The Citizens Handbook
Guerrilla Gardening

Residents of neighbourhoods across the city have been quietly adding flowers and other plants to lanes, boulevards and traffic circles. In Vancouver, along the boulevards of 100 block West 10th they have added planters, bicycle baskets, wheelbarrows and flower beds. Residents near McLean and Grant, 8th and Sasamat, 16th and Trimble and 20th and Fleming have also planted their boulevards with flowers. One east-side resident plants her boulevard with beans and other vegetables for public picking.

The city usually plants low junipers in the traffic circles that act as traffic calmers in some neighbourhoods. Citizens have taken it upon themselves to brighten these up by adding self-seeding annuals and long-blooming perennials. Some people have planted sunflowers, for a folksy but dramatic effect. Not all plants are happy in traffic circles; some have difficulty because of the shallow soil layer over the asphalt; others dry out during the summer months; some are disturbed by city crews "excavating" buried manholes.

Back lanes are a great place for guerrilla gardening. Unpaved lanes seem to work best. Some people have been re-introducing native plants, others have been planting food and flowers. One woman takes the seed heads from her large pink poppies and sprinkles them up and down the alley, to great effect the following year. Some of the easiest flowers to grow are (in decreasing size) buddleia, various bush roses, cosmos, flox, wallflowers, yarrow, perennial asters, daisies, tiger lilies, irises, purple sage, california poppies, red valerian, campanula, perennial sweet peas, forget-me-nots, pinks. Prickly berry bushes planted on the sides of alleys provide food, and make better, less expensive barriers than fences.

Although gardening is not really allowed on public property, there are signs the authorities may be in tune with guerilla gardeners. Some cities have begun allowing residents to "adopt" traffic circles, boulevards and other pieces of public property.

As far as we know, the term "guerrilla gardening" originated in the first edition of The Citizen's Handbook in 1993. Since then, the term has become a meme, spreading far and wide — like tiny seeds carried by the wind.

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