Guerilla Gardening

guerilla_roof_gardenI live on the fourth floor in the East End. 70 stairs, no lift. No garden, no balcony. Directly above my early 20th Century flat is a huge flat roof covered in dozens of tall red chimneys.

There are lots of rules about the roof and its neighbouring sibling: no parties, barbecues or access of any kind other than to hang out washing. I’m actually glad about the rules as people walking on the roof may as well be in the same room as me.

Frequent requests for the these wonderful spaces to be turned into green roofs fall on deaf ears with the local authority that owns the buildings. It has negligible interest for anything that happens outside the Square Mile where it resides. Our flats are lived in by people who are by and large poor, from ethnic minorities and unversed in dealing with byzantine organisations.

Never mind that this would improve insulation, the environment and the quality of life for people who live here. Nothing to be gained in helping us for the City of London.

So, I have an illegal stash of plants on the roof. This runs its own risks. They’re tempting to the kids who throw everything from eggs to water bombs to bits of concrete off the edge. I’ve explained gravity and potential impact to them and we have a stand-off. I turn a blind eye to them hiding the pots around the place occasionally, let them help and so far they haven’t killed anyone with a lupin.

Some of the less savoury characters who get in to hang out by buzzing the doors of confused old folk are less receptive to the joys of gardening. My Christmas tree that we brought indoors each year has been set on fire and had its branches torn off. The flowers have been damaged, urinated on and used as ashtrays or rubbish bins.

I’ll keep clearing up and hoping for the best. Five minutes watching bees and sniffing lemon-scented leaves and jasmine makes the effort worthwhile.

5 responses to “Guerilla Gardening

  1. This is great. I’ll have to say, being the devil’s advocate, retrofitting a building for a green roof has a lot of maintenance [i.e. leaking] concerns, so I can see why management wouldn’t be interested. That said, I definitely believe you should keep fighting the system, there are far more benefits to greening a roof than drawbacks. Good luck.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jonathan. Glad to have an informed view that it’s worth it. These wonderful 20s mansion blocks (still have some Scots pine parquet floors: amazing) were built to last; I think the roof would certainly bear up under some lightweight sedum. I’ll keep trying.

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