This Man Planted a Garden by Shooting It

Instead of lead, the ammunition is filled with flower seeds distributed through the blast of a 12-gauge shotgun.

"Flower Shells" turn guns from "life takers" into "life givers." (Photo: Flower Shells/Indiegogo)

Dec 21, 2013· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Gardening is known as a calming pastime, almost meditative in its quiet nature. But it's about to get a lot more violent, thanks to a product that spreads flower seeds by shooting them out of a shotgun.

Per Cromwell is the Scandinavian designer behind Flower Shells—lead-free shotgun shells packed with seeds from flower species such as poppies and peonies. The designer shoots them out of his 12-gauge shotgun right into the ground.

But the product's purpose goes beyond providing a novel way to spread seeds—its greater aim is to turn guns from life takers into life givers.

"I like the idea of turning as many shotguns as possible into flower guns," Cromwell told Wired. "I don't think we can plant too many flowers…. I have no real problems with real guns for hunting, but I can't stop feeling it's better with seeds than lead."

In California, a law banning lead ammunition was signed in October, after the shells were determined to be a hindrance to condor recovery. But in that respect, Cromwell already has competition, as lead-free shotgun shells are readily available on the market, though none of them claims to be able to grow flowers.

A longtime gardening enthusiast, the designer reports on his Indiegogo page that the idea for Flower Shells was born out of simple frustration.

"One day when seeding some meadow flowers it struck me, this could be made much easier, faster, better using a shotgun," he writes. "Soon I had emptied a shotgun shell of lead and filled it with flower seeds."

Flower Shells are made entirely by hand, with Cromwell meticulously opening each one, removing its lead, and repacking it with seeds and a small amount of gunpowder so the seeds don't explode on impact.

What began as a personal experiment quickly evolved once Cromwell saw that his shot-up garden was growing flowers. He began to share the idea among his friends, who in turn spurred positive press attention and eventually, an Indiegogo fund—one that reached completion 56 days ahead of schedule.
Not everyone is as enthusiastic, however. Core 77 calls Cromwell's idea "100 percent questionable." Even with a comparatively small amount of gunpowder, Flower Shells are still live ammunition, which can be extremely dangerous if not handled properly. Commenters on other websites have also noted that Cromwell's idea isn't new at all—a patent for a similar design was established by Vernon Thomas Dwyer in 1976.

Still, the designer hopes to take his product into larger distribution. Its scalability remains in question, but Flower Shells may at least inspire new ways of thinking. As Cromwell explained to Wired, "We need to think about how to improve the things we've already got as much as on inventing new stuff."