• T.M. O’Shaughnessy

Guerilla gardening


PHOTO COURTESY TM O’SHAUGHNESSY

Yellow tulips brighten a path.


When you don’t have a garden, all the world is your garden. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Each fall since moving into an apartment, and no longer having any place to plant tulips or daffodils, I’ve reminded myself that I can still enjoy buying and planting spring bulbs anywhere. And I do.

While my big garden balcony is great for growing herbs, flowers, tomatoes and chilies – even a rosebush because I have a place to foster it out at the end of the summer – I always have a hankering for more. So each autumn, my inner guerilla gardener gets ready to plant up a few unsuspecting corners which I then visit and enjoy in the spring.

As I said, the whole world could be our garden, right?

Which is why for the month of October, two handfuls of red tulip bulbs, four purple hyacinths, and a dozen blue muscari have been rolling around the passenger seat of my car. After all, guerilla gardeners must always be ready to plant beautiful spring flower bulbs into other found spaces when they don’t have a patch of land of their own.


Here is all that is required:

First, you’ll need a jacket with deep pockets or an innocent-looking basket from the dollar store for carrying the bulbs and your mother’s old garden trowel which you somehow cannot even think of getting rid of.

Second, you’ll also need a little darkness or twilight, or what they call in novels, “cover of night.”

Third, and most importantly, you’ll need a location or two that is in your usual environs – perhaps a place you walk by regularly, or even drive by. Any route will do as long as it easily lends itself to helping you enjoy the pleasure of locating your contraband tulips in the spring so you can then follow and measure their progress.


Obviously you can’t plant things just anywhere. Private property should probably always be noted, and I wouldn’t want to interfere in any wetland or protected environment where I have no doubt I would accidently pick the one daffodil known to be lethal to all the ducks of North America. So care should be taken, and respect given. But there are many forlorn spots that can be perked up no end by a surprise bunch of tulips or hyacinths.

In my experience, the spring bulbs I’ve planted this way often survive the squirrel invasions that regularly decimated half my garden’s spring crop in the past. Squirrels are not stupid, after all. They watch you planting bulbs in your garden, and then, using some guerrilla gardening techniques of their own, they snatch up the bulbs you love the most. So an out of-the-way spot where no person or animal would expect a tulip is the kind of corner you’re looking for.


In fact, why not even consider the grassy area around the red light you sit at every day coming home from work? Seeing the blooming tulips of April that you planted under cover of night in October might be just the thing to perk you up. Or in these days of COVID-19 and our endless walks, why not try planting along your favourite route to give you a lift next spring after the long winter? Or perhaps the ground across the street that’s right in line with a comfortable window for easy viewing would be the most perfect spot of all.

All the world’s on offer and ‘guerilla gardening’ is the technical term for this kind of happiness.

I highly recommend it.

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