I have to admit I did not know what guerilla gardening was until yesterday. According to Wikipedia, “Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to utilize, such as an abandoned site, an area that is not being cared for, or private property. It encompasses a diverse range of people and motivations, ranging from gardeners who spill over their legal boundaries to gardeners with political influences who seek to provoke change by using guerrilla gardening as a form of protest or direct action. The land that is guerrilla gardened is usually abandoned or perceived to be neglected by its legal owner. That land is used by guerrilla gardeners to raise plants, frequently focusing on food crops or plants intended for aesthetic purposes.”
Yesterday I met a woman that has a different purpose – she guerilla gardens for pollinators. Our pollinators have suffered from loss of habitat, pesticide use, invasive plants and animals, and diseases. Many of our pollinators are federally listed as threatened or endangered species. And we have lost over 50% of our managed honey bee colonies in the past 10 years. But Lorrie thinks guerilla gardening can reverse this downward spiral.
Like most guerilla gardeners, she carries out her actions at night, in relative secrecy, sowing native wildflowers and planting perennials and crabapple trees that provide food for pollinators such as native bees, honey bees, butterflies and a host of other beneficial insects. Her favorite places to pant are abandoned lots and roadsides where it appears that the highway department does not spray herbicides nor mows. “There is nothing more disheartening than driving by a patch of wildflowers that you have nurtured only to see that they have been mowed down,” says Lorrie. “But that’s part of the process. You win some and you lose some.”
She has one particular patch that she is particularly proud of. It is a relatively small patch of showy milkweed Asclepias speciosa that she hopes will one day help the dwindling monarch population. Its location is a secret; however she said thousands of people drive by it every day.
Now I am not necessarily condoning this practice. I tend to be a rule follower and I can see some problems with this approach. First of all, as a private land owner, I would not be happy if someone started planting things on my property. Of course my farm is not neglected, but you get the point. Secondly, I am afraid that some well-meaning citizen will go out and buy those cheap wildflower mixes you find at Home Depot and plant them along the highway not realizing that many wildflower seed mixes contain invasive species. That being said, Lorrie may be onto something here. Maybe guerilla gardeners, planting native species, will be the saviors of the pollinators.
Image provided by Public Domain Images