Victoria Summerley: Town Life

Three cheers for Richard Reynolds, who is brightening up the more tedious bits of south London with a spot of stealthy spade-work. He has been titivating the roundabouts and roadside verges of areas such as Bermondsey and Camberwell with shrubs and bulbs, transforming each barren traffic island into a mini rus in urbe.

Reynolds moved into the Elephant and Castle nearly two years ago. "The area was pretty shabby, so I thought I'd do something about it," he says. He now has nearly 200 people on his membership list, some of whom donate money and/ or plants, and some of whom come along to assist in a spot of moonlight planting.

I love the idea of guerrilla gardening and I feel particularly sympathetic to Reynolds, because I know how determined you have to be to succeed in such a venture. The nearest I've got is a handful of seed of Erigeron karvinskianus, or fleabane, whose pink and white daisies can be guaranteed to turn even the most inhospitable chink in concrete paving into a stylish home.

I crept out one night and scattered them over the two square feet of sad soil near the road where I lived. They sprouted, but no sooner had they started to get under way than some council employee came round and flamed them out of existence with a weed burner, along with the creeping campanula I'd been encouraging to grow.

That's the trouble with public gardening. One person's idea of paradise is another's idea of an eyesore. A front garden I owned was nurtured to the point where roses, lavender, rosemary and lavatera billowed over fences and paths. I thought it looked fabulous until a relative asked me when I was going to "deal with it". Then I got a letter from the council asking me to cut it back as it was obstructing the pavement and might endanger passersby.

Reynolds has yet to come up against the horticultural taste police or the Health and Safety Executive. Apparently, he even entered one of his guerrilla gardens into a local "in bloom" competition and got a nomination. Far from battling against municipal interference, he has had no success in getting any authority to admit ownership or responsibility for his patches.

He has more important battles to wage: against the sort of people who think it's funny to break newly planted trees in half, and the Sahara-like conditions of your average London traffic island. Of course, there are those who might say Reynolds is a vandal, but as he points out, he's "vandalising with plants". And while you may applaud what he's doing, he would much rather you got out and did your own bit of guerrilla gardening.

"I can offer support," he says, "but it's very much a devolved revolution, as these patches of land need to be maintained and I struggle with my few areas against the ravages of water shortages, salt, vandals and time. I want to encourage people to do it themselves."

Reynolds' bid to make the city a greener place comes as the Learning and Skills Council, responsible for planning and funding vocational education, and the Royal Horticultural Society, the gardening charity, are warning that "regeneration aspirations" for London and the 2012 Olympics could be affected by a skills shortage in land-based jobs, encompassing landscaping, sports turf management, arboriculture, floristry and green tourism. They say fewer young people - 20 per cent less - are enrolling in such courses, thanks mainly to low schools provision and a reduction in the number of colleges and universities offering "green" courses in London.

It seems astonishing that this should be the case at a time when gardening has never been more popular or, in commercial terms, more lucrative. Perhaps they ought to give Reynolds a ring. What better way to inspire 16- to 19-year-olds to take up a "green" career than by taking them out in the middle of the night and encouraging them to hang around on street corners?

If you want to donate money or plants to Richard Reynolds, or get advice on how to go about guerrilla gardening in your own area, go to www.guerrillagardening.org

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition