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The urban greening movement is a type of grassroots direct action where people horticulturally transform their neighbourhoods. It is not illegal, and rather than wait for local council solutions, guerrilla gardeners take matters into their own hands – planting to reclaim public space for public (and for the planet’s) benefit. 

It can be planting bulbs in a street tree bed, scattering native wildflowers onto a bare road verge, or turning a vacant lot into a community allotment. The result is liminal spaces and derelict land used for flytipping is transformed into little oases of flowers, shrubs and trees for the local community to enjoy. Much better than looking at discarded mattresses. 

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Local public green space is not just window dressing: it is a fundamental building block for a good quality of life, says New Economics Foundation. 

According to its report, neighbourhoods dominated by the most recent generation of housebuilding have up to 40% less green space provision than neighbourhoods dominated by late 19th- and early 20th-century housing.

Ever wondered about who creates beautiful gardens in neglected areas of London, which become wastelands of rubbish and discarded furniture?

One of the most committed of these horticultural heroes is Karen Liebreich, a writer, gardener and “creator of small acts of defiant beauty,” as she calls it.

Discovering a secret 17th century walled garden in Chiswick Park, Liebreich set out to restore it to life and documented the results as The Family Kitchen Garden. It offers inspiration for edible plants to feed communities.

She is director of Abundance London and the Chiswick Flower Market, receiving an MBE for services to horticulture and education. As director of Abundance London, she project manages various public realm and environmental projects such as Chiswick Flower Market and Cultivate London and was awarded an MBE for services to horticulture and education in 2013.

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Abundance London was set up by Liebreich with Sarah Cruz and Karen Wyatt in 2010. The semi-guerrilla gardening project tries to reconnect people with nature in an urban environment. Abundance also carries out public realm improvements, creating green, flower and shrub-filled environments through planting and also through art works.

Demonstrating that nature and an urban environment can co-exist, she was moved to act by seeing areas of litter in west London that could be turned into small gardens of biodiversity and flowers.”

Abundance London now looks after 15 pocket gardens and offers advise other would-be guerrilla gardeners. The number of gardens continues to grow. In June, another new garden was started. In partnership with local residents and Ealing Council, volunteers worked on an area between the junction of Kent Road and Church Path in West London. Hopefully, there will be many more to come.

Leibreich is now working on a new book to inspire others to start greening their environment.

You can join join Dr Karen Liebreich for a walk around some of Abundance London's gardens, finishing at the Flower Market where you can stock up with plants and flowers, have a coffee, enjoy the music and atmosphere.

BOOK THE WALK | Greening west London: Guerrilla gardening and flower markets