Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Horticultural Vandals or Beautifying Natives?

By Nick Will

Imagine seeing a group of people gardening in downtown LA. With spades and watering cans in hand, this group of landscapers toil on plots of dirt that require constant maintenance and care. Technically, their day to day hobby is illegal and considered a form of vandalism, but guerrilla gardening veterans Scott Bunell and Terry Aldabert don’t feel this way.

Guerrilla gardening is best described as the act of cultivating derelict public space and turning these misused plots of land in cities into beautiful gardens. It’s all about going out and making things look better on your own and not waiting for city governments to do it. “It’s the commons, I don’t own it anymore than you own it or the city owns it, they just have jurisdiction over it,” says Bunnel.

Bunnel, 49, has been guerrilla gardening for over 20 years. He is employed by the government as a mail carrier, and commits to digs in his spare time. He often finds spots that need attention on bike rides with his wife. Bunnel has committed to more than a dozen sites in Long Beach, Hollywood, and the greater Los Angeles area. By committing, he continuously returns to these sites to water and maintain the gardens. According to Bunnel you have to be “serious about gardening,” and understand that guerrilla gardening isn’t just “something to do.”

Aldabert, 35, has been guerrilla gardening in the Toronto area for a few years. She is currently the coordinator of Toronto’s “Public Space Committee”, a prominent guerrilla gardening group in the Toronto area. She, like Bunnel started guerrilla gardening from a lack of personal space to garden. She has gardened for a few years, and has coordinated in different parts of Toronto for 3. She teaches professional development at universities across Canada, and is a part time student at the University of Toronto.

According to Bunnel, the recent media coverage over the last few years has shed quite a bit of light on the project, and may be the reason for the increase in guerilla gardening. “Monkey see monkey do,” stated Bunnel. Cells of guerrilla gardeners have sprung up all over the globe in the last few years, and this can be credited to its recent media coverage.

Both Bunnel and Aldabert are advocates of the gardening aspect of it. Bunnel stated that in his twenty years of guerrilla gardening, he has only been stopped and questioned by police once. He also mentioned that he never thinks of it as committing a crime, and just continues to do what he loves—gardening.

When asked for advice for hopeful guerrillas, Aldabert and Bunnel had gave these tips: remember to water and weed what you plant or plant in an area where neighbors will take care of the gardens, start small and close to home, know everything you can about the plants you’re planting, plant native species, and bring friends. Both were insistent that guerillas were serious about gardening. “Plants are living too, you can’t just throw them in the ground and leave them,” stated Bunnel.

So get out there and plant! For information on guerrilla gardening, check out, or if you wish to read some literature on the subject, try to gey your hands on a copy of “On Guerrilla Gardening” by Richard Reynolds or “Guerrilla Gardening: a Manifesto” by David Tracey.

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