Tell me I’m not alone. After eight months of winter here, I’m going slightly delirious thinking about things that are green. Salads. Asparagus. Grass. This food made out of nettles.
If you’ve ever been to Russia’s capital you know what a strange mix of architectural extremes it is. On the one hand you have business complexes with gleaming glass skyscrapers or tsarist-era Orthodox churches with gold domes. But once you get a little further away from the center, you start to see the worst sort of rusted, pockmarked, pollution-stained Soviet urban blight there is – crumbling concrete fences, padlocked disintegrating metal storage shacks, construction sites filled with tape, rubble, garbage, and discarded cigarette butts. It’s a city where there’s a vast amount of public space that’s filled with ugly, rusting Soviet junk.
Granted, this time of year, when the snow has melted and nothing has started to bloom yet, things look especially post-apocalyptic. But still.
Driving home with economist husband the other day I kept thinking, “What this empty lot needs is a bunch of sunflowers!” or “I wish I could stuff peony bushes in all of those blocks of concrete!”
Apparently there are a bunch of people who have expressly made it their business to deposit sunflowers and peonies in urban wildernesses around the world, and they call themselves guerrilla gardeners. They’re all a bunch of modern-day lupine ladies.
What a great idea!
There is, in fact, an actual official website with lots of tips on how to conduct urban gardening warfare (It is, by the way, apparently illegal)
AND, while we’re on the topic, why are there not any community gardens in Moscow? There used to be one. I know most people here grow their cucumbers out at dachas, but what about gardens IN the city?? Is it because they’re afraid their tomatoes will be stolen by homeless people? Is it because they’re afraid that their tomatoes will be toxic from all the pollution? Is it because they’re afraid the government will ban their tomatoes? Is it because everyone would rather use the city’s public space for parking lots? Russians are completely awesome gardeners – I can only imagine the level of amazingness that community gardens would reach here if someone decided to start them.
I used to think of gardening in a romantic sort of way. The problem is that, when it actually comes to keeping plants alive, I’m pretty hopeless. At the moment there’s a collection of succulents from IKEA in our living room that has not yet expired – they seem to be the only plants I’ve been able to keep alive by watering once per month. There’s also a depressing ficus tree in our bedroom, but there are only about 13 leaves left on it, so I’m not sure if it qualifies as plant life.
So, as you can see, I love the idea of gardening more than I actually enjoy any form of real garden activity.
Nonetheless, I get pretty inspired by the idea of guerrilla gardening. I wonder if it would work to just throw flower seeds around next to the sidewalk on the way to the metro, or out the car window when we drive by particularly ugly intersections…
For a bit of professional advice on guerrilla gardening, check out these tips.
OR, check out this incredible community gardener in Detroit. Fantastic.
Gardening to Make Beauty Out of Blight from This Is Our City on Vimeo.
Do you like gardening? Have you ever done any guerrilla or community gardening? (something tells me Phyllis Hunsucker or Jennifer Dougan has…)