Monday, 16 December 2013

Becoming Cloudy

You might have to subscribe to Soundcloud to hear this:

Its an interview with me about Guerrilla Gardening. The interviewer is Ed Sanderson for the Uncut Talks series he organises for a Chinese sound art journal.

"the city needs to breathe differently"

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Troop recruitment

For all those interested in helping out or developing your own guerrilla team. This is the main patch I have been working on, now fully recovered from the summer's drought and beautifully green, if full of weeds. The pics are from October. It runs up Dog Kennel Hill adjacent to Sainsburys in East Dulwich. In the middle of a busy road with Night Bus traffic and getting full sunshine, it is a warm patch that can protect vulnerable plants in winter but also seriously dries out and the soil quality is pretty dire. Hence the plants that the council apparently once planted here mostly died and now they only properly manage about 4 long rectangles of land with seasonal bedding (the kind of stuff that is colourful year-round but is nectar-lite and utterly pointless if you are an insect or a bird). The stuff I plant must be tough, ideally self-seeding (e.g. California Poppies) or invasive (e.g. Euphorbia) in ordinary gardens and have flowers that contain pollen. I am much more weed tolerant here - unless it is smothering other plants I let them be (things like dandelions are full of pollen anyway). I haven't planted any veg because of the quality of the soil - it would need serious improvement (bags of compost dug in), and due to the time available I have to tend it. However Giovanni (from Antennae) has given me a wonderful artichoke and I do want to try that in this patch (they always succumb to snails in my garden - but this dry patch is virtually mollusc free).
My ambition for Dog Kennel Hill is to plant the entire strip that the council neglect - about 3/5ths done! I have a whole load of plants waiting to get planted here so any help would be grand. I can supply a few extra pairs of gloves and waste bags, though I only have one trowel now (unless anyone wants to wield a spade...).

I've also started adding stuff in to the raised pits near the bus stops near Reyna restaurant in New Cross Road, so very near Goldsmiths, piggy-backing on the stupendous sunflower project run by New-Xing and Artmongers. This is necessary - I hate empty/neglected plant pits plus the bee crisis continues unabated, but it is more vulnerable to theft and damage than DKH. Hence I'm thinking thistle type plants like Echinops and teasels.

Future-wise, everytime I go past Peckham Fire Station on the 171 or 436 I look at the 5 or so concrete planters outside it that are empty! I'd love to plant stuff there - like some of the Hollyhocks that selfseed wildly on DKH. That would need some donated compost however, and probably someone with a car!

As long as the ground is not frozen or covered in snow, we can still plant...

American Graffiti

...a must-share video from this lovely man, Ron Finley, guerrilla gardening fruit and veg in South Central Los Angeles...: "gardening is my graffiti"

Friday, 13 September 2013

Wet Wet Dry

September, and a rude autumnal awakening. Its raining a lot. I decided to plant a few more geraniums, euphorbia and michaelmas daisies in Stories Road as its technically ideal planting weather. Such is the strength of the tree in the pit that digging small holes for these new plants soon found dry soil. But its looking pretty good. Talked to by one mad woman complaining about hating Shakespeare and one elderly good burgher who said "well done".

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Storied Road

Stories Road doing pretty well given the heat and the tree dominating this pit. I added another clump of michaelmas daisies, an alchemilla and a hardy geranium.

and McNeil Road - revived by Nick with some unmissable plants and shorn by the council. This time they only dealt with the brambles and the stuff growing on the bridge. Shame really as brambles are very wildlife friendly...

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Patch worked

Well. The Dog Kennel Hill patch was fried in the 4 weeks of 30degrees and no rain. In spite of 2 mad dashes with buckets and assembled friends a lot of the plants really suffered. However in the last couple of weeks there has been regular rain so I risked planting some more stuff - the usual suspects, lychnis, alchemilla, leucanthemum. More excitingly, I met up with a very sweet young man doing an anthropology degree and interested in guerrilla gardening and together we planted in 4 Verbena Bonariensis next to the irises and chopped down all the browned stems of the hollyhocks, daisies and everything else singed and burnt. A lovely middle-aged Asian man simply said 'thank you' when he was waiting by the traffic lights.
It looks a bit desecrated but give it a few weeks and this patch will rock again.

...and here is the petit pit in Camberwell Grove - the one place that was close enough to maintain through the heat. Plus the people from the Vineyard have helped out. Subsequently some vile person [a plague on them] pulled out one of the verbenas by the roots and just left it there. I've replaced it with small ones.  

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

New New Cross

I passed through New Cross today and added in another Verbena Bonariensis [and was relieved to see the others were surviving thanks to the sudden rain we have at last had],  and another Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia 'Torch') to the pit immediately opposite the Launderette.

Here's the Mexican peeping through in the first pit to which I contributed. It will emerge above the yellow ones in a few weeks... I also added a 3rd Leucanthemum daisy here - they should bed in as strong evergreen perennials...
And here's a nasturtium. Its not one of the most rampant types but should self-seed for next year. You can still see some of the rubbish in these pics but I ended up clearing about 20 cans and bottles... At some point I'll bring my teasel seedlings here - they have toothed edges on every surface and might possibly slightly help a bit with dissuading people from littering the pits.
I would love to sort out the massively overgrown and congested irises in these beds. They are very easy to propagate [dig up; divide the rhizome into pieces about 4" long and replant, cutting down the dead foliage and trimming the green to 4" to allow all the energy to go into the rhizome for next year]. The existing clumps are so big they could be re-distributed through every bed in this strip of New Cross Rd.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Holy heliotrope!

Artmonger, Patricio Forrester and New X-ing have collaborated on a brilliant project to cheer up New Cross Road, SE14, and help the bees. '1000 Sunflowers for New Cross' has lived up to its name and planted sunflowers everywhere - in the neglected raised beds and in makeshift planters outside shops. These are Patricio's pics - witness the bee!
I've added some Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia) and a few perennials too - Crocosmia, Verbena Bonariensis,  and Leucanthemum daisies. Huzzah! I've had my eye on these neglected pits for months...

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Pits of Grove Park

Here are just a few of Helena's stupendous pits dotted around Grove Park:
for those that don't know the area, Grove Park is a long road with many trees in it. Helena has single-handedly spear-headed this community dig and about 14 of the pits are planted up and looking gorgeous.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

spring forward

Lots to report. Firstly it is actually behaving like spring and thus everything is growing beautifully. Minus the plant that was stolen from Mcneil Road... Tragically I think it might have been someone seeing us team dig that spot and realised there were some interesting plants going in not 'just' weeds... I wish a plague of vine weevils on them. They nicked the bigger of the Sarcococca Confusas that I planted in January. No more of them for easy to get at spots. Actually they have struggled in Dog Kennel Hill so maybe I'll just keep them all.

Dog Kennel Hill is entering its glory days... I've just added in more Alchemilla Mollis, Lychnis and Hardy Geraniums, and weeded out 3 bags of smothering stuff. I notice that one of the Irises I planted out last summer is coming into flower! And the bronze fennels in between them are surviving. Some yellow and white daisy things are in flower plus the odd bit of vinca, and of course the euphoria of the Euphorbia. There's a bit of a task ahead to sort out section 4 which has large clumps of Hollyhocks on the edges, which is not good: they need to keep the centre line. I've got a whole load of Japanese Anemones growing in pots: a few weeks and they'll find join this patch. More pink alas, but bee-friendly.

Stories Road treepit is also triumphant

Camberwell Green raised pits next to the former job centre is ok. That has the driest, dustiest soil. But maybe the mint was pulled up from there too? The game survivor is Golden Rod (Solidago) and I think some shasta daisies (Leucanthem) plus, and of course! the hollyhocks... I added in some Giant Russian sunflower seeds and some small friends of Borage.

Camberwell Grove petit pit is still going strong

Friday, 19 April 2013

Up the Junction

There is now a budding guerrilla garden on the corner of Mcneil Road and Camberwell Grove. The Sarcococca I added in 3 months ago are surviving and the Chef and C have gamely started adding in lots of donated stuff - brunnera, crocosmia, day lillies and more. I've added in 3 clumps of hardy geranium (donated from Clive of Grove Park open exotic garden fame) and cleared back some of the layering brambles to a. try and protect the young trees, b. give us more space to plant, and c. allow some space to get close to the fencing to plant nasturtium seeds. No need to totally clear the brambles because they are very wildlife friendly [flowers and fruit] - just a bit rampant when left to themselves. I really hope the nasturtiums grow as there's plenty of room for a great display.
pics to follow...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


Opposite the Vineyard... so far so good...nothing nicked, no dog frost damage... we may have the first pimped pavement in Camberwell Grove.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Human Bee-ing

All the plants I use in guerrilla planting are a. tough, b. a bit invasive, c. will likely self-seed and d. most importantly, they are bee-friendly. You all should know by now that bees are in serious decline worldwide. This is obviously crap for the bees. It is also deadly for the eco-system of which we are a part. Bees pollinate flowering crops. They are intrinsic to our food supplies. We _need_ Bees. Bees need flowering plants that actually have pollen in them (so dont bother with Begonias or Buzy Lizzies or most over-bred bedding plants that produce colour but no pollen). But feeding the bees is not enough. Returning hedgerows to the land cut up by the monocrop culture of Big Agriculture is not enough. World-renowned magazines like Nature have been reporting the deadly and long-lasting effects of particular poisons called Neonicotinoids on bee colony collapse (Bayer and Syngenta are the two big brands associated with making insecticides containing neonicotinoids).

For us this means two things. Firstly stop using pesticides in your own gardens. It is pointless providing pollen rich plants if you also poison the bees along with aphids (and poisoned bees will return to their colonies thereby transmitting the poison).  And secondly keep alert to the stellar EU effort to ban neonicotinoids from not just personal use (and bees do not respect 'private gardens') but crucially mass agricultural use. At the moment the UK and Germany are trying to block this ban (countries that are the base of Bayer and Syngenta). Sign every petition you can in support of banning neonicotinoids.

Here is one to pressure our MP's to ask Owen Paterson to support the proposed ban. The Buglife website gives example wording. 

A small start is to buy organic food - that will support smaller producers, and will categorically not be grown using chemicals including pesticides.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

pocket spring

Stories Road is looking great! almost - maybe everything - has survived and will soon be putting on some height (and thus be noticeable all the way up and down Grove Lane). I have also added some California Poppy seeds so watch out for the blue grey filigree of their foliage. Maybe the Chef Solaire and I should stick a planting plan to the back of the road name.
Dog Kennel Hill is also SPLENDID. If you count the spaces between the trees as sections then there are 5 sections available for guerrilla sensibility. I have noticeably planted sections 1 and 2, plus started in on 4 (there was a logic to that at the time involving a bad weed patch in 3 plus some tragic tomatoes that some well-meaning person had added in and left to fend for themselves).

Section 2 got some more Lychnis, Hardy Geranium and Aquilegia yesterday. 

Section 4 - in which the 3 Fennel plants, previously added in between the irises, are still making it (they are great gg plants as long as they get watered until established). I added in 2 Alchemilla either side of the lavender and a largish pot of Michaelmas Daisies.

No pics yet, but the tree pit in Camberwell Grove, opposite the Vineyard, is also surviving enough to get more plants - Michaelmas Daises, Leucanthemum and Creeping Jenny.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

an earthworm of one's own

Brought back a bucket full of leafmould from my parents' garden, heaving with worms and deposited them on the hard dry soil of Dog Kennel Hill. The leafmould pile is about 10ft square and I have been helping out with ferrying it across the garden to be dug in prior to veg planting. Its like worm spaghetti. So, I indentured them to make my patch more diggable!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

iron council

Ok it is not mild. Really not mild. I can see bulbs popping through and plants I want to divide but its too damn cold. I have however bribed a friend into helping me plant/weed some of my patches (little does she know) in exchange for seeds and plants.

I stopped by the Dog Kennel Hill patch yesterday and saw that the council have done their random dig. I suppose its ok, most of my stuff is still there...Brave Aquilegia making it through... and the large and more identifiable clumps of Escholzia [sp?] aka California Poppies are there though some small casualities have been 'thinned out'... There is a Yucca in trouble however, if anyone who actually reads this has a stake it would be great if you could forcefully prop it up otherwise someone is going to remove it (the plant is horizontal and poking out into the road).

Sunday, 6 January 2013

camberwell grove, even

...and today  I also spied that the ground by the railway underpass/weak bridge in the middle of 'the grove' is wet enough to dig... and I have a spare sarcococca just waiting to be re-homed...

...and this today I re-homed it in that very place, testing out how crap the soil is [which is quite crap - its only the rain that has made it at all diggable, but sarcococca can cope with dry shade just fine] and also adding in 2 hollyhocks from the forest on dog kennel hill. I also did a bit more weeding and trimming up that hill and found that there are indeed hollyhocks sprouting the whole way up amongst the weeds...I tried to make it more obvious that they are there so hopefully no council workers will weed them out.

...and previously on camberwell grove I realised that there was a new-ish small tree-pit with bare soil not concreted over, so I added in euphorbia, an aquilegia and lychnis. Its opposite The Vineyard.

Beating the Weeds

Its 2013, I finished my book, its ridiculously mild, still, though not actually raining again. So, I went to the Dog Kennel Hill patch with gloves, recyclying bag and plants. I added in 3 x bronze fennel, 1 x euphorbia robbiae, 1 x euphorbia wulfenii and a hardy geranium - and did two whole sacks of weeding... J had to stop by and bring the second sack along with a second set of gloves because the first set got sopping wet. Mainly I pulled out the stuff I thought was couch grass but is probably trefoil, groundsel and sodden leaves. The whole patch is looking really healthy in spite of the carpet of weeds. The Euphorbias are all doing really well. With all the rain the Acanthus is finally bedding in to the otherwise hard soil. The California Poppies seeded widely so they will look extra great this year. I am rather amazed that the Lychnis does not seem to have seeded even though it does so willy-nilly in my parents' garden which is why I have some to guerrilla garden. The Hollyhocks remain alarmingly prolific. At some point I want to transplant a lot more of them up the hill and perhaps in St Giles Churchyard gardens.

I did check in to make sure the plants I added to St Giles were still doing ok and yes indeed, 2 Arum Lillies and an Acanthus.