Can’t live without…

Every gardener has their favorite indispensable tools and accessories and I am no exception. I have a long history of being a sucker willing to try the great new thing in the marketplace for all my life’s activities. As a quilter I cannot pass by a new ruler designed to cut something I have been cutting all along with an old ruler, but this one promises to make the job just a little easier. In my baking life I have enough specialty pans for 10 kitchens and try to ease my guilt by loaning them to anyone who shows even a slight interest (madeleines, anyone?) I can’t even get into the excesses in the greater craft genre—stamps, die cutters, paper, wood, findings—oh, my! My claim to fame is that I am way more successful at gathering and organizing the supplies and accessories for a project than I am at actually sitting down to work on it. When my youngest son played Little League we lovingly called him “accessory boy” for the number of batting gloves, wristbands, guards of all types and custom Oakley prescription sunglasses needed for him to catch that ball behind the plate. Apparently you can be genetically predisposed to accessorize!

The stage being set you will be amazed to know I am pretty one dimensional and non-innovative (is that a word?) in my gardening accoutrements.  Here are a few of my favorites:

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CORONA BYPASS PRUNERS

I have been using this style of hand pruners for at least 35 years. Let me clarify–not these exact pruners–if I had a dollar for every pair I have lost in the garden or thrown away accidentally, we would be living in Paris now with a view of the Eiffel Tower! Every now and then a fresh young thing comes on the market trying to woo me away but I always come back to these. The larger pair is the Corona Classic Cut BP3180 which cuts up to 1″ diameter branches. The smaller is Corona Classic Cut BP3160 which cuts up to 3/4″. I have a third one yet a bit smaller, the BP 3130,  but I am sure you’ve have guessed that they are not pictured because they are currently lost in the garden somewhere. The middle size is my go-to pair of pruners for deadheading and general clipping back. It fits well in my hand, is not too heavy but gets the job done. My husband likes the larger ones and he gets to use them in return for keeping all 3 sharpened. He can be a rather over enthusiastic clipper if left unsupervised, not too much into the art of it and more into the “if I just cut it to the ground then I don’t have to worry about it for a good long while” school of pruning. As a left handed person these are the only pruners I have found whose lock to close mechanism (to the right of the spring in the photo) is accessible for me to operate with my thumb while I am holding the clippers. The locking mechanism is generally on the wrong side of the tool for me to use it one handed and I have to shift the clippers to my right hand then lock with my left–very cumbersome and really a deal breaker for me.

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ATLAS GLOVES

I resisted wearing gloves in the garden for decades and my hands and nails told the tale.  A few years ago I received a pair of these Atlas Nitrile 370 gloves as a gift from a young lady whose father owns a nursery and I was a changed woman!  These very lightweight yet strong and flexible gloves answered every objection I ever had about garden gloves.  The palms and fingers are coated with nitrile making them durable while the body is stretchy nylon/polyester.  I buy a size small so that they fit quite tightly but are still very comfortable.  These are the only gloves I  have ever had that allowed me to actually pull small plants out of 6 paks without damaging them.  It is a joy to be able to wear gloves to protect my hands without reducing my dexterity! I also use them when I paint rather than latex gloves. I machine wash them and hang them to dry.  Last year I found that I could purchase them in groups of 6 pairs through Amazon for about $18 (this may have changed) so I usually have several pairs in use and at least a couple in reserve. A++

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RAPICLIP SOFT WIRE TIE

I use several products to train and tie up vines and roses and this is my favorite.  A very fine wire runs through the center of the green tube which allows you to simply twist the ends together.  The gauge of the wire allows the tie to be cut with household scissors or your pruners. The soft exterior material is strong but easy on delicate leaves and stems and the green blends in with surrounding foliage so as not to draw attention to your support.  It weathers very well through heat, cold and rain and when I remove supports I keep the cut pieces to reuse.

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GREEN VINYL COATED PLANT SUPPORTS

This category comes as close as we will get today to accessories gone wild!  I have literally hundreds of these, in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The green vinyl coating disappears amongst your foliage and allows you to invisibly support all kinds of plant material.  They are easy to push in and pull out to move about your beds, relocating them to meet current needs. The half hoop supports come with ‘legs’ from 12″ long to 48″ long.  The half hoop part may be anywhere from only a few inches across or as wide as 18″ across.  The larger/taller ones are perfect to support great masses of floppy perennials such as penstemon or salvia which can tend to bury their neighbors at the peak of their growing/blooming season or, in my garden, fall over onto the lawn and get cut off by the lawn mower.  Smaller scale plant masses use the smaller scale supports.  The bloom stakes have an almost full circle at the top of a long stake and also come in lengths from about 12″ up to 36″.  Generally the longer stake will have a slightly larger bloom circle at the top. The idea is that you insert the stake in the ground at the base of the plant and then gently lead the bloom’s stem through the open part of the circle.  These are invaluable for plants that have flowers with long stems and heavy heads. The weight of the flower may lay the stem down on the ground or even break the stem.  The bloom support takes the weight of the flower head off the stem and allows the flower to stand tall and proud to be enjoyed by all!  I use these all the time on iris, calla lilies, asiatic and oriental lilies. Vinyl coated plant supports are available at many retail nurseries but I have found much more variety at online sources such as Gardener’s Supply or Plow and Hearth.

What do you use that you could not live without?  I’d love to hear about YOUR must haves!

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