If you had to pick your favourite tool…

What would you pick?

It’s a question that ran through my mind recently when I came across a post by a fellow #gdnblogger , in which he sets out a list of his top 10 bits of kit. You can read it here – highly reccomend you give it a read it but be wary – you may have to rewrite your Christmas list afterwards. 

So as I say it got me thinking – I have a wide arsenal of tools that come in handy for a number of different jobs as I  would imagine most gardeners do. But’s what my number 1?

Whenever there’s a pruning job to complete I always have the battle of choosing which secateurs to use – the Felco 2s or the okatsunes – both beautiful tools and both an absolute treat to use – either will get the job done. But they’re not my favourite.

No, deep down, if I had to pick , in the end I would always come back to this charming feller: 

It was sold to me as a ladies fork – but really it’s just a border fork. 

It was Made by Elwell at sometime during the 1940’s .

And it’s in practically perfect condition. Obviously been well looked after.

It’s smaller than a normal border fork which mean’s it ideal for really getting in between the plants in the border. I’m not actually a big fan of using it – there’s no doubt it’s a strong tool but I still fear I might one day break it. If I could I’d hang it on a wall and have it on display ( bit much?), but I know I know in doing so I would be paying it a huge disservice. I’m thankful now I made that decision – as I say it’s proved to be really handy when weeding and generally digging over the soil in those awkward areas.

 Here it is next to a full sized digging fork to give you an idea of it’s size.

( from what I can gather after doing a little online research) Elwell, were at one time the best manufacturer of garden tools in the world, their forgery dating back to 1799 – they went on to merge with spear and Jackson to become ‘spearwell’ before Spear and Jackson took them over completely at sometime during the latter half of the 20th Century.

I’m no antique collector (or expert)- this just caught my eye one day and I had to have it. I’m unsure of it’s history but I’d like to believe that it was perhaps used by a gardener of the ‘ dig for victory’ campaign during the Second World War. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. I’ll never know. If only it could speak. Scratch that. Having thought about it I like not knowing. It’s enigmatic and I believe there lies the charm of it.

I’m glad too that I am now part of it’s long history.

Here it is posing. ( don’t adjust your screens – that is a daffodil, this was taken last February – the weathers not gone that crazy just yet)
I’d like to try and keep it in as good condition as possible for a working tool – if anyone has any tips to manage that I’d be more than grateful to hear them.


4 thoughts on “If you had to pick your favourite tool…

  1. That Elwell fork looks grand. You can tell by the slightly uneven tine lengths that it’s seen plenty of hard graft. I remember we visited a place called The Walled Nursery in the summer that had a range of vintage tools for sale, and The Secret Herb Garden up in Edinburgh likewise. They might have some tips on heritage tool care.


  2. You may think this totally weird but my favourite tool is …… a cheap digital camera. I have an expensive digital camera, of course, but the cheap one is kept handy in the shed where, if something goes amiss, I won’t worry. I’ll whip around snapping images before any spade or fork touches the soil. The results have saved countless expensive bulbs (and herbaceous plants in winter) from annihilation. They’ve informed my choices of what to yank out of the ground to make way for that impulse buy from some nursery I’ve visited. And they’ve reminded me, countless times, of the opportunities I’ve missed to take a decent photo for my blog.

    As to tool preservation, may I recommend, after cleaning, an application of camellia oil? Unlike WD-40 and the like, it’s harmless to plants. Wonderful on secateurs. Niwaki sell it if you can’t find it locally.


    1. Cheers John,

      Completely agree, I do exactly the same thing with photography being another hobby of mine. Keep a good camera in my car so it’s always there when I need it if I forget my DSLR ( except when something happens too quickly for me to go to my car and get it – a Robin in my greenhouse the other day – that’s where phone cameras come in, still missed the little sod though, but got an averageish shot later on of him perched on my wheelbarrow) I also keep a diary but there’s so much more information in a photograph that you’d not even think of documenting in a quick diary entry. Constantly taking and referring to photographs – looked at one the other day of the garden from a few years back and was quite shocked at how much it had changed without me really noticing. They regularly save the day.

      Will have a look on the Niwaki website for that John, cheers for the tip.


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