Berlin residents take on gardening duties

By Haiko Prengel, dpa

BERLIN — Residents of large German cities have started watering trees and taking care of plants in public parks themselves. In some cases it’s because government funding for gardening services has been cut. Their efforts are not welcomed by all city authorities, but what the citizens are doing to improve their living spaces cannot be classified as acts of anarchy. Don’t mess with the young linden tree in front of Brita Bredel’s apartment building in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. Bredel has protected the tender sapling from urinating dogs and careless passers-by by placing rose bushes and nylon traps around it. The 42-year-old pulls weeds around the tree so that colourful flowers can grow in the space, inviting honey and bumble bees to pollinate the blooms. Bredel’s commitment to a patch of ground that is in fact city property is not unique. In Berlin and many other German cities, workforces of municipal gardeners have too much to do and there is too little money available to cover the cost of gardening work.

In the hot summer, entire Berlin parks wither in the heat because city authorities can’t keep up with the watering. The area around the base of most trees in front of apartment blocks is covered with dirt and dog faeces, a situation that has spurred many residents to start taking care of the trees and bushes in their neighbourhoods themselves. Equipped with watering cans and rakes, citizens increasingly are taking responsibility for public green spaces. Germany’s federal environmental protection agency has identified the trend, saying it started a few years ago, particularly in Berlin. Herbert Lohner of the agency called it an “underground anarchical development.” It usually starts small with basic care for the areas under and around streetside trees in high-density residential areas and carries over to gardening in city parks, Lohner said. He considers it a sign that the environmental consciousness of people living in cities has been increasing for years.