A recent guerrilla gardening project in San Francisco began in December 2008. An exit ramp from the Interstate 280 freeway had resulted in left over land—a vacant lot about 150 feet by 200 feet belonging to CalTrans, the state’s highway department. Over the years, the lot had become infested with weeds, dog feces, hypodermic needles from local drug addicts, and all types of debris dumped by people too lazy to dispose of it in a proper way. One day, a passerby dumped a potted princess plant (Tibouchina urvilleana) in the lot. Annie Shaw, a neighbor, noticed the plant and, a few days later, noticed that someone had removed it from its pot and planted it in the ground. This gave her an idea: why not create a garden on this eyesore that she had to look at every day?
What had been a neglected neighborhood blight for years has been rapidly converted into a beautiful oasis for people, dogs, and wildlife. Birds and butterflies are flocking to the garden. Neighbors visit frequently and have begun to volunteer at weeding, planting, and watering. A neighbor crafted a welcoming archway to frame the entrance, and others have helped build steps, set bricks, and move large rocks. The garden has brought neighbors together, many meeting each other for the first time despite having lived on the same street for years. A diverse mix of native and exotic plants is thriving in a most unlikely location, and even motorists on the freeway ramp are slowing down and admiring this colorful surprise—the result of one woman’s vision and determination.