Yetis, gnomes top list of what not to buy your gardener

A couple years ago I used this column space to extol the virtues of one particular, very pricey but worth-every-cent spade, that caused more than one partner-of-a-gardener to beg me not to do that again because their gardening better halves immediately went in search of the magic spade.

My gift to all those budget-conscious partners of gardeners is a bit of advice on what not to buy as we enter the holiday season.

Approach garden art carefully, especially when it comes to statuary. Garden art is very specific to the garden and the gardener, so it’s crucial to have a very good sense of the recipient’s taste before purchasing what can be a very expensive gift. Some gardeners choose to let the plants do all the talking and others would be happy to collect ornate statues and elaborate water fountains. Get it wrong and you may find the statue of an angel that you so carefully picked out watching over the side of the garden rather than the front of it.

This also goes for yeti, gnome and giant face statues. The likelihood of these going wrong is in the high 90% range.

Tools are obviously excellent and practical gifts, but there’s one tool you shouldn’t give as a gift — hand pruners. They may be the most frequently used tool in a gardener’s arsenal, but they make a lousy gift because they are the most personal.

Some hand pruners are better than others, to be sure. A high-quality blade made of excellent steel, proper spring and a good grip covering along with replaceable parts for longevity, are all hallmarks of good pruners.

Plenty of brands can deliver these qualities. Felco pruners have an extremely loyal following among American gardeners. I’m a fan of a Japanese brand that comes by way of England call Niwaki, but I also like another Japanese brand called ARS, and undoubtedly there are other brands that are equally good.

I’ve used all three of these brands, each of which offers incredibly clean cuts and the ability to sharpen and care for them in a way that will make then last for a decade if not a lifetime. But the difference comes down to how pruners feel in my hand when I’m holding them or cutting with them. The right pruners feel effortless and can almost be used with your eyes closed.

A lot of gardeners say their particular hand pruners feel like an extension of their arm, which is exactly what they should feel like. And it’s not the brand or model that matters, it’s that they just feel right.

That’s not something you can choose for a gardener; it’s something they have to discover for themselves. And since good hand pruners will likely cost between $50 and $100, it’s probably not something you want to take a shot in the dark on.

The exception to this advice is when a gardener has been kind enough to give a very specific “hint” about what they want, like a link to the exact product. And then you just buy that, even if it’s a 6-foot-tall yeti statue for the front yard.


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Ozaukee Press

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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