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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Guerrillas in our Midst

There is a type of war being fought which has a very pleasant outcome, and unlike the war on drugs, it has been quite successful. I speak of the guerrilla gardening movement. They have weapons too - in addition to books, videos, and websites, guerrilla gardeners have cool gadgets like seedbombs (which come in a least 6 varieties - classic clay seed ball, NYC grenade, Kabloom Seedbom, explosive eggs, seed balloon, and seed pills which can be shot from a camera), automatic seed shoes, and even a subversive gardener attache case. See drawings here.

This is now an international effort. In 2004, Richard Reynolds started, a blog regarding his solo efforts gardening outside Perronet House, a residential apartment complex in London. In 2008, his book On Guerrilla Gardening was published, describing activities in 30 countries. Visit his website here.

And right here in the midst of Manhattan, we have the origins of the modern movement and the term guerrilla gardening. Liz Christy and her Green Guerrilla group, who formed in 1973, are generally credited with first use of the term. The group transformed a vacant lot into what would end up becoming a community garden. The plot is an entire city block in length on Houston Street, extending from Bowery to 2nd Avenue.

I have seen this garden for decades, but it is the massive tree and sharing it on this blog that finally drew me in, entering a world much larger than I ever imagined. See more photos here.
The garden has a small pond which is home to fish and turtles, a wildflower habitat, beautiful wooden furniture, a grape arbor, a grove of weeping birch trees, fruit trees (including an an ornamental orange tree), vegetable gardens, berries, herbs, hundreds of varieties of flowering perennials, and its pièce de résistance that drew me there: the towering dawn redwood.

This massive tree is one of a handful in New York City. A native to the Sichuan-Hubei region of China, the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) was introduced to the United States in 1948. The one at the Liz Christy Garden 30 years old and stands at about 110 feet tall (estimated to grow to 150 feet) and can be seen from many blocks away.

To all those who have worked hard to bring some green to our urban world, I salute those guerrillas in our midst :)

Historical Note: There were earlier "guerrilla gardeners," most notably, Gerrard Winstanley of the Diggers in Surrey, England (1649), and John "Appleseed" Chapman in Ohio (1774 – 1845).


Mary said...

Hooray for them! I love the directions for the egg seed bomb. "Give it a kiss" before launching!!
I've always admired the Liz Christy garden, but been timid to enter. It's not open every day.

GlenwoodNYC said...

Wish the guerrilla gardeners the best of luck in their future endeavors. Perhaps they could stop by some of our properties and give them a nudge in the green direction, so to speak.

MrBrownThumb said...

That tree is amazing. That garden is pretty sweet. I really like the paving used in the photo on the lower right.

Brian Dubé said...

Mary - those old drawings are a real find!

GlenwoodNYC - I admire the humanitarian effort. Maintaining gardens in an urban environment is a challenge.

Mr.BrownThumb - That tree can be seen from many blocks away. It really stands out in an exceptional way.

marley said...

I'm not sure what is better - the post, the photo, or the title today?

The title! I love a play on words :)