The hiss and scrape of shovels on the night of Friday the 13th: Who's seen this movie? Three figures digging at a strip of earth next to a graffiti-marked cinderblock wall, lanterns throwing weird shadows. No corpses are coming out of the ground in this alley surrounded by condos between Hanover and Grove avenues, though. Instead, Anne Wrinn, Deane Truelove and Laura Usry are preparing the soil to plant bulbs tulips, crocuses and allium followed by some winter-flowering pansies.
Strange, but not quite occult, this nocturnal gardening project is Wrinn's foray into subversion, into the rebel beautification that is guerrilla gardening.
"There's something a little, well, mischievous about planting things under cover of darkness," Wrinn says. She's been inspired by the green movement that has become popular in the urban centers of England, a kind of protest in which a group swarms an unused lot of patch of land and plants crops and flowers, often at night, because it is, technically, against the law.
"It's very much for them a civil rights thing," Wrinn says of those gardeners. But on this night, in this alley, where the small group drinks wine, eats Goldfish crackers and digs, it sure seems like a victimless crime.
Wrinn sent out flyers to the neighbors but got only a few loyal supporters: Truelove, who met Wrinn walking in the very alley they're trying to spruce up, and Usry, who worked with Wrinn in catering at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, but, she says, "Never picked up a shovel in my life."
It's chilly and dark and would seem a little discouraging, but they're inspired by the Hanging Gardens of the Alley Across the Street, the work of a landscape artist who lives there. In that similar gravel lot, vines crawl up trellises near apartments, wine barrels sprout leafy winter vegetables next to SUVs, and long beds wait for their next instructions. It's a long way from Goldfish and crocus, but for Wrinn, "This is the first step to try and make things a little better." S