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June 12, 2012

Sustainability Innovator of the Week: The Guerrilla Gardener

Richard Reynold’s name has become almost synonymous in his hometown of London with the practice of guerrilla gardening. So, for the Sustainability special of our Social Innovator of the Week, Nokia Connects takes a look at this unusual practice, and the man pioneering it in cities across the world.

via londonist

Guerrilla gardening is a practice that dates back to at least the late 18th century, and involves planting flowers, trees and other vegetation on land that doesn’t officially belong to you. In the case of Richard Reynolds – London’s original ‘Guerrilla Gardener’ – this type of gardening involves planting in dead and disused public spaces around the city in an attempt to ‘fight the filth with forks and flowers’.

Since starting his blog back in 2004 detailing his gardening exploits in and around London, Richard has become a household (or perhaps outhouse-hold) name in the British gardening world. In an interview with Alternative Channel in 2010, Richard explains the sudden upsurge in guerrilla gardeners taking over the streets by saying that:

‘People want to keep in touch with the land around them. More people are getting the sense that we need to get a little closer to nature again.’

via chelseafringe

And it’s not just the idea of ‘getting back to nature’ that is inspiring people to pick up their trowels and shovels and take to the streets, there’s also a sense of thrill in creating something beautiful and living amongst the grey concrete of a city.

‘It’s about gardening wherever you want regardless of who owns the land. It’s about getting out there and doing it and expressing yourself in a public place.’

But guerrilla gardening isn’t all a bed of roses (excuse the pun), it can come with potential legal complications as the land being planted on doesn’t belong to those planting on it. Richard has a particularly hairy online video showing an encounter with the police where they threaten him with arrest.

But on the whole, Richard says that ‘the widespread attitude is one of tolerance.’

‘Normally when the police realise, after brief questioning, that we are not really destroying stuff, they just let us get on with it and turn a blind eye.’

So little wonder that guerrilla gardening is taking off in cities around the world, with Richard tweeting last week from his honeymoon in Beirut that he just ‘couldn’t resist guerrilla gardening an empty pavement planter’!

What do you think about these green fingered revolutionaries taking over you city? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us a 140-character critique @Nokia_Connects.