Useful and acceptable gifts - December 2022
The great entertainer Joyce Grenfell, famous for her comic monologues, started her career by giving an impression of a lecturer at a meeting of the Women’s Institute explaining how to make ‘Useful and Acceptable Gifts’ using ‘beechnut husk clusters’. Here is a recording.
She assures us that not only are these gifts easy to make but also “easy to dispose of”. Priceless.
So I will avoid stepping into this same trap with my recommendations for Christmas presents for gardeners. In fact, everything I am about to suggest can be purchased on the web. And I hope there will be no need to ‘dispose’ of them.
First of all, the gardener’s essentials:
I have not been able to find here in Umbria a decent spade or fork that is easy to use, light weight and strong. The ones that are popular locally are very heavy and made of low-grade metal with a long wooden handle. I can’t even lift them.
Nothing beats stainless steel: the sharp edge or prong slices easily into the earth and mud doesn’t stick. It won’t rust if you leave it out in the rain. And an ergonomically designed handle is kinder to hands.
My favourite is a small version which is termed a ‘border’ spade or fork rather than the full-sized ‘digging’ type.
At the other end of the scale are small hand tools - trowels and weeders.
Even for small trowels it still pays to look for high grade stainless steel – for all the same reasons. And if you lose a trowel in the garden it won’t have gone rusty by the time you find it again. I like the ash handles on the trowels made by Sneeboer, especially the narrow bladed ‘Great Dixter’ model which really gets down to bulb planting and dandelion weeding.
Totally different and irreplaceable is my CobraHead weeder. It came from the USA and it is made from incredibly strong steel and you can really hack into the ground with it. The blue plastic handle is a lot more comfortable than it looks. Unbeatable for tackling large areas of weeds and preparing the ground for seeds.
If like me you have arthritic hands and joints then a little electronic help is welcome. I find that battery-operated trimmer and secateurs take the strain when doing pruning of small shrubs such as lavender and roses. On a full charge they can keep going for as long as I want them to (I get bored easily).
For cutting bigger branches then traditional secateurs are fine, but I particularly like the Felco Model 7 which has a rotating handle that swivels on its axis and reduces pressure on the hand.
A decent quality pair of long-handled pruners is also indispensable.
I am not going to suggest a strimmer because I hate the things.
And as a final ‘stocking filler’ present I notice that the RHS has a wide range of attractive and unusual gloves. I am particularly attracted to the style “Lady Chatterley’s Glover”. They give suggestions of what these gloves would be best suited to but I can’t help thinking the RHS had more ‘activities’ in mind when they chose this name …
Many of these articles first appeared in the Castiglione del Lago monthly newsletter “Qua e là” edited by Priscilla Worsley
All text and photographs © Yvonne Barton unless stated otherwise