Substance wins over style for this gardener

Erin Schanen

I guess I’ve been gardening a long time because I’ve reached the point where I’ve mostly stopped searching for new garden gear. I’ve experimented enough to know that there are some tools that work perfectly for me and I can stop looking for something better.

Discovering hori horis, which is a fun way to say “soil knife,” was revolutionary for me. I found a tool that could dig out a weed, make a rudimentary hole in the soil, slice open a bag of mulch, cut twine and fend off hypothetical garden attackers. And then I went through at least a half dozen different types of hori horis, from a beautiful wood-handled model that looked like a fine piece of hand crafting but was impossible not to lose to a “serious gardener” version that definitely would have been used in a horror movie.

Ultimately I settled on one with a plastic handle in garish orange that lacks style but excels in all other areas. I own three but at least one is missing at all times.

The same goes for watering cans. I admire the vintage galvanized watering cans that double as objet d’art when not in use, and British company Haws makes watering cans that bring elegance to a job that’s usually more quick and dirty. But my big three-gallon plastic watering cans—watering roses immediately dispensed with because life is too short—offer function that makes up for their ordinary looks.

If I was more interested in looks, I might have spent more than two minutes studying the latest in fashionable watering accessories before deciding it was ridiculous. It’s called Le Sac Seau, a watertight bag made of French linen that you can use to water your garden or, based on the impeccably lit still life type photos, collect about a dozen of the most perfect apples ever grown.

The bucket holds about two gallons of water, a measurement I confirmed with some help from Google, because you will not be surprised to learn that Le Sac Seau is made and sold in France. One linen bucket will set you back $70 plus shipping (but you get free shipping if you spend another $180 on linen buckets for several confused gardening friends). Water is dispensed by, well, dumping out the side of the bucket, which gets the job done, but I expected something a bit fancier.

Less stylish but equally as confusing are the gardening gloves with plastic “claws” over the fingers. The idea, apparently, is that you’ll be able to dig in the garden with your hands thanks to the claws. Careful when you swat a mosquito on your face though.

I’ve been wearing the same cheap gardening gloves for years. A pair costs about $5 in the off season and double that in May, but I’ve amassed a large enough collection of them that I almost never end up wearing two that match. I can’t dig in the soil with them but that’s what the hori hori is for.

My trusty plastic watering cans might lack the je ne sais quoi of a linen watering bucket but I bet they stand up to fish fertilizer better than linen anyway.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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