Gardeners Who Can’t Do Without…

picture-2 How on earth can you do without it? You put on your well-worn clothes, maybe grab a cup of coffee-to-go and try to put computers, cell phones and CNN out of your mind. Now, you’re ready. You’re heading for your garden even in the lean hours of winter. You’re either on a mission or a maybe you just have a vague idea about what you’re about to do but one thing is for sure, you’re glad to be going outside for some peace and quiet. You only need one more thing and you’re ready for the day…

Both new and long-time gardeners have their favorites. Personally, I can’t do without my Felco #2 pruners and holster. I have had this duo for 19 years. The Felcos have been sharpened both at home and by Lowell the Tool Guy and the leather holster is no longer the stiff, light colored symmetrical cone that it was when I purchased it. Now, it’s a dark, almost oily looking, soft-sided, Felco-formed friend that hugs my red handled, ever-sharp Felco #2 pruners. They represent everything that I like about gardening, both the creative side and the “down and dirty” work required. These are my favorite garden tools and I can’t garden without them. Evidently, I’m not the only one so attached to a gardening favorite.

Karla Kleppen, University Place, has been volunteering at Lakewold Gardens for fourteen years with her favorite garden tool, one nobody else has ever seen. It’s a real mystery. Chances are it’s one of very few. In 2007, if you want a new tool, you Google it or drive to the local garden center to buy it. But, in 1948, when Karla got her long handled, swan-necked-heart-shaped hoe it came right to her front door. A door-to-door salesman sold it to her Dad who bought it and gave it to Karla who already loved gardening. There aren’t any markings on it and she suspects it was hand made. The 6 foot oak handle has a slight, quirky bend. It’s anybody’s guess if it was intentional. It’s a sixty year old heirloom and Karla couldn’t garden without it.

Sharon Bellinghausen, Lakewood, keeps buying one tool in particular because it keeps disappearing into the “garden tool black hole”. A lot of gardeners love the versatility of the Japanese Hori Hori knife… but it’s easy to lose. Not to be outdone by its “organic” qualities, Sharon has painted the handle red, thinking it will be easier to find. That works for awhile. Of course, the paint eventually wears off. Then it’s back to the store to buy another one. She hopes some day to discover the cache of Hori Hori’s incorporated into her landscape. In the meantime, Sharon can’t imagine gardening without it.

Sue Goetz, Gig Harbor garden designer, says “I think I have favorite tools but I also tend to lose them. My organizer bucket with the tool pockets at least gives me a place to aim for when I am wondering where I left them last. I get distracted.” Sue admits that her real favorites things in the garden are her fragrant plants. “I couldn’t garden without the fragrances. A garden of fragrance from sweet peas, lavender, heliotrope, herbs and such is a must for me.” She finds herself drawn to them even if they don’t need “harvesting or pruning”. The power of fragrance “brings lots of memories of gardens and people… like Grandma and lavender or the tomato vine on a summer day.” She finds a fragrant garden her inspiration. “ Fragrance I just couldn’t garden without it.”

“Lost” is a common theme for garden tools. If they’re lost and replaced, count them among the best. If they’re lost and forgotten, maybe they weren’t that great. And then again, sometimes it’s high time to replace a favorite that is beyond repair. Ever seen a duct-tape covered Bos Bag? When the percentage of duct tape is higher than the percentage of Bos Bag, maybe it’s time for a replacement.

“Id like to think good-quality tools fit the bill, but in my garden, either they break or I lose them.” Carolyn Maddux, Shelton, has been gardening for 38 years and counts among her favorites the “heavy, fuzzy, burlapish green garden twine that smells slightly tarry. I use it for everything from weaving climbing supports for early peas and beans to staking hollyhocks and sea holly and other unruly leaners and lurchers, for braiding into strings of onions or binding handfuls of lavender for hanging.” She says she supplied it last year for an “opportunistic violet-green swallow who hauled a stray chunk of the twine into its nest box above the arbor, and the end hung out all season like a latch pull.” Plain, green garden twine…Carolyn couldn’t garden without it.

Rick Lupp, Graham, who has owned Mount Tahoma Nursery for 20 years, must have experimented with dozens of garden tools but his “indispensable” item is his cat, Fairweather. “When ever it is not raining or snowing he follows me down to the nursery and display gardens while throwing himself in front of my feet every few steps and rolling over so that I can have the pleasure of scratching his ample belly.” Fairweather loves to head for the sand beds to roll around for a nice dust bath. “He then looks about for a warm sunny spot for a nap while I go about my business. Fairweather takes short little cat naps so that he can find me and come by for a bit of scratching and petting while he meows to me.” The minute Rick leaves his work area chair, Fairweather takes up the space. “No matter how often I toss him out of the chair, he returns as soon as possible. While Fairweather sounds like quite a pest he is actually good company which I would hate to be without.” Gardening wouldn’t be as much fun without Fairweather.

Cats and gardens seem to go together. Cyndi Arent, Roy, knows that first hand. “Gardening is an every day task for me. There is always something that needs tending to, watering or moving.” Cyndi “never faces the garden alone.” “You see, I have some cats, ok, 5 cats, all of them foundlings. They are as much a part of my garden as the plants. I love finding their observation posts in the flowerbeds or see those that rule their domain from the top step of the porch. They make a mess of my catmint but I planted it for them so it’s OK. They are constant companions, following me from front to back, side to side and all around the deck. Unbiased observers. Rain or shine. Shadow, Kali, Dodger, Peter Pan and Tootles. Cyndi can’t imagine gardening without them.

Gardening in winter can sometimes be more reflective than constructive, but when you know you have days ahead filled with fragrance, favorite tools and feline friends it makes the shorter days more bearable.

Article reprinted with permission, Premier Media Group, South Sound Magazine, Tacoma, WA