Maybe this is not the year to ask Santa for a greenhouse or a stacked stone wall or a burbling water feature. Maybe this year a few stocking stuffers would be more appropriate.
And maybe some of my favorite tools will find their way into your stocking.
I am not a tool collector. Despite efforts of family, friends and garden supply companies to entice me with the newest gardening gadget, I'm happy with the basics. Most are decidedly unglamorous, but all have earned their place in the Thompson Garden Tool Kit.
Her name is Snow White and for years, we heigh-hoed off to the garden, whistling while we worked. Twin sister to the mining tool used by the seven dwarfs, Snow White weighs enough to be effective but not so much that she's tiring. Long before her distributor, Smith & Hawkins, went out of business, she was difficult to find so now I take extra care to be sure she doesn't disappear under a pile of mulch.
I've transferred many of Snow White's duties - most of which involved grubbing holes in my red clay - to the CobraHead. This distinctively shaped weeder-cultivator measures 13 inches long and is equipped with an arc of steel that ends in a flattened point, both sides of which are extremely sharp. Its blue handle, made of recycled composite material, is light weight and easy to grasp. While it may not have the elegant look of my Snow White, it does the job.
I cannot garden without a big blue tarp close at hand. Lightweight and easy to drag from one garden location to another, it's perfect for transporting large amounts of garden detritus. An upscale riff on this idea that is more suitable to small gardens is the English Tip Bag. Made of sturdy plastic fabric, it stands up on its own and has handles on the top and sides for easy dumping.
A 5-gallon bucket is also in my gardening tool repertoire - it's just the right size for tool toting and weeding refuse. But last year I received a set of flexible plastic tub-trugs whose bright colors energized my weeding chores. Available in 3-, 7- and 11-gallon sizes, handles make these tubs easy to maneuver.
I'm prone to leave trowels lying around the garden so I keep an inventory of them in all sizes, shapes and materials. One of my favorites is the Good Grips trowel from the OXO company. Famous for their easy-to-hold kitchen utensils, this trowel boasts a large stainless steel blade with serrated edges and a comfortably cushioned handle.
No gardener can be without a watering can but a good one is hard to find. I have used them all - from the $3 plastic ones to a fancy British import made of metal with an elongated neck and big curving handle. The latter is unwieldy to use but beautiful to look at, so it makes nice garden art.
Ten years ago, I happened upon a Swiss-made watering can distributed by the Dramm company. While its stats are nothing special - 2-gallon plastic with a removable rose (that's the sprinkler-like head) - it's the balance of the can when filled with water that is noteworthy. Add to that a generous opening for filling or adding fertilizer and there it is: the best watering can for quality and performance.
While most of my irrigation is delivered by soaker hose, I couldn't resist the Noodlehead sprinkler - a weird-looking contraption that looks more like a toy than a tool. Imagine a 4-inch round platform with 12 flexible tubes coming out of the top. I can aim these little water jets in all directions to easily water any shaped area.
When it comes to hand pruners, I'm loyal to the Swiss-made Felco brand. Comfortable handles and by-pass style blades constructed of high quality steel make every pruning chore enjoyable. I've also used and gifted Fiskars' line of Power Gear pruners and loppers. These lightweight cutting tools deliver maximum power with minimum hand strength and have received recognition by the Arthritis Foundation.
Sources for gardening tools: