Tapping into popular culture to attract a new generation of guerrilla gardeners

Tapping into popular culture to attract a new generation of guerrilla gardeners


You see them everyday. They are people just like you and me, but one thing is significantly different. Hidden in her handbag or safely stored in his briefcase are secret gardening tools. If guerrilla gardening is the illicit cultivation and beautification of someone else’s land, then subversive gardening is the act of doing it secretly and stylishly.  But why the need to gardening secretly? As absurd as it may sound, guerrilla gardening is still deemed vandalism and is against the law. From covert tools that act as accessories to ‘seed pills,’ subversive gardening is a cleaner and more fashionable way for guerrilla gardeners to incorporate assaults into their daily routine.


Seeds pills

Seed pills are dissolvable vegetarian capsules filled with organic material and seeds – Image supplied by Vanessa Harden

The idea was born out of pure necessity. I remember going to meet Richard Reynolds, founder of guerrillagardening.org to help with a dig in South London. I soon realised that being a guerrilla gardener demanded that you bring supplies. I left the house with a shovel and headed towards rush hour on the tube, thinking that there must be a better and less obvious way of doing this.

In order for subversive gardeners to be successful, the tools they use need to function as well as merge into current fashion and cultural trends. Camouflaging gardening tools into our every day apparel has become increasingly important in the overall concept of covert horticulture.

Hidden seed dispenser in the handbag

This leather briefcase has been modified into a hole maker while the red handbag dispenses the plant into the hole – Image supplied by Vanessa Harden

The first set of Subversive Gardener tools that I designed was Tools by ‘Q,’ a series of cold war era tools that appealed to city dwellers. Tools by ‘Q’ presents a handbag, briefcase, loafer and camera that double as tools to plant seeds and shrubbery. Each tool is paired with a smart jacket and a variety of seed pills to stylishly integrate gardening assaults into the gardener’s daily routine. These were tried and tested with great success by Richard Reynolds and his loyal gardening troops in various assaults in and around London.

Brass nail-duster

Tools for Her brass ‘nail-duster’ that can be used as a shovel when guerrilla gardening – image supplied by Vanessa Harden

The newest addition to the Subversive Gardener family is Tools for Her. Being launched online next week, Tools for Her presents a trio of brass ‘nail-dusters’ that can be used as a spade, rake and shovel in urban gardening. Each tool is paired with fabulous nail polish and seed varieties to combine gardening into every day activities while staying glamorous and on trend.

The Subversive Gardener collection continues to be an ongoing exploration into urban gardening and public intervention, combining satire and fashion with environmentalism and popular culture. Perhaps with these types of tools, more people will contribute to our urban landscapes? And perhaps by tapping into popular culture we could attract a new generation of guerrilla gardeners?