Some people aren't happy with guerrilla gardeners. Recently in Washington DC, the city removed hundreds of red, white, and blue flowering plants that had been placed by a guerrilla gardener on a sloping embankment, claiming that his climbing could lead to falling, which would incur liability for the taxpayers. They also claimed that there was no money in their budget for the upkeep of the plantings.
Another recent article in the New York Times paints urban guerrilla gardeners in a negative light by supposing that a landscape of nothing but edibles will be a landscape without pollinators. This, of course, is untrue. I also emailed the author, Mariellé Anzelone, about her error concerning sassafrass. Her solution is not to avoid planting up the urban landscape, but to plant native wildflowers to promote diverse pollinators.
"Urban activists should celebrate the indigenous wildflowers that sustain our pollinators beyond the short life span of fruit tree blossoms. In addition, we should incorporate native edibles into the planting palette. Blueberries, Juneberries and beach plums feed more species than just us humans."Anzelone and I agree on one thing, which is that native plants should be incorporated into any plan for regreening an urban zone. All too often city planners try to beautify by planting non-useful non-natives, like crepe myrtle and oleander. WE, the citizens, should be greening with natives and edibles like oak trees and others that were once found here in a time before pretty little homes.
She neglects to point out that done properly, a neighborhood or area planted with nothing but edibles would still attract pollinators because the garden planners would want great diversity in their plantings. Anyone with a bit of gardening knowledge knows to plant more than one type of vegetable, or a time will come when you will be hungry. Does she think guerrilla gardeners are greening their cities with nothing but Irish potatoes, the nation's most popular vegetable? Or nothing but red delicious apples?
As any permie can tell you, diversity in plantings is what promotes resistance to disease and pests. Planting a good deal of wildflowers will bring in butterflies and bees, but also bring in caterpillars and grasshoppers. You have to pick and choose your battles, and better to have a wide variety of edible or useful plantings than a lot of space wasted on toxics that attract plant-eaters. With the internet making distant knowledge available, and international shipping being how it is, there is no reason every abandoned easement can't be planted with useful edibles, or native edibles, or just native plants. Sweet potatoes from Japan, climbing beans from Germany, sugarcane from the Dominican Republic, the possibilities are endless. For some ideas for diverse edibles for Florida, check out my site and this site.
For example, a maple tree might be useful in several ways, and is native. Native cottage roses are the same way. Both can be edible to humans and urban livestock and provide beauty. Roses attract pollinators. Maples provide shade and windbreaks, and can provide firewood. Almost any plant can be rated according to some simple points like these, and as long as plantings remain diverse, urban gardeners will do well with it.
Eight Points for Identifying Useful Plants
Edible to humans
Edible to urban livestock
Edible to urban wildlife
Provide shade and windbreaks
Provide textiles or firewood for humans
Provide habitat for urban animals