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13 November 2014

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You are in: Devon > People > Your stories > Guerrilla Gardening

Margot Vickers

Here's some that I planted earlier....

Guerrilla Gardening

At 93, Margot Vickers is likely to be the oldest guerrilla gardener in Devon, but she is determined to make her surroundings as bloomin' marvelous as possible.

There's not a terrorist in sight in Totnes where Margot Vickers has been guerilla gardening along with her grandson Richard Reynolds.

"My friends must think I'm mad," said Margot.

The small triangular bed looked completely bare in February 2009 when the pair turned up just after 10 at night to plant three hardy shrubs.

"The council plants this bed twice a year and then it just gets abandoned.

"I kept passing this little bit on my way to church and thought it would be good to brighten it up."

Looking through Margot's kitchen window

Looking through Margot's kitchen window

So together with Richard, who lives in south London, she decided to do just that.

Guerrilla - quite literally in Spanish - means hit-and-run tactics. But in this case it's dig, plant, weed and run.

The term implies that you might be doing something wrong and I guess in this case, legally, you are.  But the guerrillas believe the benefits far out way the implications.

"It's not just about gardening," Margot says, "I pick up litter in my area when I see it lying around."

Not that people bat an eyelid nowadays about what others do. When Margot went on her first guerrilla gardening experience in London, grandson Richard supplied her with a fluorescent jacket.

"We were right by a bus stop, people were getting on and off buses, but nobody even looked up and that's what amazed me, nobody took a blind bit of notice."

She sees her grandson two or three times a year and says he is actively guerrilla gardening all over the world.

"In fact he's written books about his exploits, so I told him, I'll buy some off you at cost price and tout them around my friends."

Not so much of a gardener now, Margot has only got a small back yard and a very small plot at the front of her south Devon home.

Elephant in Margot's garden

A hidden elephant in Margot's garden

At one time when she lived in South Brent, she did have a large garden which she enjoyed looking after, but it was her husband who got really stuck in.

"My husband was a very good vegetable gardener, but he didn't know much about flowers.

"I've never learnt much about flowers either, but one of my daughter's - in fact Richard's mother - is a keen gardener and of course Richard is too."

As an army wife Margot has travelled the world but it wasn't necessary to get your hands dirty then.

"We had nine servants in India - you'd have been thought of as very funny, if you grew your own vegetables then."

Guerrilla gardening is a growing group of keen horticulturalists who transform public spaces which have been neglected and left alone.

At night, they dig, mulch, plant and weed to brighten up borders and waste ground with edible plants, flowers and shrubs.

So far no one appears to have fallen foul of law enforcers like the police, although questions have been asked. But it's something Margot suggests people do in numbers.

In fact any newcomers to Richard's campaign to improve the landscape are given a number. Margot is 623.

There won't be many bridge playing nonagenarians living in Totnes who you'll see transforming nearby neglected flowerbeds - but Margot is certainly one of them.

"My conscience makes me go and weed it."

You can meet Margot's grandson Richard when he's in Plymouth on 11 May 2009 at Plymouth University's Roland Levinsky building, where he's giving a lecture on guerilla gardening.  A link to the site is at the top of this page.

last updated: 06/05/2009 at 14:24
created: 22/04/2009

You are in: Devon > People > Your stories > Guerrilla Gardening

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