There's something about walled gardens, especially semi-deserted ones in which a few tools have been left behind. Updates on the swallows' arrival are scribbled on the wall of the potting shed, the rusty old scythe is a reminder of a slower approach to grass, as is the giant obsolete lawn roller. Other tools look very practical and it would be reasonable to wonder why they are so hard to find now.
Old gardening tools have a smoothness and individuality that comes from being well-crafted. They are worn down in all the right places. Their staggering weight, though, can be a deal-breaker: not designed with the "lady gardener" in mind, they are often made of 50 percent cast iron. This is where Dutch tool company Sneeboer comes in. Hand forged over three generations, their stainless steel tools have the feeling of being old and well-loved even when new. But the spades are light as well as sharp, and women also get a look-in: most tools come in smaller models.
Above: Sneeboer's pointed spade is designed for working in a crowded border or "boring" into difficult ground; € 88.85 from Sneeboer or £66.95 from Harrod Horticultural. The Pointed Spade by Sneeboer is $114.50 at Garden Tool Company.
Above: Why offer just one size of pointed spade when you can offer several? Many of us find ourselves gardening on our knees, and a spade with a shorter handle would keep things flowing. From Sneeboer, between EUR 51.50 to EUR 88.85. The Perennial Spade by Sneeboer is $64.75 at Garden Tool Company. The Pointed Perennial Spade by Sneeboer is $63.75 at Garden Tool Company.
Above: An old pointed spade in an old potting shed. The head gardener had the right idea, but may have welcomed some input from Holland.
Above: Admittedly some of the shapes are so charming that it frankly doesn't matter how useful they are. Heart Shape Trowel with ash or cherry wood handle, for planting bulbs, clearing ground for sowing, drawing drills,the list goes on. From Sneeboer €33.35 to €37.35. The Sneeboer Planting Trowel is $56.75 from the Garden Tool Company.
Above: Others are so useful they look almost lethal. This one, the Dandelion Digger with a cherry wood handle, terminates long-rooted weeds. €24.50 from Sneeboer (I was lucky enough to have mine engraved by Mr. Jaap Sneeboer at the Cottesbrooke Gardeners' Fair last year). The Dandelion Digger by Sneeboer is $45.75 from Garden Tool Company.