Unorthodox gardening tools -2

Gardening knives and shears

Anyone doing so much as basic gardening needs a cutting edge sooner or later. Sure, you can pluck roses by hand, but at the risk of either tearing up your hand or tearing up the plant. Everyone has a story about a beloved plant that was either ripped up or ripped out of the ground because the plant’s bond to a dead leaf was stronger than its bond to the earth. When working with many carnivorous plants, a sharp edge is essential, as both Nepenthes tendrils and Sarracenia leaves are tougher than comparable hemp rope. If you think I’m kidding, go ahead and take off those dead leaves by hand. I’ll be over here, laughing.

The problem with unorthodox projects is that sometimes unorthodox tools are needed, and that particularly applies to cutting implements. A good pair of scissors or secateurs gets the job done 99 times out of a hundred. It’s the odd circumstance, though, that requires a bit of variety, which is why I have several additions in the basic toolbag.

The pair of hand clippers in the center is self-evident, although these see regular use because they’re small enough to fit into a pocket. Continue to use big scissors or clippers, to be sure, but don’t be afraid to get a small pair like these, with spring action so they open when you release pressure on them, for the really small jobs.

Now, the blades on the left are watch knives, designed to be used by jewelers for opening watch backs. The Czarina uses these constantly for watch battery replacement, as they have one side that’s beveled and the other is perfectly flat, with a good stainless steel blade that’s easily resharpened. While they’re best for circumstances where you need to pry while cutting, thus immediately making them much safer than your pair of garden scissors, that flat side means that they’re also very handy for prying up glue, epoxy, silicone sealer, or just about anything on an impermeable surface that needs to be removed with a minimum of damage to that surface. Just don’t use them for opening paint cans, and they’ll last forever.

Over on the right are the real specialist tools. Both of these are budding knives, used for T-bud grafting buds and twigs to parent trees. The bottom of the blade cuts through bark in order to start the graft, while the flange on the top allows you to pull up the bark and the cambium, very gently, to slip in the graft material before tying or taping it down. The jackknife version is one manufactured by Victorinox, the Swiss Army knife manufacturers, as a budding and garden knife, and is still available at a reasonable price. The one on the far right was a surprise discovery at an estate sale, with a rosewood handle, that suggests the owner was using it for elaborate grafting experiments. Either way, they’ve been getting a bit of a workout on my grapefruit tree, and should last for decades even with that.

As mentioned before, more to come…

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