When most people think of Guerilla Gardening, if they think of it at all, they picture people in the dead of night, whilst dressed in black, surreptitiously strewing seeds in public flowerbeds. It is a relatively recent phenomenon that people would try to beautify their neighbourhood without the blessing or even knowledge of their municipality. Five years ago, the idea was introduced in Munich and a very curious thing happened.
The city actually supported it. Not immediately; at first the whole idea confused the city workers. The city destroyed the plants when they were discovered. There was fear that the plants were possibly poisonous and the city was worried about the source of the new flora. Once it was clear that the Guerilla Gardeners (Guerilla Gärtner) were doing something which was intended for the good of the city, the authorities wanted to get involved.
The Guerilla Gardeners here in Munich are part of a loose-knit group of organisations, but they are all under the umbrella of Green City e.V., which has existed since 1990. Green City has been involved in organising well-known Munich events such as the Street-life Festival and Blade Night.
Christine Leyermann is associated with both Green City and the Guerilla Gardners, and she was happy to explain the most easily seen result of their work in the city. The way she explained it described a neighbourhood which decides that one of their streets has fallen into disrepair and need to be renewed.
These local citizens who get the ball rolling are what the group calls Grünpaten (green sponsors), and once they contact Green City, the organisation arranges it with the proper authorities so that the unattractive street can be refurbished. The Guerilla Gardeners and the local citizens (Grünpaten) then do the planting and from this stage onwards it is up to those locals to provide the upkeep of their beautified areas.
The best part of the story is that the city not only accepts this arrangement, but for the last year has even begun providing the plants for the neighbourhoods. As Ms. Leyermann says, "It's a win-win situation for Munich. They give us the plants and flowers, and the people provide the labour."
The Guerilla Gardeners might have begun with much more clandestine actions, yet they have come to be indirectly supported by the city of Munich.