Guerilla Gardening

You can whine about the decreasing greenness of our city, or you can get out and plant.

Many community associations have a greenspace or gardening committee. Hopefully they do more than just hold meetings. And while lobbying for more green is valuable, so is getting out of the committee room.

The community association I am most involved with operates in the Chinatown-LeBreton-Little Italy area.

Sometimes planting is in authorized space, like the curbed planters along Somerset, Bronson, and Booth. Sometimes it is just a matter of trying to improve a leftover space by adding seeds or some ditch lillies (our go to favorite, as they (mostly) survive the winters and salt) and we have a free source of them. On Sept 17th, we planted lillies in some unkept beds on Bronson between Christie and Gladstone.


Last weekend, a group was out planting daffodils and narcissus. With any luck, these will bloom for many springs to come. Mind, the soil on the slope by the OTrain pathway wasn’t exactly class 1 topsoil:

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Councillor McKenney nicely donated the funds to pay for 360 bulbs:


and community members supplied the labour:


In previous years, we have received donations from both the Chinatown and Little Italy BIA’s to plant bulbs. A few years ago we planted 2000 tulip bulbs.

We cycle through our donors to prevent donor fatigue.

If you see scads of tulips blooming in the curbed planters along Bronson … or Preston … or Somerset … you now know where they come from.

The expectation of the city and the residents active in the community association is that residents finding a curbed planter in front of their houses, or nearby, would maintain the plants. But like when the city lays sod in front of homes … some people just won’t mow.

This isn’t a central city phenomena – I walk frequently in suburban Whitehaven and the city patched the curbs and laid sod behind them. There are easily a dozen spots where people in 800,000 dollar homes couldn’t bother watering the new grass and it died and shriveled into dead mats of root.

Fortunately, a number of planters do get maintained, and additional plants added, or mulched, by neighbours. Because if you are waiting for this city to do it, you’ll wait forever.

To encourage people to maintain the planters, we printed up some signs:


We also dropped flyers at houses near unmaintained planters encouraging people to take care of them. There were some positive responses. It is possible that some people are just complaining about the lack of care without realizing its fine to do it yourself.

Like anything only semi-organized there will be folks working a cross purposes. We see nice planter spaces of thriving shrubs ripped out by homeowners who replace them with … marigolds.  Some people think a row of shrubs should be hacked at pruned to resemble a row of cardboard boxes. Some people see milkweed as a weed, others as vital butterfly food.

We are hoping some organization and direction — like the flyers and signs — will help steer adjacent residents and businesses to care for the plants.

Plants on the Somerset viaduct are maintained by the City:

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I don’t understand why these are the exception, instead of the rule. Maintaining only official parks is a relic of the rigid land zoning and separation of functions which dominated the 20th century urban planning but which is recognized by many now as obsolete.

Instead, every street has the potential to be a green and pleasant place. Every street has the potential to be a public amenity. And not just for those of power and influence:


We — Dalhousie Community Assoc greenspace committee — are currently sitting on about 500 tulip bulbs we gotta get in the ground — somewhere — soon.

If you want to join us on Oct 15th, drop a line:





One thought on “Guerilla Gardening

  1. I love the use of ornamental grasses. They are beautiful, hardy, perennial and need nothing except watering. Ideal for planters not getting tons of maintanance. And if you’re going to help with planters, why not pick up a little litter. Little thing we all can do to make things nicer for ourselves and our neighbours.

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