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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 11:21 GMT
Guerrilla gardeners wage turf war
Richard Reynolds

Guerrilla gardeners are sowing the seeds of resistance in south London, with a spot of illicit gardening in its neglected public spaces.

Striking at night, armed only with shrubs and plants, they set out to brighten up roundabouts and verges.

Last week saw a two-night blitz on a barren traffic island on Westminster Bridge Road, which now boasts an array of new shrubs and bulbs.

The BBC has been unable to find the site's owners to ask what they think.

Two adjoining councils and Transport for London said the traffic island was nothing to do with them.

"They could say I'm a vandal, but I'm vandalising with plants," said founder member Richard Reynolds, 28, who until recently worked in advertising.

Westminster Bridge Road traffic island
The new-look traffic island after the blitz

"Hopefully they don't think that's too destructive, in fact hopefully they think it's quite supportive."

Mr Reynolds, who lives on the sixth floor of a tower block, decided to start gardening in October 2004 after moving to Elephant and Castle.

"The surrounding area was pretty shabby so I thought I'd do something about it," he said.

Now he has 171 people on his membership list, some emailing him with tales of their own gardening antics.

And he said that each time he sets out on a new project, more well-wishers join him.

Last week passers-by stopped to congratulate the group on their work and helped the secret gardeners as they planted lavender and an assortment of shrubs and bulbs.

It's about brightening up people's lives and putting a bit of green and flowers into the grey areas of London
Camilla Maxwell-Morris

Mr Reynolds said he has never run into any problems with the authorities - in fact he even entered one of his guerrilla gardens into a local "in bloom" competition and got a nomination.

Sites have included a corner of a Bermondsey car park, planters in Camberwell Green and repeated visits to a roundabout in Elephant and Castle where new flowers were first hit by a car, then damaged by salty road spray.

It is a continuing battle against vandalism, water shortages and errant cars, but the guerrilla gardeners are holding firm.

Member Camilla Maxwell-Morris told the BBC: "It's about brightening up people's lives and putting a bit of green and flowers into the grey areas of London."


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