Subversive Plots. . .

There's a real eyesore in my neighborhood -- one of those Mom-and-Pop-type gas stations that's now a bona fide brownfield. No one's touched it in years -- except for the would-be graffiti artists who occasionally insult the tiny building with their incompetent, spray-painted scrawl. As for the land itself? It's mostly a gravel lot lined with a couple of skinny, weedy strips. It sure would be nice if someone took an interest in that spot. Maybe install a biohedge which would provide a little food and cover for the neighborhood wildlife -- and it would likely look quite a bit better, too.

Of course, those little strips of land aren't legally mine to mess with, but, ask any self-styled guerrilla gardener, and he'll tell you that long-neglected patch is begging to be spaded and planted. Turns out guerrilla gardening is gaining ground from Toronto to Tijuana, where someone planted flowers in that city's ubiquitous potholes. Small-scale guerrilla container gardens have popped up in Brooklyn, surprise sidewalk gardens are taking shape in Chicago, and, I imagine, there are countless others quietly being tended for all sorts of reasons.

For instance, for lots of people, guerrilla gardening is purely political. Clandestine gardens spring up on public and private areas as living statements about land use -- and abuse -- or food security or, in the case of the occasional marijuana seed bomb hurled in front of a city courthouse, even the "War on Drugs." I admit I'm fascinated that something as benign as a garden could be made to be the stuff of revolution. Oh, but I am a lightweight. So any guerrilla gardens I would install would mostly be for aesthetics and, perhaps, to add a little whimsy to this place.

In the case of that old gas station, I doubt it's safe to plant crops or herbs on the contaminated site, but I just might plant some bulbs for a bright, spring surprise and drought-tolerant sedum and native perennials like purple coneflower, bee balm, and black-eyes Susans for a little extra local color.


I love the idea of replacing graffiti with flowers. My favourite is the photo in David Tracey's book, "Guerrilla Gardening". It shows a blank wall with the graffiti “Up with trees, down with capitalism” David’s quip in the caption is “Thank you for your input, but wouldn’t a tree have said it better?”