N4 Guerrilla Gardening

The Secret Garden (Full Cover)I recently purchased a 1958 copy of The Secret Garden by F. Hodgson-Burnett at Barnardos on Piccadilly Approach. It isn’t an original but I couldn’t resist the 50 year old copy with its faded cover and browning pages. (Three shillings and sixpence!) Despite its aged appearance it was calling out to be loved.

I normally buy books, read them, then give them away but this one is a keeper: I devoured it in one afternoon. I should have read it growing up but for whatever reason I didn’t. I would have loved it as a child.

I vaguely knew what it was about of course, in the same way I know the plot of the 1997 film The Titanic. (I know it is going to sink so I haven’t bothered to watch it). This book is called The Secret Garden and the name says it all.


I’ve always loved gardens. I would play for hours amongst the trees and bushes as a child. I had a few secret gardens of my own growing up. All I needed was a shady spot between overgrown plants and a garden fence, or a hidden arch inside the bushes where the leaves didn’t grow. If adults couldn’t see me it was mine.

There was also a magnificent clearing behind my grandparent’s house in Wythenshawe which no-one owned and no-one loved. I would scale the fence, which was twice my height, clamber over the neighbours rubbish (notorious fly tippers) and play amongst the weeds and wildlife. If only I had read this book as a child. I could and should have done great things with that garden!

The Secret GardenA PLACE OF MY OWN

Since reading the book I have decided I want a garden. I grow vegetables and roses in my city centre apartment but they have a tendency to take over and block out the light. I want a real garden. There are several parks and patches of grass nearby which I could sit out on when I want to. But I want a secret garden.

I WILL have a secret garden.


Whilst walking to work one morning I remembered a story I heard in school: The teacher told us about a village that petitioned their council about an ugly brown roundabout in the middle of a busy road. The villagers asked the council to plant up the roundabout but due to lack of funding the council refused. The villagers asked if they could plant it up themselves but again the council refused. They said the road was too busy, that it wouldn’t be safe and that they would prosecute anyone who stepped foot on the roundabout.

Undeterred, the villagers drove round and round the roundabout whilst their passengers threw seeds out of the windows. After a couple of months the roundabout was bursting with colour. Isn’t that a great story?


So I’ve decided to do a bit of Guerrilla Gardening of my own. For the past week I have been eyeing up patches of unused land on my way to and from work. I might start carrying packets of seeds in my pocket ready to disperse when no-one is looking. The only thing holding me back is the forthcoming winter. Spring is probably a better time for sowing seeds.

I need to put more thought into the location too. It needs to be somewhere I pass regularly so I can tend to it daily on the sly. I also don’t want to tread on the toes of the lovely people at The Manchester Garden City Initiative, who have been busy all year planting vegetable patches on disused land in the city centre; or on the toes of the equally lovely NQG: Northern Quarter Greening group. who are helping to make the Northern Quarter a better place to live, work and play.

Photo with thanks to NQG.org.uk who both planted then published photos of these flowers on Church Street.

They’re doing a fantastic job aren’t they? If you’ve been in the Northern Quarter this summer you must have seen all the new planters and greenery. Both schemes are as much about creating community spirit as they are about growing fruit and vegetables or  planting flowers. Anyone wanting to volunteer or pledge support for the initiatives should contact them through their websites using the above links.


Whilst I contemplate enacting my plan, I have one other little scheme in mind: Sunday the 9th of October is International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day. How could I possibly resist! I love Tulips for their simplicity and elegance, plus they’re ideal for guerrilla gardening because they should bloom for several years without any maintenance.

Next Sunday (the 9th) I will be heading out with a trowel and bulbs in my backpack (the hoodie and balaclava are optional) and I will be secretly planning tulips wherever I can. Come on, who’s with me? Wherever you are, we have some secret gardening to do!

(For more information on Guerrilla Gardening take a peek at this London blog. International Sunflower Guerrilla Day is on the 1st of May, so put that date in your diary too).

All comments are welcome. 🙂


10 thoughts on “N4 Guerrilla Gardening

  1. Brilliant post, you know me I love that book. You want to be carrying pockets full of bulbs, not seeds (a bit less portable) and you can do it now, get your crocus, daffs and tulip bulbs and one of those nifty bulb planters that look like a three foot potato peeler and get planting in lawn and bed across the city. But wait a minute, who in their right mind does this? Plants and flowers are so bloody expensive! Can the team come to my house, I’d like some fruit trees!

    • Lol. I think a lot of people would like Guerrilla gardeners to come in and make over their garden. I’d like to plant some fruit trees in the city centre too. We have plenty of cherry trees and a few apple trees but it would be great to get a whole fruit bowl going. I’d like to go foraging in the city but I might get some funny looks.

      I’ll look out for small versions of the bulb planters – I’m not quite sure how to discretely carry a three foot ‘potato peeler’. I could try putting it up my sleeve (or trouser leg) and trying not to bend my elbow (or knee) – but the last thing I want is to be arrested for acting suspiciously or carrying an offensive ‘weapon’! :-p

      (P.S. Thanks for the tip on which bulbs to look out for).

  2. What a great post, and a lovely idea. We tried growing our own vegetables this year with only limited success, although it was a first attempt, and when it works it feels very rewarding. There’s also a blackberry bush growing wild in Hulme, but it doesn’t quite blossom as well as it could do.

    • My vegetables didn’t grow as well as I hoped this year either. A lot of people have said it – We just didn’t get the weather for it. A few plants have started to flower again due to the mini heat wave but the fruit won’t have time to ripen before winter. It’s such a waste. 🙂

      Do you ever pluck the blackberries in Hulme? I don’t know of any blackberry bushes in the city centre – maybe I should plant a couple – or one – near me. ;-p

      Good luck with your vegetables for next year. Fingers crossed we’ll have a scorching summer to help them along! (We can only hope!)

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