Archive for Felco folding saw

Low Maintenance Garden Part 1: Tools

Posted in How to, my garden, sustainable living with tags , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2013 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Note Card Images note card images

Before I get to the post, I want to let all my readers know that I have set up a shop on Etsy, a website featuring vintage and handmade goods, called CarolynsShadeGardens so you can use your credit card to purchase my photo note cards.  Click here to visit the shop and see the note cards available.   You can also click on the permanent link I have placed on the right sidebar of this website.

The cards come individually or in sets and are perfect for birthday greetings, expressions of sympathy, thank you notes, and for communicating with friends the old-fashioned way. The card sets make great gifts for the holidays especially useful for hostess presents, last minute gifts, and for the friend who has everything.


DSCN2937Michael demonstrates edging using an edger with a long handle.

Nursery customers always comment on the amount of work it must take to maintain our display gardens and marvel at how Michael and I do it with no additional help.  At this point in our lives, we are wondering that ourselves, but that’s another story.  However, part of the answer is that over our 30 years of gardening here we have developed many techniques to keep maintenance to a minimum while using sustainable, organic methods. 

In spring 2012, we developed a series of seminars to teach these techniques to our customers.  For readers who can’t attend, I thought I would show you what goes on during Michael’s Low Maintenance Garden Seminars.


DSCN2929Michael shows off his all round favorite tool, a digging tool from Gempler’s discussed below.

Each seminar begins with a review of essential tools and their maintenance.  When Michael visits customers’ gardens in his capacity as garden coach, he often finds that they are making do with inadequate garden tools.  Having the right tool allows gardeners to perform maintenance jobs easily and efficiently.  Michael and I both have our favorites, and he demonstrates them during his seminar and tells attendees where to purchase them.


DSCN3405Michael’s favorite tool, a Gempler’s Professional 12″ Digging Tool.  It is similar to a Japanese farmer’s knife, but it has a hand guard for protection, which is essential for the safe use of this type of tool.  He uses it for weeding, planting, cutting, and many other jobs.  I prefer a skinny-headed trowel for weeding and a rabbiting spade for planting.


Originally, I was going to cover everything in one post, but as I started to write I found a lot to say about tools.  I was inspired to take individual photos of some of the important tools because Michael and I feel so strongly that they are the best.  The actual garden maintenance part of the seminars will be covered in Part 2.


DSCN3402Michael and I both would not be without Felco No. 2 Pruners.  My father bought me this pair over 30 years ago when he found me using some Kmart knock offs.  With infrequent sharpenings, they work as well as they did when I got them.


DSCN2922Michael demonstrates the use of our Dramm watering wand.  We have one of these wands on the end of each hose on our property and find it indispensable for all watering tasks.  I met the Dramm representative at a conference recently and told her that we promoted the wands at our seminars.  She nicely sent six wands to raffle off at our fall seminars this year, and six happy attendees went home with a new tool.  We hope to continue this with Dramm and other manufacturers at future seminars.  The hose to which the wand is attached is made by Flexogen and is the only kind we use—heavy duty and kink resistant.


DSCN3400For branches too thick for pruners, we use this folding hand saw also made by Felco.  It fits in your back pocket but handles very large branches while being easy to maneuver in tight spaces.


DSCN2931Tool maintenance, especially keeping tools clean and sharp, is very important.  Here Michael cleans and sharpens the pointed blade of our long-handled shovel, which is the shovel we both use for digging and shoveling.  The long handle is essential for the leverage you need to get the job done easily no matter what size you are and without bending over.


DSCN3401   These Corona ComfortGel Floral Snips are the tool I always have with me in the garden.  They are small enough to cut herbaceous leaves but rugged enough to handle woody stalks and small branches.  The gel handles are comfortable, and the blades spring open and closed smoothly.


DSCN3403Michael and I both think it is very important to protect your knees when you are kneeling down weeding or planting.  We both wear strap on kneepads.  I prefer the soft kind made by Kneelons pictured above while Michael likes the hard shell type sold for doing tile work.


Other tools we recommend: I dig all the perennials I grow and sell with a rabbiting spade, which is just the right size to slip easily between other plants that I do not want to disturb.  Long-handled loppers are useful for leverage when pruning bigger branches.  We also consider a heavy duty, very sharp, folding serrated knife essential for dividing plants.  I never head out into the garden to weed without my large or small Bosmere weeding bag (they call it a tip bag).  These bags are very light but durable and their sides don’t sag.

We could recommend many other tools—this won’t surprise you if you have been here and seen our garage—but these are the most important tools that help make our garden low maintenance.



Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is closed for the winter.  Please visit my Etsy Shop to purchase photo note cards suitable for all occasions by clicking here.  Look for the 2014 Snowdrop Catalogue in early January.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post. You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

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