{ Archive for the ‘garden gear’ Category }

Jenni’s tree chair

With my landscaping overhaul two years ago and various articles this spring, I’ve been thinking a lot about garden furniture this year. It’s a major element missing in my yard.

Being of humble means, and not into grabbing the cheapy trend-of-the-moment patio set from the big box store, (translation: picky, but not rich enough to be) I’ve been biding my time until the right pieces come along. This approach to shopping problems has always served me well. (Pair of black dress boots, my size, exactly the style I wanted but couldn’t find, mint condition, for free, at a garage sale. Oh yeah.)

I’ve thought a lot about the style I would like, and I’m leaning towards rustic without being too stereotypically “cottage” style. (See? Picky.)

I think my sister Jenni is right on the money. And this chair suits her, being an arborist. Custom made by her husband, I’m seriously debating commissioning a couple. With my riches, you know.

Footwear for serious gardening

During my epic search for a great pair of rain boots this spring, Tara suggested I might like to try some Blundstones: not a rain boot, more of an all-out work boot. The lovely people at Tin Shack offered to send a pair out, so why not, right? A pair of Blundstone CSA Greenpatch boots arrived a few weeks ago and I’ve been putting them through the paces ever since. I must say, they have passed every test I’ve invented.

The first pull-on was rather stiff–high arches strike again–and I was skeptical they would ever be comfortable. I thought I might have to take them to a cobbler for stretching (an option mentioned in the product insert). However, they have shaped to my foot very nicely in just a few weeks and go on and off easily. They do come with inserts so you can adjust the fit within your size, but I’m not using them. I’m generally a size 7, but I asked for a size 7 1/2 because I thought there could be nothing worse than a tight work boot. I’m finding when I put them on I think I could have gone with a 7, and by the time I take them off I’m glad I got the 7 1/2. They don’t rub or anything and my toes like the wiggle room.

I’ll be honest. I expected to get blisters and lead feet wearing these. I’m more into bare feet than army boots. So, after wearing them for a half hour to an hour a day for the first few days, I decided to consider them “broken in” and wore them all day. I’d be lying if I told you “I didn’t notice them at all,” but I really was impressed with how lightweight they are. Even this klutz didn’t get tripped up. And no blisters.

I think... I may... conquer the world with these boots.

I found myself on an extension ladder trimming tree branches in a downpour (long story). I’m not a heights person but I felt pretty solid climbing with these boots, and not solid in a clunky, bulky way, but in a safe, reliable way.

I stepped into my mudhole — I mean veggie garden — to check it. I maintained traction and dryness and escaped with my life. And my boots.

I edged all the flower beds and most of the veggie garden in one day and didn’t even feel it. Let me rephrase that– my feet didn’t feel it. My back didn’t like bending like that for that long, but my feet were oblivious, as were my legs. You know that achy shin and hip you can get when you do a lot of slamming your foot into a shovel’s tread? Nothing. Thank you, Kevlar shank. I don’t know the technical name for the phenomenon of impact vibrations resonating through the body. Go ask your chiropractor, then go get some Blundstones.

I was digging some overgrown clover out of a bed I’m prepping for plants and swung my fork a little wild as I straightened up. The prong landed square on my foot. Left an insignificant dent in my boot; would have left a significant dent in my toes if I’d been wearing my Crocs.

Knowing how some shoes split right down the middle of the sole, and thinking of all the digging/edging I’ve been doing, I also just checked the soles of my boots for signs of cracking or dents or… anything. So far, so good. Other than some gravel caught in the treads, they could be brand new.

Speaking of gravel in the treads, I found this dried bit of mud in my entry after a dirty battle with some dandelions.

Oh, sure, I thought. It’s all good now, with all the rain, and the air temperature barely flirting with the teens, but just wait till summer really arrives. So I waited. And waited.

And Tuesday it came! On the calendar and in reality! And I gotta say, these boots are very breathable. My feet did get warm (how could they not) but not sweaty, and not uncomfortable. Of course, I also ditched them for flip flops by four o’clock to have Dutch Oven at the neighbors… but I think they pass.

Here’s a weird little personal thing I have with footwear: I hate not being able to bend my ankle and my foot. I have kids, I crouch down, sit in the grass, crawl through play houses… and I garden the same way: kneeling, reaching. I need mobility. I thought a work boot would cramp my style, like a puddle boot can with its stiff upper. Or I feel like I’m going to crack the sole by crouching to much. Well, count another check mark for the Greenpatch. I’ve already mentioned the amazing durability of the soles, but get this: they bend too. And the elasticized sides allow more ankle movement than I would have expected while still maintaining support.

So in case you’re hazy on my opinion, I love these boots. I’ve planted trees and climbed them, forked soil and double dug it, checked the flooded crawl space and driven the kids to piano. My Blundstones have seen a lot in the last three weeks, and I am not a gear girl at all, but they are my new best friends.

Though you can still count on seeing me in my red crocs when the work is lighter.

The epic search for puddle boots

My footwear of choice for gardening is a pair of beat up Crocs, but I see rain boots as a stand-by piece of equipment for the dedicated gardener. When you’re digging a big planting hole or fishing something out of a pond, dealing with prickly brush or wrestling with ornery hoses, you want your feet good and protected. My old stand-by black rubber boots got a crack in the heel last fall, so I told Chris I wanted new, fun ones for Mother’s Day. He said, “Great, go ahead and find the ones you want.” Smart man, huh?

So the last couple of times I’ve been in town I’ve looked around a bit (translate: while dashing through the grocery list with the kids I’ve noticed a few), but never took the time to try anything on. But this week I found myself in Edmonton all by myself (!) with a few hours to kill (!!) and decided to find my new puddle boots. Fairly straightforward, right?

Well, let me tell you.

I thought with the old “April showers” saw it would be easy to check a hand full of retailers and be able to peruse a reasonable selection of rain boots for somewhere between $15-$40, depending on the quality. Not so much. Walmart, Old Navy, and Payless had all gotten rid of theirs already: either sold or sent back to the company because the “season is over.”

Excuse me? The runways and window dressers may be switching gears to flip flops, but there’s still plenty of mud at my house. Are we expecting NO rain ALL summer? A lovely lady at the Shoe Company in Calgary sympathized with me: “How come they don’t realize it’s not just about fashion around here, but also nessecity?” She had a great pair of green ones, but they had a fuzzy, winter-minded lining. Pass. The few I did see were either no fun, ill-fitting, or not my size.

I’m kind of picky about my footwear because I have widish feet with high arches (thanks, mom) and fit is tricky, especially with a fairly rigid item like rubber boots. I was against getting anything online for this reason, but since the on-the-shelf retail life for rain boots appears to be 9.3 days, I decided to see what I could find in the web world.

Kamik Janis Plum Rain Boots

Love these, but they're kind of tall and kind of more than I wanted to spend. Also they seem awfully narrow through the ankle = impossible for me to get on.

Gum Drops has a pretty impressive range of choices, but the prices are mostly higher. Sears carries a few, there’s some American retailers, Walmart’s website has nothing but Spiderman…

Sperry Top-Sider® Women's Waterproof 'Nellie' 8'' Fashion Rainboots

These are available from Sears, but I'm not crazy about the colors.

Then I found RainCo — a Ladner, B.C. company that makes their own funky rain boots (and umbrellas!). They have several styles, including a shorter-topped one that seems like it would be more comfy for me, and they have a big tab in the back to help pull them on over my beautiful arches. And they come in my favorite color! After checking the return policy, I think I’m going to splurge on these. I love them, so I’m willing to go a little higher in the price range… anybody want to clue me in on other options?

I think these are the winners.

Gardening gift of the day: Botanical art


Instead of making crackers or drying fruit to eat, artist Diane de Roo has used her dehydrator to create works of art. I first saw her work at last year’s One of a Kind Show in Toronto and fell in love. Diane captures all the intricate details of various fruits and vegetables and freezes them in time. They are then hand-painted and framed. Choose from larger frames or smaller shadow boxes. These are great gift ideas for both avid cooks and green thumbs and would look amazing hung in a kitchen.

Price: from $55
Available at: Order information is on the website, Botanical Art by Diane de Roo.

Gardening gift of the day: Botanical tea towels

These colourful botanical tea towels recently caught my eye and I made sure to add them to my list of gifts for gardeners. Based out of Vancouver, Creative Tea Towels takes the work of Canadian artists and prints it onto 100 per cent cotton tea towels. The design shown above, Shirley Poppies, was painted by botanical watercolourist and avid organic gardener Lyn Noble. There are some other lovely designs to choose from, as well.

Wrap them up for the gardener on your list or use them as eco-friendly wrapping paper to envelope a small gardening gift.

Price: $14.99 to $17.99
Available at: Online and at boutique shops across Canada. See the website (linked above) for details.

Gardening gift of the day: An art nest

This little gem caught my eye at the One of a Kind Show (if you’re in Toronto before Sunday, it’s at booth P4). It’s an art nest that can serve double duty as a suet feeder and as a building supply shop for the birds – the wool is enticing for nest building. According to Tracey Martin, half of Martin House Garden Art with her husband Derek, it’s always been a best seller and by the end of day 3, they had almost run out. Derek apparently made more last weekend. I believe it was Derek I spoke to at the booth and he said they would ship the nest if you call or email to place an order.

Price: $48
Available at: Martin House Art in Barrie, Ont. or by special order.

Gardening gift of the day: The Thoughtful Gardener

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Thoughtful Gardener Watering Can, $39.99

Sometimes it’s really hard to find garden gear at this time of the year – a lot of stores have packed it all away for the season. With that in mind, Chapters Indigo has come out with these charming tools and accessories featuring whimsical quotes just in time for the holiday season.

The secateurs have rubber-coated handles and a non-stick, coated blade. The tool set features a trowel and fork made of stainless steel with weatherproofed ash handles. If your green thumb is already all geared up, the watering can is not only functional, it deserves a spot on a shelf – indoors or out. And I bet your favourite gardener doesn’t have a twine tin. Family, if you’re reading this, the twine tin is on my list!

Price: as per photos
Available at: Chapters and Indigo stores across Canada and online

* Check back every weekday until December 23 for more great gift ideas!

Thoughtful Gardener Tin of Twine, $9.99

Thoughtful Gardener Secateurs, $24.99

Thoughtful Gardener Tool Set, $29.99

Gardening gift of the day: Ethel Gloves

In June, I received a pair of Ethel Gloves to try out after attending a GWA luncheon. I was excited because Martha Stewart had recently tweeted the stylish gloves, so I was curious to put them to the test. I have to admit – the gloves were so pretty I didn’t want to get them dirty. But then reality set in when more than one finger started to poke through the cute pink pair that I got for my birthday from my parents last year. And I was tired of digging dirt out from under my fingernails. So I pulled the pretty Ethel gloves out of their pretty box and wore them every day I was out in the garden this summer.

And they survived – even through my extensive front yard reno. Reinforced fingertips mean that I can wear my gloves next year because I haven’t worn them out. An extended cuff prevented dirt from sliding into my glove throughout all my digging. If I really want to, I can throw them into the washing machine. And, even beneath all that dirt, they’re still really pretty.

Price: $20 US
Available at: RONA stores across Canada

* Check back every weekday until December 23 for more great gift ideas!

The box was so pretty, I had to take a picture. The style I received is called Jubilee.

Disappointing Hoses

While cleaning up one of my flower beds this fall I found yet another soaker hose with a hole in it. It’s one of the black foamy types, and it’s ripped almost in half. I’ve been responsible for this kind of damage before (garden fork, anyone?), but more than once I’ve found a busted hose with no clues about its demise. A rogue rose thorn? A particularly hungry gopher?

The obvious next thing to do is blame the hose itself as being crappy. I’ve tried the green kind with the pin prick holes, but they were constantly kinking on me if I try to put the teeniest curve in them. I moved on to the black kind. I tried a Canadian Tire and a Home Hardware brand. Both bit it within the season. I bought some repair kits. New cracks appeared. So I shelled out a little more for some Gardena ones. They lasted quite well, actually, and came with lots of quick connect pieces. That was the one I found this morning. This is only the second season I’ve had it, but even so I think it was the better buy. The ends are self repairing; if I cut down the hose to where it broke, they’ll reattach, making the same, but shorter, hose.

So the next thing to blame is water pressure, or storage practices… I thought I was being careful in both these regards.

I expect to repair, as well as replace, hoses now and again, but I wasn’t counting on doing it at the rate of three or four a year. Am I missing something? Is there a better way? A better brand? A Holy Grail?

Or is this just part of the gardener’s yearly lament that I was unaware of?

Oh Muskoka chair, how you make me long for spring!

Yesterday I attended a PC Home Patio & BBQ preview where we got to see what’s in store for spring. Around the showroom were vignettes showcasing the patio furniture and accessories that will soon be making their way to a Loblaw-owned store near you. The comfy furniture and some of the juicy colour palettes really made me long for spring, especially the vibrant Muskoka chair shown below. Made of painted wood, this quintessential summer chair comes in blue, green and red (as pictured below), retails for only $99.99 and folds up for easy storage.

redmuskokachair

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