May 10, 2012 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
UK pothole gardener extraordinaire, Steve Wheen, recently touched ground in Milan to plant 14 of his ubiquitous small-scale gardens during Milan Design Week. Italian auto manufacturer Lancia, who recently launched a new range of eco cars and was looking for some good viral material, sponsored the 14 guerrilla gardening installations, so some of Wheen’s gardens included miniature cars or had road themes.
Six Shoes, a Handbag, Nine Cars, a Swing, Piano, and a Map
Wheen’s signature is the miniature props he employs in staging his tiny gardens. Each garden either makes a statement or comment or functions as a mini public exhibition space.
Who says you can’t garden in small spaces?
Among the 14 Milan gardens, there was a music garden to celebrate the famous Italian composers:
A mini-art-exhibition garden to celebrate the wonderful Italian artists:
Wheen also planted a light bulb garden symbolizing the conception of an idea and a fashion garden (with heels of course.)
“I wasn’t sure how my little gardens were going to go down in Milan, and indeed I was quite nervous.” commented Wheen about his subversive acts of gardening. “However, I needn’t have been as crowds of people stopped to look at the gardens. One of the favourites was the music garden, complete with a lamp, music books and a piano.”
Globetrotting Guerrilla Gardener
Wheen, a London-based creative freelancer, frequently hits the road around the globe planting thematic pothole gardens. He has left planted streets behind in India and Australia, and recently combed the cement of New York and Las Vegas for abandoned patches to plant. “In Vegas,” shared Wheen, “I’m going to do a gambling garden with some dice and cards. I’m still not sure what to do about NYC. Maybe a big apple?”
Urban Gardens met up with the subversive landscaper and asked him a few questions:
1. How the heck did you get into this?
Guerrilla Gardening has been around for a long time, in fact one of the earliest examples I know about is when wives of servicemen used to go out planting flowers along the train tracks during WW1 so their husbands would have a pretty journey home! I have done some guerrilla gardening in the past and really have just taken it to a much smaller scale, which seems to have had a much, much bigger impact! For me, it’s turning something crappy into something happy. It’s making people stop and think about the environment around them, and I hope also gets them to slow down. People in London are always so busy and I think my gardens slow them down.
3. A bit of your background?
I’m an Australian who grew up in Canberra, the bush capital. I’ve been living in London, UK for 8 years. I love gardening. I think there’s something very therapeutic about getting your hands dirty.
4. What do you hope to do with the whole pothole garden thing…future plans, aspirations, ideas…?
I have so many ideas! My gardens are slowly getting more and more complicated. I often ask for ideas on my facebook page and other peoples ideas are wonderful. I’ve got a book coming out soon, and I just want to keep gardening.
5. Do you have sponsors that support your travels?
I don’t have a sponsor (I wish I did) however for Milan design week, that was a special trip that was organised by Lancia. I’m just about to do a mailout to everyone, it has all the information and pictures.
Then off he went to pound the pavement and green the world’s neglected patches of public space…
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