HARTFORD, Conn. -- It is impossible to garden without a good, sturdy shovel. And while a shovel might be the only tool without which you cannot garden, that doesn't mean it's the only tool you should have. Certain garden tools and accessories make the job easier, or more comfortable, or just more fun.
There are a number of new garden items on the market this year that snagged our attention, including a special glove to protect arthritic hands, a rake that's also a broom and a handsome new hose holder.
We thought it might be useful to chat with a few people who help tend public gardens -- those of historical societies in the Hartford area. Do they have favorite garden tools? Or is there a gardening tool they wish would be invented?
We started with Louise Pruyne, coordinator of the many volunteers who keep the gardens looking spruce for the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society. An avid gardener, Pruyne's garden must-haves are her trowel, her pruners and rakes in various sizes. She says she's "not one to buy every latest garden tool," but confesses that she "did indulge in a little seed and fertilizer spreader." She also acquired an adjustable rake that is really helpful for cleaning closely planted garden beds.
Margaret Merrill's most useful tool at her garden in the Virgin Islands is a pick ax -- essential for digging out that volcanic rock -- but in Middletown, where she helps tend the flowering trees and perennial gardens of the Gen. Joseph Mansfield House, her Felco pruners are in constant use. If someone wanted to invent something really useful for gardeners, Merrill says, it would be "a tool that's bright and shiny" and could never get lost under mulch and leaves and earth, a common problem for the committed gardener.
Merrill works in the two-tiered gardens behind the Mansfield House, home to the Middlesex County Historical Society, but the society also has herb gardens adjacent to the 18th century brick mansion. Ona McLaughlin of the Middletown Garden Club helps tend the herb garden, which was designed in 1982 and has the privacy and reflective quality of a medieval walled garden.
Her favorite tool is a three-pronged, short-handled cultivator with tensile prongs. "It's great for scratching around and getting up weeds," the gardener says. "And it's old! I got it at a tag sale."
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