How complicated is a hoe? There is the Dutch hoe, the draw hoe, the push pull hoe, and so many more. Despite this variety in shape and name, the one-size-fits-all approach to most modern tools means that there is rarely a right hoe. As British vintage tool specialists Garden & Wood might say, the way forward is with a tool from the past.
Photographs by James Corbett.
Above: A clutch of salvaged and reconditioned tools from Garden & Wood.
“The joy of vintage tools,” says Louise Allen, one half of Garden & Wood, “is that they come in a wide variety of heights and styles, giving gardeners a greater chance of finding a tool that is fit for purpose.” Not to mention added charm, patina, and history.
Above: Like a treasured wooden spoon in your batterie de cuisine, a favorite spade is a joy to use. The wood, the marks on the wood, the metal join, the metal screws. And we haven’t even got to the part that digs yet.
Garden & Wood source many items from continental Europe, particularly France. “The tools are often more flamboyant in style,” says Louise. Copper Watering Cans (from £275), ornate secateurs, and arcane objects such as the French Mistletoe Cutter (£65), all stocked in the Garden & Wood shop, are difficult to find elsewhere.
Above: Vintage forks and spades often come with names as varied and mysterious as their design. Some of the spades at Garden & Wood have names which are self-explanatory: the thistling spade (still popular) and the rabbiting spade (perhaps less so) for digging out a rabbit or blocking its burrow exit. Don’t ask. However, should you be in need of a bramble slasher, gooseberry hook, or daisy grubber, you know where to look.
Above: A Garden Line, prices vary, from Garden & Wood. For anyone who grows flowers or vegetables in an orderly fashion, this is the ultimate tool. Long metal prongs pushed deep into prepared soil keep the line taut for seed sowing or planting out. Like the late lamented Cast Iron Water Bowser (£220) this elegant variety of garden line is not in production as far as we know but can be found here, perfectly reconditioned, at Garden & Wood.
Above: Vintage equipment comes with emotional baggage–the good kind. Plant Labels (£10 each from Garden & Wood) may be the most potent memory triggers. And yes! Rhododendron ‘Thunderstorm’ still exists.
N.B.: For those who prefer to mix new with traditional, Sneeboer make hand-forged steel tools in every shape and size imaginable.
For more new Dutch tools, see The Sharpest Tool in the Shed: A Gardener’s Obsession.