Monday, April 09, 2012

Hydrangea Rage

“Guerilla Gardening” and “Hydrangea Rage” have been in the news recently. And although both have their roots (so to speak) in Great Britain – they each provide valuable information on how we colonists can make our own horticultural efforts that much more rewarding.

First, some basic definitions. “Guerrilla Gardening” is simply gardening on another person's land without permission. “Hydrangea Rage” is an aggressive or angry behavior by a gardener in response to an assumed assault on his/her flora. The former is an organized horti-sociological movement. The latter is, at the moment, the spontaneous response of one deranged individual. (Although when you hear her story…)

Wikipedia says: “[Guerilla gardening] encompasses a very diverse range of people and motivations, from the enthusiastic gardener who spills over their legal boundaries to the highly political gardener who seeks to provoke change through direct action. It has implications for land rights, land reform. The land that is guerrilla gardened is usually abandoned or neglected by its legal owner and the guerrilla gardeners take it over ("squat") to grow plants. Guerrilla gardeners believe in re-considering land ownership in order to reclaim land from perceived neglect or misuse and assign a new purpose to it.

“Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden. Some garden at more visible hours to be seen by their community. It has grown into a form of proactive activism or pro-activism.”

The term “guerilla gardening” was used for the first time in 1973 by Liz Christy and her “Green Guerillas” group, who transformed a derelict private lot in the Bowery Houston area of New York City into a garden. It now has its own “global internet forum” ( and its adventures are tracked, at least in Great Britain, by the mainstream print media – which granted when judged by some of our uptight New England standards may not seem like “real journalism” – but still.

Hydrangea rage, at the moment, seems to be exclusively the property of one 87-yeard-old grandmother. As reported in London’s “Daily Mail”:

“Hydrangea rage! Grandmother in court after going potty because a neighbour trimmed her plant

“She may be an 87-year-old grandmother, but touch her plants and Margaret Perry can get particularly nasty.

“In what has been described as a ‘hydrangea rage’ incident, the retired council worker shouted obscenities at neighbour Brian Kelly when she found him trimming her prize flower.

“Storming out of her house, she branded him a ‘menace’ and screamed, ‘b**** up your a***’ before threatening to cut his internet cable.

“Mr Kelly said he was merely cutting the plant back after it had grown into his garden and was blocking the sunlight from his tomatoes.

“Perry, a former Greater London Council employee, denied shouting abuse at her neighbour, but admitted asking him what he was doing to her hydrangea.

“During the hearing, Mrs Pool [the Judge] was forced to tell Perry to keep quiet after continued outbursts in court.

“Perry, clearly distressed, pleaded with the bench: ‘What am I supposed to do? He cut my flowers.’”

Say what you want but I think that both of these trends are good for the game of gardening. I was listening to an interview with sportswriter John Feinstein and he was talking about how unexciting PGA golf had become during the years without Arnie, Gary & Jack, or Tiger & Phil. Sometimes I think that our favorite avocation has become too much like that also. Too many over-planning, by-the-numbers, lookalike perfectionists simply following the label and avoiding excessive use rather than just going out, digging up some soil, throwing in a bunch of seeds, and dealing with what happens.

Imagine instead: covert ops floricultural revolutions with night-vision goggles and camouflage gardening gear – or going off unabated on Limbaugh-like landscaping rants, with the implied threat of physical violence. Now that’s a hobby a real red-blooded gardener can sink his (or her) hoe into.

See you in the British tabloids!

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