18 January 2009

Guerrilla Gardens

Something’s happening in the beds of Pyrmont. Someone’s filling them with herbs and vegetables. Probably several someones in fact, and they’re doing it in several park beds. Some of these plots are down to the Pyrmont and Ultimo Landcare Group, but there are other intriguingly anonymous ones sprouting silver beet, tomatoes, curly parsley, and of course, marigolds to deter the bugs.

Pyrmont is an inner city suburb of apartments and recent redevelopment a hop, skip and jump from the Sydney CBD. Many of us live in units with garden areas shared by the whole building. Gardens designed and laid out when our blocks of flats were constructed, and thereafter maintained by contractors. So it does more than jazz up my walks around the neighbourhood to discover that local residents have dug up verges and sections of public space to plant rosemary and rocket. Or apartment dwellers reclaimed their manicured borders and sown lettuces between the body corporate's shrubs.

Didn't realise it when I began taking an interest in the Pyrmont plots, but guerrilla gardening is a growing urban phenomenon. According to Wikipedia it’s ‘political gardening, a form of non-violent direct action, primarily practiced by environmentalists.’ But from a quick online trawl the term seems more of an umbrella one to describe different kinds of community gardening, with differing mixes of social and horticultural ambition. (Guerrilla Gardeners is also the title of a forthcoming Channel 10 program. Haven’t seen it, but here's how I’d guess it goes: instead of feral kids, wayward pets or ailing back yards, a photogenic, predominantly blonde team makeover scrappy public places. Lifestyle activism or protest lite for a primetime audience. But hey, maybe for once those TV executives will surprise us … ?)

Anyway, the guerrilla gardeners of Pyrmont have sparked my curiosity, and I'm going to keep my eye on their plots—who knows, I might even join them for a spot of midnight night spade work? In the meantime, check out GuerrillaGardening.org

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