Some people are fearful of heights, so they try to avoid ladders. I am one of those people. Yet some of my fondest memories of gardening involve standing at the very top of a ladder and happily pruning wisteria in Northamptonshire while surveying the acres at Cottesbrooke Hall, the estate said to have inspired Jane Austen to write Mansfield Park.
A favorite of Cottesbrooke's gardeners, the Niwaki ladder's lightweight aluminum construction makes it easy to shoulder despite its considerable height. Instead of all the creaky folding and unfolding, there is a cunning tripod leg (hollow, keeping it light) with a telescope-style adjustment. The ladder is also quite happy leaning against a wall, like an old-fashioned bookshop ladder. The best part of the design, though, is its very pleasing shape. As the people at Niwaki say, the design is "rather like the Eiffel Tower."
Above: Tripod ladders will make their regular appearance at the annual Cottesbrooke Gardeners' Fair, which begins Friday. "Mr. Cloud Pruning" Jake Hobson is the man who introduced these ladders to the UK. He also sells a dazzling array of Japanese cutting aids, sharpened to perfection, through Niwaki. For the keen, he offers pruning courses and gives talks at gardening events like Cottesbrooke. The Platform Tripod Ladder also is available from Niwaki, for prices ranging from £175 to £229, depending on size.
Above: It is the Head Gardener's prerogative to leave the Niwaki ladder in the middle of a thoroughfare at Cottesbrooke during the run up to the annual fair.