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'Guerrilla Gardeners' Tackle Urban Eyesores

  • Mana Rabiee

'Guerrilla Gardeners' attempt to spruce up this spot in Washington, DC

'Guerrilla Gardeners' attempt to spruce up this spot in Washington, DC

In major cities across the globe there's a new kind of urban guerilla. They're not handling rifles and guns. They're planting flowers. It's called "Guerrilla Gardening" and it's a new kind of urban graffiti, environmental style.

It's Saturday night and Theresa Blaner is out with her partner Doug and their pet parrot Gandalf. They're trying to salvage this forgotten corner of their Washington neighborhood.

Theresa and Doug are "guerilla gardeners" - citizen activists who transform urban landscapes by gardening in public spaces without permission. Call it graffiti with Sunflowers and Petunias.

"I guess they chose the term 'guerillas' because you kind of get in and out quickly," said Blaner. "We pick a spot and we come in without permission. We do what we have to do and we get out."

Guerilla gardening communities are popping up in major urban areas - London, Paris, Los Angeles. Gardeners blog about their garden graffiti - often done in stealth and under the cover of night. They often use the internet to vote for the location of their next 'hit'.

Theresa says tonight's location may have been a garage once, but it's appeared abandoned for more than a year.

"It's an ugly spot, but it has a lot of potential," added Blaner.

Kenneth Moore writes a home gardening blog in Washington. He says in guerilla gardening situations it's important to work with plants that can deal well with neglect.

MOORE: "The purpose behind guerilla gardening is plant where it's not being maintained. Plant where beauty would not otherwise occur."
REPORTER: "Is this beauty?"
MOORE: "Oh, this is totally beauty. It's also vandalism."

Guerilla gardeners often choose high-profile locations to make an environmental statement, a sewer hole or an abandoned newspaper box. But Theresa says her guerillas prefer to create permanent urban gardens which people - and municipal workers - cannot later destroy.

"I don't like it when plants die," said Blaner. "I'd like there to be a chance for those plants to make it. For the plants we planted to give birth to little plants hopefully. I want to give them that opportunity."

Guerilla gardens are designed to engage with the community in which they grow.
Theresa's hideaway garden patch doesn't escape the attention of this 62-year-old Vietnam veteran who wants to know what's going on.

"Oh that's a beautiful gesture. Yes indeed. That would be most beneficial," said Thomas Crenshaw.

It may not look like much now. But come spring, there will be tulips here where once there was broken concrete.

Theresa and Doug hope their latest illegal urban garden will have a real chance to grow. They've probably broken city trespassing laws tonight, but they're not worried about the police coming after them.

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