Marianne has recently spent considerable time and effort sprucing up our shop page and making it useful for you.

It now contains a page telling you what tools each Ranter finds useful. And what books they love. So she wanted to know what tools I would recommend, and, as usual, I sort of went off piste, making recommendations which may well seem peculiar. And one of my very favourite tools is not for sale anywhere that I can see – Charles made it by modifying another tool.

Pruner full on copyright Anne Wareham

The tool Charles modified.

So altogether I thought I should do some explaining of my choices.

Maybe someone might tell me where we could all get a tool of the kind Charles made. Or you may have a Handsome Helper of your own to do one for you.

It originally looked like this:

Pruner with blade copyright Anne Wareham

You will see that it has a useful – but intrusive – blade. Intrusive if you want to pull a weed with it.

It’s a pruner

and it enables you to chop things at a distance, which can be extraordinarily useful. Kind of like this. But I could see just how good it could be for weeding because I could sometimes manage to pull up a weed instead of chopping its head off. All a matter of angles, as my father used to say. It looked to me as if it would be easy to remove the blade from the pruner, so I asked Charles to do that, knowing how competent he is. It was not easy. It would not remove. He had to cut the sharp bit out, which was fiddly and difficult. But he did it and now mostly it will enable me to pull a weed out without bending down. Though, truth is that it still does sometimes decapitate by pulling the top off instead of pulling the plant out with its root. Just sometimes, but when the weed comes back I get a second go…

Pruner without blade copyright Anne Wareham

Looks like some prehistoric monster – but toothless now.

I have no idea why you don’t seem able to buy such a thing. There seems to be an assumption that you can lever a plant out, but that requires solid ground quite unlike a flowerbed. They should employ proper gardeners in their design departments.

Pruner closed copyright Anne Wareham

Jaws shut. Looking miserable.

Then I might have suggested my favourite spade next.

It may be something called a drain spade, but as you see, it has a flat end, and it’s great at getting into difficult places. I couldn’t find one online. I bought mine at a flower show, years ago and I wish I could show you one you could buy. But someone may know of one? It has a nice comfortable handle, foot rests so you don’t split your shoes, and a nice pointy end. UPDATE! Ben has just told me who made my spade and I think you can still buy them – even in America. Here.

Favourite spade copyright Anne Wareham

It may be a trench or a drain spade (or shovel??) 

The next one was easy – the wonderful expanding hose.

Expandable hose copyright Anne Wareham

Doesn’t look different from any old hose BUT:

The best thing about it is how light it is and how it doesn’t kink. And it’s fun to see it coil up again like a mad snake when you’re finished: though keep out of the way, because it goes bonkers, whipping around all over the place. It is a challenge getting it where you want it in the first place if you put a sprinkler on the end, because you can’t turn it on to make it expand without getting soaked. But if the sprinkler has a spike which will hold it secure against the pull of the expanding hose, you can take it to where you want it, stick it in the ground and return to turn on a suitably distant tap. Sorted!

But it does get leaks. We were delighted to discover you can repair these. Or, at least, Charles can. :-]

The video has subtitles (closed captions?)! These are the packets Charles shows:

Other hose repair kits are available. And he was gardening at this time, as you can see.


Finally, many of you will have one of these,

but may not have recognized what a wonderful garden tool they are.

Android phone copyright Charles Hawes

Christopher Lloyd used to prat on about the importance of a garden notebook, and he would refuse to tell people plant names unless they had the means to write them down. He no doubt stood over them while they did it. Well, there’s still a bit of that goes on with our visitors, but at least these days they usually bring us a photo on their phone to identify. Soon they will all have the useful identify plants app, and not need us to help. Though they might need us to confirm, since such apps require some basic knowledge, being sometimes wildly out.

But more than all that, a phone is always in my pocket so that I can record what’s going on in the garden. What’s in flower. What looks good in winter. What needs doing. What insect/bee/fly is it. What plant works well with another. What is not working well, so I can puzzle over it. O – and (o, very rarely..) identify plants I’ve forgotten the name of. Or to discover if it’s a weed. And being a garden that we open, it also enables me to Instagram  and Facebook garden pics in the hope that it may encourage people to visit us. But Marianne was clearly surprised that I wanted my phone on my recommended tool list. I think she may have a paper and pen notebook. I have one on my phone. I could probably speak to it but actually I just write things down.

And without my phone, how would I illustrate these posts for you?