“ So then, what is your favourite flower?”  or “You’ve visited gardens all over the world, which is your favourite?”  Two questions I am often asked and which are almost impossible to answer because it depends on the time of year and my mood and every garden has its own character.  But if I were pushed….answers are at the end of the article.
And it is similarly difficult to give a single answer to the question “Your favourite garden tool is?”  But since I am asking and answering the question I am going to cheat and ask in the plural because that is a much easier question to answer.
Asparagus Knife AND Weeder

Which of the over 400 manufactured by Sneeboer are my favourite tools in the plural?  To be honest I enjoying all the Sneeboer tools I own for the simple reason that they quite simply a pleasure to wield, and do the job for which they are made with the minimum of fuss and maximum of ease.  Therefore, perhaps I should define ‘favourite’ a little more clearly.  For me, ‘favourite’ equates to ‘most often used’.  So, while my Asparagus Knife is gainfully employed in the spring to do its intended job I cannot justify it as a favourite per se.  My Heart-Shaped Planting Trowel is on the other hand a definite favourite because I use it all the time and it also has extra sentimental value because one always remembers one’s first, and the heart-shaped trowel was the first Sneeboer tool I ever owned – and is still going strong a decade or so later.

Heart-Shaped Trowel – My First!

Being used all the time hints at another of my pre-requisites for ‘favourite’ status – that a tool must be multi-skilling.  That is to say it does not only the job that it designed for, but others besides.  These jobs are not part of the tool’s ‘job description’ but uses that I have found or others have told me about.

If you have suggestions for alternative uses for your tools, do please let me know by dropping me a line and I’ll spread the word.

Admittedly I do use my Asparagus Knife as a weeder where delicate, precision weeding is required, for example between rows of young plants in the vegetable garden and in closely planted beds.  But the Heart-Shaped trowel is a serious multi-tasker.  Now classified as a planting trowel, this is originally a traditional Dutch tool designed for planting the tens of thousands of bulbs that were planted in the bulb fields by hand.  This repetitive task may have contributed to the perfect balance that this trowel has in the hand, with the blade weighted just right that it penetrates the soil with ease.  But as well as planting bulbs in beds, I use mine for amongst other tasks, transplanting, weeding, and dividing perennials.

The Heart-Shaped Trowel is one of a ‘gang of 13’ tools which I use on an almost daily basis and with which I find I can do most (but not all) garden tasks that involve working with plants and the soil.  Whether its digging a whole new bed, a hole for a new shrub or making a hole-ette for a transplanted perennial.  Be it weeding between the rows of peas, around the roses or amongst the iris.  Preparing a seed bed, hoeing, or fighting my perennial battle with the national weed, ground elder.  The gang have it covered.
Toby’s Gang of 13
The Jekyll Weeding Fork

I am also a person who likes the quirky and stories associated with an object that make it that much more interesting.  Not ‘just’ the plant but also the story of its discovery and introduction, not just a garden but the quirky and often weird reasons for the way it was made or used (‘pleasuring sofas’ in the Temple of Venus at Stowe, for example!).  And its the same with tools.  The Jekyll Weeding Fork, for example is believed to have been designed by that great gardener and writer Gertrude Jekyll – she had her own forge and made her own tools!  And to be a favourite of Miss Jekyll, one would expect nothing less than the most practical of implements.  When delicate weeding and titivating is required, for digging out long dandelion roots, it cannot be bettered.  It is also perfect for spearing slugs.

The Onion Hoe

Weeding with an Onion Hoe is accurate, swift and efficient.  Although I have not yet mastered the ambidextrous skills of the contract workers from Ireland who hoed the fields of onions grown by market gardens around London in the mid-19th century with one hoe in each hand!

The Rule Maker

For its intended purpose, to make seed drills, the Rule Maker does an admirable job.  But in my garden it leads and a double life.   For with its triangular head perpendicular to the handle I find that the Rule Maker is also a super hoe.  Its easy-to-wield, effective-to-use and has pin-point-accurate.  I am also going to ask Jaap to put a short handle on it as I think it may also have potential as a planter.

The Ground Elder Fork is exactly that.  With its angled head, it is perfect for getting under that mat of horrid white roots and then lifting them gently out of the soil so that no fragments get left behind.  My soil is sandy loam (hooray!) and the fork is just perfect – let me know if it is also efficient on heavier soils
The Drainage Spade

No prizes for guessing what the Drainage Spade was originally designed for!  But again, its one of those tools like the Heart-Shaped Trowel that has evolved.  Not too many of us dig drainage ditches for a living these days, but as a tool for digging holes for fence posts, planting holes in a confined space, a narrow channel in which piping is to go, for digging out large clumps of perennial roots or tree roots, then this is a perfect tool – much easier to use and more efficient than a traditional spade.

Anyway, there are some of my thoughts on my favourite tools and if you have any comment, thoughts, ideas, or if you would like to share with me your favourite tools, then please do make use of our Guestbook comments forum.