‘Gangsta’ Gardening

Ron Finley - Gangsta Gardener
Gangsta Gardener in Los Angles Ron Finley

This is no damn Hobby

The garden seduces me,” says Ron Finley, who is known around the world as the “gangsta gardener”. “I’ll get out there at 9am and next thing I know it’s 7pm … gardening takes your mind off things. Everybody should have a garden to cultivate.”

Ron is gardening in South Central Los Angles an area that does not sound like a gardening hot Spot to me. You would be more acquainted with the Gangsta Rap music from there rather than the zucchini harvest.

He calls his area a food prison with very few productive gardens, yet there is a great climate for growing food plants. This is a serious enterprise and Ron says ‘This is no damn hobby’

He calls his area a food prison

It all started when he wanted to access food that had not been sprayed by chemicals and started off by gardening the land between his house and the street. In typical petty bureaucratic form, the local council officials told him you could not do that. No gardening on the footpath!! The typical response to anything outside their narrow world.

No gardening on the footpath said the local council

He worked to get the law changed and was successful. He also starred in a 2015 documentary about community gardens in South Central Los Angeles. After ten years he has many gardens around Los Angles in vacant land.

Read the full article on this link Gangsta Gardener in the Guardian.

Here is a link for his entry in the Ted Blog.

No more citations for roadside veggies in Los Angles.

He worked to get the law changed and was successful.

He even has his own master class on You Tube – I just saw the ad for it!

So, let’s just summarise – This is a black guy in South Central Los Angles who changes the Local Government laws, grows lots of food, spreads the word and starts lots of other gardens plus a film and a Ted Talk.

Talk about Flower Power! – What your excuse? I will leave you with one of his sayings

“Let’s all become gangsta gardeners … If you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta”

The lost Gardens of Heligan – Cornwall UK

A Magnificent Garden not just re-discovered and  restored – but actually brought back to life

Recently I borrowed from the Queanbeyan library the book – Lost Gardens of Heligan by Tim Smit.1999 Victor Gollancz.As you know I am originally and still am a horticulturist so books and stories like this get the green blood stirring.

This is the story of one of the great gardens of Cornwall England how it lapsed into deep slumber and ruin post WWI then to be resurrected decades later in 1990.
Originally it was the country estate garden held in the Tremayne family for many generations. The family had the finances to support the staff needed to run this enterprise and it produced most of their food.

The Author Tim Smit who inspired, managed and drove much of the work when asked what was the driving force for the incredible energy and commitment he had for the garden surprisingly replied Redemption.
In reading the book you can see he means redemption of the garden, the past horticultural knowledge, the plants growing there, the local community and of the people involved at all level’s present day and past. I highly recommend the book to read – own – borrow – Heart-warming stories of the work and workers involved, its resurrection and plenty of photos to show the magnitude of the task before them.

Especially moving are the individual workers their roles and personal stories of how the garden gave them challenges and achievements that changed their life.
The garden basically went asleep after the First World War due to the massive loss of life among the enlisted men and the changed economic circumstances for the country. WWI near bankrupted the country despite victory. There was not the staff or the finances to keep the estate at its former levels. In a way this was a blessing as the garden was preserved under layers of subsequent overgrowth, seedling trees, brambles etc until rediscovered.

Other such gardens had suffered successive redesigns and clearing until none of the original design and structure existed at all. Whole areas of the garden were left to rot and molder as resources could not maintain them anymore. The early regeneration works at the garden sound almost like an archaeological excavation.

In its original state there were specific glasshouses for growing melons – peaches – grapes – and pineapples. Large areas of garden were specifically designed for vegetables and flowers. The restoration brought all of this back – the plant varieties the cultivation techniques and the structures. The great difference at Heligan from other period gardens is that the production techniques of the garden were reinstated and kept alive.

Currently it has a staff of 50 people which gives you an indication of how large this garden is. Curiously Tim Smit remarks that the staffing structure now is very close to that of the original estate.

I want to share with you some quotes from Tim Smit at the end of the book where he explains the value of the garden to us.

“An issue that confronts all who work with Heritage of any kind is that once a period becomes history, its visible remains become little more than monuments, leaving us the inheritors to interpret them from the perspective of our time”

“Heligan treasures the physical remains of its past but lays a heavy emphasis on exploring old working methods and approaches to Horticulture to discover where they can make a contribution to improving modern practices”

“In simple terms Heligan wants to protect that which is good about the past, its crops and methods of husbandry that have truly stood the test of time, and thus should have a role to play in the future.”

Linking this back to Herbal Medicine the phrase above could easily relate to the written record of past Herbalists and Homeopaths. Finding a great work from yesteryear be it 10 or 20 or 30 or 100+ years past, reading these works and appreciating their experience. Not all that is modern is comprehensive or encompassing of the totality of knowledge. Herbal Medicine being an ancient profession especially treasures past practitioners and the foundations they laid for us.

Anyway find the book or have a look on YouTube with the many garden videos there to get sense of the magnitude and splendor of the place.

Can you feel the power of this garden which in a book from the other side of the world inspires and lifts up our days!

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