Digging Guerrilla Gardening

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June 13, 2008

My heroes growing up were Rachel Carson and Mrs. Peel, so I guess it’s no surprise that a Los Angeles Times article about guerrilla gardening caught my attention. In The Sea Around Us and Silent Spring, Carson wrote rapturously about the natural world, and Mrs. Peel, of the cult TV show The Avengers, set the standard for superstylish sleuths.

“He’s like the 007 of gardening,” the article in fact quotes Long Beach, Calif., superintendent of grounds maintenance Ramon Arevalo about a local guerrilla gardener referred to only by his first name, Scott—and Arevalo is a potential nemesis, since guerrilla gardeners plant without approval on land that’s not theirs. Actually, Arevalo is a fan, adding that he’d like to buy the guy a cup of coffee.

According to the article (by Joe Robinson), guerrilla gardening is a growing movement, with a Web site and even a handbook, On Guerrilla Gardening, by the movement’s founder and ringleader Richard Reynolds.

Scott, at least, has the encouragement of residents of Long Beach, where he’s planted a median with drought-tolerant succulents; Arevalo says a homeowners association has complained that their medians don’t look as good as Scott’s “cactus island.” Environmentalists can applaud Scott’s response when he’s asked why he goes to the expense and bother (which includes dodging authorities) of his gardening on the sly: “I’d like to show cities that they can use plants like these, not have to water as much and cut down on landscaping costs.”

Still, my favorite guerrilla gardener featured in the article is Caroline Kim, who writes a blog for beginning gardeners, funtimehappygardenerexplosion.blogspot.com. Kim engages in seed bombing, that is, dropping balls of clay, compost, and seeds in dirt. (It’s perfect for when you’re on the run.) The article describes Kim digging a couple of holes in the dirt of a sidewalk parkway with the heel of her shoe. “Stilettos work really well,” she says. Mrs. Peel would approve.