A-Z of Guerrilla Gardening

Posted by
Stylist Team
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Battling concrete and rubble with soil and seeds, guerrilla gardening is urban anarchy at its prettiest.

Stylist has tracked down leading guerrilla gardener Richard Reynolds to explain the country's growing fascination with illicit horticulture.

Hear more from Guerrilla Gardener, Richard Reynolds, as he discusses transforming urban wastelands into wildflower wonderlands - and shows how you can get involved too - at an evening all about ethics as part of the innocent Inspires series of events tailor-made by innocent smoothies.

Click here to see the video

  • A is for...


    Abandoned, desolate city spaces are where guerrilla gardening thrives. Community-minded rebels step outside the boundaries of their own gardens or windowboxes to tend neglected public eyesores.

    Left: Sunflowers that Reynolds planted on an abandoned construction site in London's Elephant and Castle.

  • B is for...


    Carrying the slogan, "Let's fight filth with forks and flowers" Reynolds' blog GuerrillaGardening.Org has documented his radical gardening activities since 2004.

    Now boasting a Facebook fanbase of almost 13,000, it plays host to like-minded lanscapers from all over the world.

  • C is for...


    "We shall fight on the beaches...we shall fight in the fields and in the streets..."

    Winston Churchill may not have been rallying against disused public land, but he did briefly become the face of the guerrilla gardening movement in 2000, when Reclaim the Streets protesters gave his Parliament Square statue a turf mohican.

  • D is for...


    Prince Charles famously talks to flowers to help them grow, but his wife has a more direct approach to plant propagation.

    Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, got her hands dirty harvesting lavender with Reynolds (pictured, right) on a visit to his guerrilla gardens in Elephant and Castle in 2011.

  • E is for...

    East Portlemouth

    A tiny Devon village known for its beautiful coastal vistas, East Portlemouth benefitted from a rare act of thoroughly rural guerrilla gardening when Vicky Gashe and Lizzie Ambler planted clumps of bright red tulips on a local roadside.

  • F is for...


    Just as Banksy uses his own spray paint, guerrilla gardeners draw on their own resources to cultivate pop-up gardens for our pleasure.

    Freecycle and sites like it can be good sources for unwanted gardening supplies and tools.

  • G is for...

    Guerrilla Gardening

    Not to be confused with Gorilla Gardening.

    Although, that is worth watching.

  • H is for...


    Majestic, bright and easy to grow, hollyhocks are a fantastic plant for guerrilla gardening, says Reynolds.

    Swiss guerrilla gardener Maurice Maggi likes them so much he's been planting them around Zurich for 30 years...

  • I is for...


    However, adding interest to your local street furniture with a hollyhock plant is technically criminal damage in Britain.

    "It's easy to avoid prosecution if you go about it in a way that doesn't seek to cause damage or obstruction," Reynolds reassures us.

  • J is for...

    Johnny Appleseed

    Guerrilla gardening is by no means a modern phenomenon.

    In the early 19th century, enterprising nomadic missionary Johnny 'Appleseed' Chapman spent nearly 50 years planting apple seeds across the American wilderness in advance of the settlers, so he could later sell them the fruits of his labour.

  • K is for...


    "Take good kit with you when out on a mission," Reynolds advises. "Hefty tools, strong gloves and of course, refreshments."

  • L is for...

    Lamp posts

    The drab concrete sticks are greatly improved by tiny hanging plant pots. A Milanese guerrilla gardener calls his 'Flying Gardens'.

    Careful on the ladders.

  • M is for...


    When are potholes not annoying?

    When they've had a Steve Wheen makeover.

    Wheen, aka the Pothole Gardener, highlights road holes across London with his miniature garden art.

    His works range from simple yet effective sprays, to highly detailed scenes complete with tiny models, such as garden benches, bicycles and postboxes.

  • N is for...


    Not everyone is comfortable with the anarchistic element of guerrilla gardening and celebrity gardener Monty Don has gone so far as to brand the act "dysfunctional."

    "It tries to bypass communities as well as legislation and bureaucracy," The Telegraph quoted him as saying. "There is a strong element of japes and quick-fix about it, without any meaningful engagement."

    "I can't figure out where Monty's coming from," says Reynolds. "His criticism is so far from the reality of how most guerrillas go about their gardening."

  • O is for...

    On Guerrilla Gardening

    Packed with tips and tales from the horticultural front line, Reynolds' handbook tracks the movement from its 17th century roots, and contains advice from guerrilla gardeners in 30 different countries.

  • P is for...

    Pimp Your Pavement

    Like a hip hanging basket contest, Pimp Your Pavement sees blossoming rebel gardeners submit images of their handiwork on local 'tree pits' (pictured).

    The campaign - an offshoot of - is designed to gently guide the uninitiated through the sometimes daunting world of guerrilla gardening.

  • Q is for...


    "You've got to enjoy being at least a bit quirky to become a guerrilla gardener," says Reynolds. "Being seen as quirky is part of the fun of it."

  • R is for...


    From throwing handfuls of seeds to full-on community digs, bare roundabouts are prime targets for guerrilla gardening.

    Watch out Milton Keynes.

    Pictured: Reynolds' sunflower blossoming at Elephant and Castle's famous roundabout

  • S is for...

    Seed bombs

    Yes, that is a mound of poppy seeds in the shape of hand grenade.

    Designed to be thrown at hard-to-reach targets, biodegradable seed bombs can be home-made from clay and even egg shells, but we do like the artillery-like creations on offer at Kabloom.

  • T is for...

    Tournesol (French for Sunflower)

    In 2006, guerrilla gardeners in Belgium declared May 1 'International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day', with many other guerrilla groups following suit.

    This year's event saw one gardener attach 400 homemade seed bags to Brussels' equivalent of London's 'Boris Bikes' in an innovative bid to spread planting across the city.

  • U is for...


    In Vienna, the powers-that-be haven't yet got round to removing the undergound's obsolete ashtrays.

    No problem, say the city's marigold-loving guerrilla gardeners (left).

  • V is for...


    "Lots of guerrilla gardeners plant vegetables and fruit," says Reynolds. "It can be a big part of the motivation. I've harvested lettuce, cabbage, chard, raspberries, tomatoes, strawberries..."

    Pictured: Cavolo nero growing among irises in Reynolds' Lambeth plot.

  • W is for...

    Gerrard Winstanley

    A 17th century British pioneer of guerrilla gardening, Gerrard Winstanley and his communist posse became known as the Diggers when they dug up St. George's Hill in Surrey to plant vegetables for the poor.

    Think, a green-fingered Robin Hood.

  • X is for...


    Airport security, with their sensitive X-Ray machines can be a pest for the jet-setting guerrilla gardener.

    "Invariably tools get confiscated," says Reynolds. "I've lost trowels this way in Gatwick, Heathrow and in Moscow."

    "Though I've also got many through," he adds, somewhat worryingly.

  • Y is for...

    Youth Guerrillas

    "The mischief of guerrilla gardening is a great way of encouraging children to get into gardening and to feel a sense of responsibility for the land beyond their garden," says Reynolds.

  • Z is for...

    Zapatista Guerrilla Movement

    Founded in 1910 by Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata with the rallying cry, "Tierra y libertad" [Land and Liberty], the Zapatistas are an indigenous movement fighting for control over their local resources, especially land.