Shrubgate takes new twist

TO some it is the Human Shrub to others the Human Weed, but yesterday Shrubgate, as it has been dubbed, took a new twist.

Roddy Ashworth

TO some it is the Human Shrub to others the Human Weed, but yesterday Shrubgate, as it has been dubbed, took a new twist.

For just a day after the EADT reported the Human Shrub had been out tending Colchester's weed-filled municipal flower containers, council contractors were out in force to tidy them up.

The anonymous Human Shrub tended to one of the neglected containers at the weekend, removing unwanted vegetation and replacing it with a bush and some flowers.

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His gesture came after local Conservatives criticised the Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition running Colchester Borough Council for failing to look after the containers or plant any floral decorations, instead allowing them to become filled with weeds.

And yesterday a group of workers blocked off a lane of Balkerne Hill yesterday to weed the civic pots and fill them with wood-chips before they are planted next year.

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The Human Shrub first came to notice in April when he demonstrated outside Colchester Town Hall after the council implemented a cost-cutting policy to grass over one in five of its roadside shrubs and rose gardens.

Before a crunch meeting he wandered up and down the High Street calling for people to “save his brothers the shrubs, and sisters the roses”.

The council quickly reversed the unpopular policy and the remaining plants were spared the chop, but not before the affair was labelled “Shrubgate” by opposition politicians.

Yesterday Kevin Bentley, leader of the Conservative Group at the council, said he suspected the pots may have been filled with wood chips yesterday to stop the Human Shrub improving them any further, effectively gagging the horticultural super-hero.

He added: “I honestly do not know who the Human Shrub is, but I will say that I think he has done Colchester a great service.

“I am pleased the council is at least clearing them up but I am suspicious - putting wood chips in will stop anyone such as the Human Shrub from improving them.

“These tubs were once full of flowers. The town even won awards for them. And now they look awful.

“The first thing visitors and residents should see when they come into Colchester is a great floral display, and now they see a total mess.

“The Human Shrub has taken a lead where the Lib Dem and Labour councillors are failing to deliver.”

But yesterday Colchester Labour cabinet member Tim Young - who refuses to use the term Human Shrub, instead dubbing the mystery gardener the “Human Weed” - insisted that yesterday's clean-up had been booked well before his intervention.

“This was already planned. We can't just close lanes on dual carriageways like that - we have to apply to the county council.

“The timing is a complete coincidence.

“We are now looking for a large dose of weedkiller to deal with the Human Weed.

“We will look after the town's plants and the containers will be planted next June. That is why we are putting the woodchips in now, to seal them.

“What Kevin says is typical of the Tories. We put people first and they put shrubs first.”

* Do you know anything about the Human Shrub? And what do you think of his one-plant crusade? Write to the EADT at 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP41AN or email

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