Are you sitting comfortably? This is not what gardening is about. After a prolonged session outdoors, you are supposed to be aching in every limb, hungry, thirsty and uncertain as to your success. I’m pleased to tell you that there is no end of kit to help you reach your goal. The purveyors of labour saving devices have clearly put a lot of thought into producing equipment of dubious efficacy. As an example, I cite the rotavator. The websites shout about a machine which is comfortable to use and takes the effort out of turning the soil. They fail to mention the fact that the operator requires bulging muscles to keep the tiller on track and that upon encountering the smallest pebble, the blades will send it screaming through the air like a missile. Should you buy one of these, you will have to source a sturdy hard hat and possibly body armour with a full face welders mask.
Malus sylvestris (crab apple)
Electric mowers are contraptions for use on a tiny lawn, or for testing the patience of your circuit breaker. Energy driven scarifiers are a boon. Strimmers or weed whackers are useful, provided that you get a robust example with an option on a lifetime’s supply of nylon line. The early devices used single thread spools, which worked perfectly adequately. Then they worked out how to get twice the money off us and now you can only buy double feed cartridges. If you don’t pay a king’s ransom for the ready wound version, the filament is designed to tangle ferociously. I don’t care for leaf blowers, I find them heavy and awkward to manoeuvre; vacuums suffer from the same disadvantage. By the time that you have cleared the smallest patch of scrot, your arms feel like over cooked spaghetti; hand rakes and brooms are quicker, quieter and easier. If you want a shredder to chop stuff for compost, check the capability of the beast. If it will not accept anything thicker than paper, you can’t macerate twigs, trees or bodies.
Arum italicum pictum “Marmaratum” (Italian arum)
Hedge trimmers are handy; they are difficult to use on a small scale, so don’t take the tail off your topiary peacock in order to find this out for yourself. If you have a swath of green that requires a sharp edge, given a little practice, these are just the job. Don’t employ power cutters up a ladder unless you know what you are doing, or someone is paying you enough to take care of your dependants for the foreseeable future. Chainsaws should be approached with similar caution. The howl of the engine and the snarl of the teeth tend to encourage prudence. The problem is that in the hands of a man, you may find that their inner lumberjack takes over and you will be left with few plants taller than a pansy.
Iris foetidissima (Gladwin iris) seed pods
Be careful when giving plug-in goods for Xmas gifts. Attila bought me an electric toothbrush, which I took upstairs and wielded with gusto. Mother-in-law misconstrued the purpose of the gadget; she spent the holiday with an expression appropriate to the Inquisition and a mouth like a letterbox. She didn’t speak to me on the day, even to tell me how to cook the festive dinner. Turns out that she thought I’d been given a vibrator.
I dedicate this article to Nelson, the best, most loving and charming black cat that ever made friends with a mouse. There is a door in my house which squeaks just as he did; there is a room in my heart which will be forever empty.