There are three guiding principles that are at the heart of the Shady Lanes Project.
These are the key to long-term successful projects that will create positive change around the activity of greening our streets and bringing nature into our lives.
While these principles are important for individual residents, they are vital to the success of group projects and collaborations.
- Comply with your local council policy
- Respect the needs and views of all potential users and uses of the space
- Plant predominantly local native plants
1. Comply with your local council policy
The trouble with informal planting projects is that everything goes well - until it doesn't. People plant their gardens and nobody takes much notice. Then someone gets annoyed, there's a complaint, and we end up with lengthy disputes where everybody loses.
For a single gardener, a dispute is unfortunate. For groups, when we are aiming to make verge gardens common, even mainstream, it is a major setback and could threaten the entire project and the reputation of your group.
The emotional nature of verge garden disputes means that a dispute will undermine many of the positive relationships you have built in your community and with other organisations, councillors, and council officers.
To replicate and scale urban greening in public places to green our cities and suburbs, we need to nurture those relationships and maintain trust. Working with councils and respecting the official governance models and guidelines is part of that. Good relationships rely on having a shared purpose.
An obvious shared purpose is “to plant native verge gardens supporting council street trees to increase biodiversity in our public greenspace, provide habitat corridors, and help cool our city” which allows for different people to have their own priorities within that. You could adapt or refine this according to your interests, eg supporting street trees, encouraging people to walk, creating pollinator strips, helping neighbours get to know each other.
Your shared purpose makes every verge garden a simple collaboration between the Council (street trees and policy), the Resident (verge garden), and Nature.
2. Respect the needs and views of all other potential users and uses of the space
The free basic online course - Understanding the Space - will take your members through a reflective process that will help them understand the different perspectives and attitudes they will encounter in this space.
"It’s a challenging place to garden. I think your course has saved me a lot of angst and heartache already." Alex A.
Organisations and groups operating between councils and individual residents can use this to develop communication and advocacy skills within their membership base.
Remind members that they are trying to win hearts and minds, and to encourage others to join with you by converting their own verges. In some situations, that can mean considerable diplomacy and concessions. The slow, iterative method of gardening provides time for conversations to reassure neighbours that you aren’t going to ruin their neighbourhood. More on this here.
3. Plant predominantly local native plants
One participant in our quest to increase planting, shade, and biodiversity, is Nature itself.
Biodiverse ecosystems are vital in addressing the effects of climate change. By planting local native habitat, plants that are native to our soil and climate and that foster the local bugs and wildlife, we can work with nature to help it restore and strengthen complex natural ecosystems above and below ground.
By saying predominantly native plants, it gives some leeway to slip in the odd plant that takes our fancy, provided that is allowed in the local council guidelines and they are suitable plants. As we find out more about native plants, we can replace the other ones. Outings to community nurseries, verge visits and sharing plant lists can be helpful.