Urban Guerrila Garden...WAY cool! (pic)

mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)September 15, 2009

This has appeared over the summer across from a greenway under an overpass by a stream.

The rocks are all from the stream bed. And none of them were where they are six months ago. The side of the creek was all ugly "rip rap." Amazing amount of work...check out the "patio!" I think whoever is building it is working on it at night... I've never seen anyone there during the day. The town has a big light under the overpass to discourage people from sleeping there...it would make a great work light.

Finally remembered to bring my camera along on my last walk. Red cannas and liriope seem to be the majority of the plants...though it appears that the gardener has dug up some of the self-sown mimosa trees in the area and planted them in the garden. If they take they'll provide shade to his/her patio.

In some ways it reminds me of a bower-bird nest...everything is in shades of red. One day there was a basket of apples or tomatoes on the little rock table...it's all reds.

It makes me smile every time I walk past. I'll try and get more pictures...though with luck we'll get rain tomorrow and for the next few days. Sorry I couldn't get any closer...I don't want to intrude. (Or wade the creek.)I don't have a long lens.

Design principals in play:

Using like colors/plants to create a rhythm/cohesion.

Using local/native materials for a sense of place.

???? (fill in the blank)

Hope you enjoy it as much as I. Can't wait to hear y'all's reactions/analysis.


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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

A cheerful piece of folk art, can't help but wonder about the artist. Some of us humans just can't keep our hands out of the dirt, regardless of our situation. I wonder if the tendency to farm or garden is genetic?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 12:07PM
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Melanie, thanks for sharing this with us. It exemplifies the spirit of an unknown hand fighting back against a world intent on self destruction.

Over the past months DH and I have traveled a good part of the country. Thanks to strangers met I have had the opportunity to visit many gardens both public and private. Visited and enjoyed have been attempts to Victory Garden in front yards, beautify 'hell strips' and undertake creative landscapes. Great interest in water gardening. Many questions asked on how to garden organically. It has been an interesting journey.

But, one garden I visited in the inner, burned out city of Detroit still haunts me. A three story house set on a narrow lot, driveway on one side to a free standing wooden garage. The tiny front yard was filled with healthy tomato plants spilling over the stairway and out to the sidewalk. Backyard gardening space was about 20'x15'. The owner had filled half of this space with a pond and waterfall. She designed and built it herself using stones she found in rubble about the city. Then she planted every colorful plant she could locate or grow in the remaining spaces and up the fencing. A kaleidoscope of wonderful color!

As we sat on her little deck viewing the garden she said quietly, "I wish I could enjoy my garden at dusk. But I can't. That's when the shooting starts. That's when I move into the house, set the security system and turn up the music to block out the city sounds at night." She paused for a minute. "Can't sell the house. Can't sleep. When the shooting sounds get closer I pull the pillow over my head and design gardens, pull imaginary weeds, play gardening mind games."

The years have taught me to appreciate the efforts of every gardener I have met. It is a practice that goes beyond curb appeal or garden decoration for many. Some of you understand.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 4:52PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

nandina...so sad. I wish your gardening friend the best. Sometimes the world is a hard place to be in. The best we can do is help create our own little version of Eden...and hope it gives someone joy.

I hope the rock work in The Garden survives the inevitable deluge. One frog-strangler and the whole thing will be under a good two feet or more of water. A seriously scary rain (usually associated with a tropical system) can take the water up ten feet (or more) in that creek.

But more power to them. I THINK the gardener may be the homeless guy that lives under the overpass. (The City's Sodium Light not withstanding.)

Someone suggested I write a column about The Garden for the local paper...but I'm afraid to. I'm afraid the Powers That Be will put a stop to The Gardener's efforts. What astonishes ME is the number of people who walk past it daily...and don't notice until I say something...

I blame all the Ipods/mp3 players. Puts people in their own little world.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 5:39PM
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It's lovely! Can't help but notice the little nursery pots sitting on the step-down wall. Wonder if he spends him own money buying plants or if someone saw him working & brought him some. In city nearby there is a man in wheelchair that tended the front area of the post office. Haven't gone by there for awhile but it gave him great pleasure & was beautiful when before it was just dirt & weeds. They did a nice writeup in the paper about him. He said a lot of people stopped & talked to him & he got a lot of enjoyment from that. Don't know if he lived in apt or not. Gardeners will find a way to garden, rest of us get to enjoy it.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 3:01AM
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nbacres(4 NW IA)

All I can say is "WOW". Here's to knowing God is smiling down on the underpass gardener! I agree, sharing the knowledge of the site should be person-to-person, no good things come from media attention and/or politics!

Please keep posting updated pics on this site. I do believe us lets-get-dirty-and-create-something gardeners have a special place in heaven!! God sends us angels to mend our blisters and fade our grass stains so we can continue our quest of giving back to nature!!

Happy gardening!!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 10:32AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I like it too... especially the rock work. Around here, a lot of people who garden up traffic circles and so on just stuff them with plants which I find very ho hum. And I have to agree with sunny that the little pots on the "steps" are just the crowning touch.

This certainly does seem to be done with someone who needs such a project as much as the space needed the person. So if it gets washed away (and the cannas won't survive your winter anyway, will they?), that there is a new project to do in the spring will be a good thing.


    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 12:02PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Around here cannas usually come up again in the spring...

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 12:07PM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

That underpass garden makes me want to leave the builder a surprise plant to add to his/her garden!

So sad about the Detroit gardener. She makes me wish I had lots of acreage, so I could build her a new place and invite her here!

Gardening does keep me sane and grounded (no pun intended!).

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 6:07PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

cyn427--I'd already thought of that.

What do y'all think about some salvia greggii...one of the bright red cultivars? Perhaps three plants?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 8:09PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I'm not sure I would interfere, but certainly if you want to then red plants would be a good bet.

It's complicated to get involved, and this comes from years of doing so and it not always going well, and from contact with some fairly fragile people. When you get involved, you take a bit of control, you become vested, and you impose your expectations.

For the moment, this strikes me as, for all its public placement, a very private exercise. I'd mostly be concerned that they might not know the creek might wash it away over winter, in case it's a newcomer to your area.

Maybe a red plant with a card saying you hope their lovely creation survives the winter floods...? And that you've enjoyed it very much even if it doesn't? You could even include a photo of it in case they don't have the capacity to take one.

Sigh. Or just three red plants.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 1:25PM
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I often think a poignant endeavor, such as the thread topic, is meant to be a private enterprise. Someone simply carving out beauty with no desire to being discovered by the public at large - or really by anyone. It might break the spell.

It stands in stark contrast to guerillas planting up a weedy boulevard or plunking inappropriate trees on a highway median strip.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 2:45PM
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rosiew(8 GA)

Thank you, mjsee and nandina for sharing. I went into the NY Times archives and found this story to share. I hope you all enjoy it.

Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA

Here is a link that might be useful: Another urban gardener story

    Bookmark   September 19, 2009 at 3:23PM
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This is really fantastic.
If you haven't read the little book Seed Folks you should give it a go. very much about this sort of thing.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 10:12AM
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I'd leave the red salvia. Go ahead and risk it. I understand where Karen's coming from. Many hours of my work are spent with people on the edge of or well into desperate circumstances.

But you don't really know the story here, so why not simply respond. Leave your offering for the unknown human -- or is it fairy folk?

Seems others may have done so...And what plant lover, garden lover, doesn't appreciate the gift of plants?

As for the future survival of this space? So much can happen in a moment, or a handful of days, or the turning of the seasons. Today, I guess, this story has me focused just on today. The gift of this moment, I suppose.

Maybe this unseen gardener doesn't sweat about tomorrow? Maybe there's just the peace in this day's labor, this day's surprise of red flowers.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 1:29PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Karen...that is exactly what I was worried about. I don't want them feeling like I'm trying to horn in.

Wellspring...We've had a couple of gullywashers this spring...I think the person must know. I think you are right...they aren't worried about the future of the thing. If there's any red salvia at work tomorrow I'll pick three up. Perhaps...leave them on the PUBLIC side of the creek? If he/she/they want it he/she/they can come get it. If not...I'm certain SOMEONE will take it home.

Off to see about getting a few more pictures...the sun is out.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 1:47PM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

I think that's a great way to do it, Melanie. Let us know what happens, please!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2009 at 6:46PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Here is a pic from yesterday...gives you the whole scope of the garden:
From urban guerrila garden

Not going in to work today...it's raining. Salvia will have to wait until Thursday.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 10:24AM
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gonativegal(zone 5a)


Thanks for sharing the photos - very beautiful and inspirational especially in these trying times.

I always think of gardening as one of the more egalitarian activities - almost anyone can participate regardless of how much or how little money and space.

Nandina, lovely story about the garden in Detroit. Just had a gardening friend in from Detroit over the weekend. I asked her if she thought things would eventually turn around there. She said it's been in a downward slide for 30 years and will take a long time before things get better. But gardens like these give hope. Sometimes, it starts with one house and one block. I live in a marginalized neighborhood next to an even worse one in Chicago and that's sometimes what it takes.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 11:45AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

This is a placemark so I can find this thread again. I'm going to try and get more pictures today...the garden has grown!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 9:25AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Here are some pictures I took this morning:

I'm loving the stone and sculptures:

And then there's the tree hung with "stuff"--

I wish I had a camera with longer lens...didn't want to trespass on "their" space any farther. I'd love to get close-ups of some of the stone sculpture. No one was "home" when I went this morning.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 12:15PM
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In my area, there have been a lot of random, irrelevent "flash mobs" of inukshuks and standing stones and tree tepees found in totally unexpected places over the past few years. They probably bring as much pleasure to the public as to the artists. I love 'em!!!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 2:50PM
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Something similar here:

Nature conservation people are angry about this activity but I cannot see how it hurts nature.
I remember how in Minneapolis, the Hmong people had veggie gardens in unbelievable places, at freeway crossings and such. (Is this where the produce at farmers' markets was from?)

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 8:28AM
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alygal(PacNW z7)

So enjoying this thread.

Just goes to show that the need for beauty and the human spirit to create beauty prevails.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 10:14AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I don't say this to be argumentative, but personally I'm not crazy about this garden or the inukshuks. The garden is kind of pretty, and probably looks better than most disturbed areas in an urban setting. But in general I would rather see a natural gully with native plants that would naturally grow in such a spot, not exotic plants like Canna lilies and Mimosa trees. Especially a species like Albizia julibrissin which has shown invasive tendencies in Florida and the mid-atlantic states.

When I'm out in nature, I want to experience nature - not yet more signs of human disturbance of nature. JMO.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 11:03AM
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terrene(5b MA)

It is a creative and artistic garden and deserves a better maybe more permanent setting than a slope underneath an overpass. But maybe the gardener doesn't care about that. Have you never seen the person who made this garden?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 12:44PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

terrene--I've met the gardener once...he's a homeless guy who lives under the overpass. He is very friendly and seems quite happy where he is. I complimented his work as best I could--language barrier. The mimosas grow wild around here. (Perhaps feral would be a better description!) He didn't plant them. He just makes use of them. The cannas are definitely planted. I'm fairly certain he uses the one's the town discards from their public plantings.

What impressed me most was his use of stone. Path, steps, sculptures...all gathered from the creek and re-settled. "Outsider Art" indeed!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 3:38PM
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I came across this picture and thought that it tied in nicely with this thread. The interesting thing is that there is no photoshopping involved - just a patient artist with more time than money...

    Bookmark   October 14, 2011 at 11:23PM
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No Photoshop adrienne pull the other leg it's got ideashare on it.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 1:44PM
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Ha, don't you believe everything you see on the internet? Check out Bill Dan from Sausalito on You-tube - it made a believer out of me...

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 2:29PM
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