Footpath Gardens That Brighten Brisbane: Contribute To The People’s Gallery

A treat for the eye, pollen for bees, and nectar for beneficial insects

A treat for the eye, pollen for bees, and nectar for beneficial insects

Have you converted your nature strip turf into a footpath garden? This is a call on gardeners to send me a photograph showing how you have put the nature back into your nature strip. A short sentence (or two) explaining what footpath gardening means to you would add value to your image. I can add brief comments as image captions. Until the law changes, images will be published anonymously to protect you from prosecution by Brisbane City Council.

Please email your images to me at:

You never know, this may become a television gardening story!

I want to create the first public gallery of how people cultivate this little strip of public land outside their home.

Brisbane City Council has flagged a review of the section of its Natural Assets Local Law (NALL, 2003) which forbids the cultivation of nature strips by ratepayers. Over the past decade, many dedicated gardeners have cultivated the footpaths outside their homes in contravention of the NALL only to find themselves being criminalised by Brisbane City Council and threatened by heavy fines if they fail to re-turf their work within arbitrary deadlines.

In some cases, Brisbane City Council has negotiated settlements allowing footpath gardens to continue with modifications, such as the verge garden in Wynnum West. Supporters of the elderly couple responsible for this garden were ready to picket councillors, so this was a step in the right direction for BCC.

To boldly garden where no one has gardened before…

If you want to garden on your verge, visit my blog ‘To Boldly Garden Where No One Has Gardened Before‘.

What is the result of footpath gardening? Much research points to increased sale prices of property – a pretty front garden and nature strip can add up to 10% of the value of your home and it helps property sell faster. Real estate agents like the concept.

A study involving the Community Greening project by the NSW Department of Public Housing and the NSW Police found that streets where people actively garden in public experience a drop in petty crime, like theft, vandalism and graffiti.

Pretty much every study completed around the world agrees that the social benefits of gardening on public land are a sustained boost in well-being of the gardeners and a greater sense of community through meeting and socialising with neighbours. It’s grass roots community building.

As a Park Manager in the 1980’s I had the good fortune of working for England’s most ‘right-wing’ council (Wandsworth) and England’s most ‘left-wing’ council (Islington). Through different perspectives, both councils had policies which encouraged ratepayers to improve the amenity value of their streets through gardening. Wandsworth famously instigated a ‘Brighter Borough’ campaign, promoting and installing footpath gardens and a comprehensive tree planting programme. (I managed the latter.)

Gardening on public open space is not a party political issue. Instead of heavily fining public-spirited rate paying gardeners, these councils developed regulations that included them. I administered provisions that ensured lawn mowing, weed control, tree maintenance and road maintenance services and contractors worked with footpath gardeners, not against them.

Good on Brisbane’s ratepayers for taking a stand against stupid, municipal red tape that has for too long blocked people from realising the full value of their homes, frustrated the desire to beautify our city by putting land to better use – and opposing our natural desire to behave like a social species.

How do I garden on my verge? Read: ‘To Boldly Garden Where No One Has Gardened Before’.

Jerry Coleby-Williams
5th November 2015