London Art Spot: Steve Wheen

Steve chatting with Camilla

Have you ever walked down the road and smiled at an unexpected bunch of pretty flowers popping out of a rugged pothole? Quite possibly not just an act of nature, but that of guerilla gardener, Steve Wheen (especially if they come accompanied with little tiny props). As a cyclist these unnecessary gaps in pavement stood out for Steve as potential for creativity.

I had a chance to catch up with Steve after a rush of making mini Olympic gardens to see what this is all about. He explains his motives below, shares a few videos (one about little garden he created in honour of the royal wedding) and tells us about his first book coming out in October.

Planting a Queen’s Jubilee garden with Camilla

LLO: In which ways does living in London inspire your creativity?
SW: I find London a very inspiring place to live as it is such a melting pot of different cultures. I also think that people who live in London are very open to different types of art (for want of a better word).

LLO: When and why did you start creating pothole gardens? What message do you hope to communicate through your work?
SW: My work is all about creating unexpected moments of happiness. I find that everyone wants something from you when you’re on the street – whether it’s signing up to a charity or someone asking for money. My work is all about giving something back. I started the project in 2009 and it’s grown from there… (pun intended!)

LLO: How do you decide if a pothole is worthy of your mini gardens?
SW: It’s all about location really. I like to create my little gardens where people will see them – especially kids. I don’t ever garden on busy roads!

Olympics race track

LLO: So you’ve found a good looking pothole. What happens next?
SW: I generally plan my gardens in advance. So, for example, I did a series of gardens based around the Olympics. I’ve also done gardens to celebrate events like the Royal Wedding. Once I’ve found a suitable site for my garden, I’ll arrive very early in the morning and I’ll get gardening! Depending on the complexity of the garden, it generally only takes about 20 minutes to create each one.

Olympics gym rings

LLO: Tell us about your favourite project so far.
SW: My favourite garden so far has to be the royal wedding. I also created a little film about it which has had some great feedback

LLO: How do you decide which plants to use in your pothole gardens?
SW: It’s all about scale and what’s in season. The plants need to compliment the props and it all needs to look like they’re on the same scale.

Olympics long jump

LLO: Approximately how many pothole gardens have you planted in London and how often?
SW: I’ve made over 100 gardens in the last three years in London. I’ve also gardened in Milan, New York and Bangalore, India.

LLO: Do you return to visit your gardens to check on them? How long do they typically survive?
SW: By their very nature, they are ephemeral. Some of my gardens don’t last long at all (half an hour). One of my gardens has lasted a few years. For me, that’s not really the point. It’s all about getting out there and doing something positive.

LLO: What do you do with your life when you’re not guerrilla gardening?
SW: I work as a freelance creative.

LLO: You have a book coming out in October. What can we expect?
SW: The little book of little gardens is a collection of images/thoughts of my gardening antics, many not seen on my blog.

Thanks Steve!

You can also find Steve on his website.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.