Rosa Rose – more than just a Berlin garden


credits: Renate Wöhrer, Rosa Rose

Berlin is one of the greenest capitals in Europe, if not the world. About a third is covered by parks, lakes, rivers and forests. Moreover, the history of so called allotment gardens in Berlin dates back to the 19th century. Such small gardens were offered to (mainly poor) people to grow their own fruits and vegetables. They were seen as a buffer in times of food shortages and were especially important during the war times and the following years. Nowadays they are used as spaces for recreation. But with Berlin´s growing population and the expanding city, urban land is becoming increasingly rare and many allotment gardens are being cleared. But this has not decreased the citizens wish for green space and gardening. Instead, a new form of garden, so called “community gardens”, has become increasingly popular in the last years. The movement started in the USA and is gaining momentum in European cities. The motives are diverse but what they have in common is that neighbours, friends or even strangers work together to turn backyards, brownfields or other (still) free areas into green oases benefiting a larger community. The initiative “Rosa Rose’’ is one of those community garden projects in the city of Berlin, Germany.

Between enthusiasm and eviction – the founding years


credits: Renate Wöhrer, Rosa Rose

The initiative started in 2004, when a group of neighbours in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain began turning a 2000m² brownfield into a garden to create their own little oasis. The idea was to grow vegetables, some fruits and herbs and create a green space and dog area that would also be open to passers-by. But unfortunately the oasis had to be abandoned a few years later, due to a planned construction. Years of uncertainty followed with new options becoming available, but unaffordable and many other frustrating draw-backs for the initiative. But they didn´t give up and finally in May 2010 they could start to develop their new site, a green public area right next to their original location proposed by the district of Friedrichshain. Since then, a contract with the district office ensures a free usage of the area for at least five years, provided that the group maintains the space.

Cultivating communities as well as gardens

Since the garden established on the third site, the community around it has grown significantly. Now around 20 gardeners work together. Everyone is free to invest as much time and energy as he or she can and wants to offer. The main incentive is not to grow a large amount of food, but to create a green space for neighbours to come together, work and relax. Tools and knowledge are shared among the gardeners. Thus, they make use of the concept of a sharing economy and offer a place to discuss alternative ways of city living. Participation in the garden really is more about the social than the gardening aspects.

Even though the garden is growing and evolving, the initiative still faces some challenges. As it is now located in a public green area where everybody is allowed access. So dogs walk on the beds and sometimes people destroy the beds or “steal” the vegetables. These conflicts are difficult to solve as the public green area remains per definition open to everyone. Due not only to the several evictions throughout its history, the Rosa Rose initiative has a very political nature. It engages in a variety of demonstrations and other political means to express its opinion and fight for community-based initiatives and their interests. Therefore, it is becoming more than just an area for growing vegetables and fruits, but it can also be seen as a space for political incentives. And this idea is also followed by many community gardens: they have the potential to change the way we see the urban life and they can offer solutions for a more resilient and adapted city in times of climate change.


Garten Rosa Rose

Access via: Jessnerstraße 3 or 13 – 10247 Berlin

Article: Gregor von der Wall

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