: