Saturday, August 31, 2013

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Working in a retail garden center often provides, shall we say, unique experiences. One of the fun ones is attending the Independent Garden Center (IGC) Show at Navy Pier each August. This is a national show that draws an international audience, and features what's new, and hopefully, what our customers want for their homes and gardens. Speaking of international, it was nice of Aussie HGTV star Jamie Durie to stop me and say, "Tony, how are you, mate?" Makes me wish I had an accent.

Based solely on the numbers of booths dedicated to fairy (or to be more p.c., miniature) gardening, air plants and garden "art" one could conclude these are still strong trends. From my perspective, here are a few show favorites:

Seed Savers Exchange is dedicated to the premise that genetic diversity and keeping historic varieties from extinction is an important mission. The organization is 37 years old so it is well ahead of the curve on the "heirlooms are cool" trend. SSE offers 600 open-pollinated (non-hybrid) veggie, herb and flower varieties, which includes 300 certified organic varieties. 'Bull's Blood' beet, 'Amish Deer Tongue' lettuce, 'Lazy Housewife' beans and 'Mortgage Lifter' tomato (Can you imagine the story connected with that?) surely give you a sense of the history behind their purpose. Remember, this is just the time to think about cool season veggies. Why not wring another crop out of your unused garden space?

Seed Savers Exchange

Drift roses from Star are an alternative to the Flower Carpet ground cover roses. From the company that brought us the Knockout series, Star Roses has given us another series of dependable, disease resistant, winter hardy, virtually maintenance-free roses. Flower size is about 1 3/4" diameter, in clusters, in seven colors that include apricot, peach, pink and red. Established plants reach 2-3' wide and 18" tall due to the fact that they're the product of crossing miniatures with other ground cover tpye roses. They're so worth considering for your garden. I just planted some Peach Drifts myself.

Drift roses

Women should love, and own, the Hers shovel-spade. What a smart idea. Someone (yes, of course, a woman) recognized that mens' and womens' strength comes from different areas. Men use their torsos and arms, while ladies use their lower body. Therefore, the tools we use should accommodate those differences. They call it Her-gonomic. The angled blade is recycled steel. The nonslip D-grip allows you to use both hands for maximum strength and leverage. The step is enlarged and actually has a raised tread to maximize lower body strength. Guess what? That same smart someone realized that women are diferent heights, too. So, there are three different lengths for real gardening comfort. I keep thinking this would be the perfect gift for the proverbial woman who "has everything" and "digs" her garden.

Hers shovel

The DeWet Tool Company started in northern Holland in 1898 so they know a thing or two about garden tools. My favorite is the spork- a hybrid between a spade and fork. The winged, pointed tines slice through heavy clay and the ventilated head openings in the blade reduce the compaction that happens so easily in our clay soil. Their tulip trowel was the "Best Seller" at the 2011 Chelsea Flower Show. The: Dutch transplanter, perennial planter, rock 'n root trowel and corkscrew weeder give some sense, I think, that DeWet has a tool for just about every gardening task!

DeWet tools

Since we're talking gardening tradition let's not leave out the Brits. Burgon & Ball has some great new products. Now that I've reached (late) middle-age comfortable kneeling and sitting is high (and rising) on my list of priorities. Look into B & B's ultra-cushioned Kneelo knee pads and kneelers. Both have contoured forms and great colors so they're hard to misplace even in a tightly packed garden. Knees and fannies will love the reprieve.


So, there are cool new things to make your garden better and your garden tasks more enjoyable. Check into them!

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