The International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day, takes place annually on the 1st of May internationally. During the event guerrilla gardeners surruptitiously plant sunflowers in their neighborhoods, typically in public places perceived to be neglected, such as tree pits, flower beds and roadside verges. Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate, such as abandoned sites, areas that are 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.
This practice has implications for land rights and land reform; aiming to promote re-consideration of land ownership in order to assign a new purpose or reclaim land that is perceived to be in neglect or misused. 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.Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden in an effort to make the area of use and/or more attractive. Some garden at more visible hours for the purpose of publicity, which can be seen as a form of activism.
International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day Has taken place since 2007, and was conceived by guerrilla gardeners in Brussels, (who go by the name of The Brussels Farmers). They declared it Journée Internationale de la Guérilla Tournesol. It has been championed by guerrilla gardeners around the world, notably by GuerrillaGardening.org and participation has grown each year since then. In 2010, more than 5000 people signed up for the event from North America, Europe and Asia.Although sunflower sowing at this time of the year is limited to relatively temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere, this day is also marked in other parts of the world by planting plants appropriate to the season.
The online organisation GuerrillaGardening.org was created in October 2004 by Richard Reynolds as a blog of his solo guerrilla gardening outside Perronet House, a council block in London’s Elephant and Castle district. At the time, his motivations were simply those of a frustrated gardener looking to beautify the neighborhood, but his website attracted the interest of fellow guerrilla gardeners in London and beyond, as well as the world’s media. Reynolds’s guerrilla gardening has now reached many pockets of South London, and news of his activity has inspired people around the world to get involved. He also works alongside other troops, some local and some who travel to participate. He has also guerrilla-gardened in Libya, Berlin and Montreal. Today, GuerrillaGardening.org is still his blog but also includes tips, links and thriving community boards where guerrilla gardeners from around the world are finding supportive locals.
His book, On Guerrilla Gardening, which describes and discusses activity in 30 different countries, was published by Bloomsbury Publishing in the UK and USA in May 2008, in Germany in 2009, France in 2010 and South Korea in 2012. He regularly speaks on the subject to audiences and in 2010 launched a campaign focusing specifically on pavements as an opportunity, to ‘plant life in your street’. Many local branches have sprouted since, such as Leaf Street, an acre of land in Hulme, Manchester, England, that was once an urban street until turfed over by Manchester City Council. Local people, facilitated by Manchester Permaculture Group, took direct action in turning the site into a thriving community garden. Another example is Kew Bridge Eco Village, London, England which was created after land rights activists moved on to a derelict piece of land near Kew Gardens in West London. Kew Bridge Eco Village started as a small community of squatters who grew vegetables and built basic wooden dwellings on the land.