The latest in the oldest

RHS Tales from the Tool Shed

Who would have thought that a book about the history and the use of garden tools could be quite so interesting and entertaining? Fifty tools at that! We didn’t. But in Bill Laws capable hands, it most certainly is.

Take for instance the fork. I would be lost without a fork – it has to be the tool that I use most frequently in the garden, so I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Romans who introduced them to this country.

But what I hadn’t realised is that there were quite so many types, or that forks with straight tines are better for digging heavy clay soil – better leverage, or that slightly curving tines are better for lighter soil. And excuse the pun but Bill Laws has dug up lots more information on this highly useful garden tool.

As he has on objects like secateurs and shears. If left to my own devices with a pruning knife I would probably be minus several fingers by now but thanks probably to a French count who devised a secateurs-like tool based roughly on the principle of the guillotine, my fingers are safe and the roses quickly pruned.

Shears have been around for centuries. But evidently they have not always been used for shaping plants. Way back in the 18th century one specialised pair of shears was used for removing caterpillars from upper branches of trees.

Ladders, grafting knives, sieves, composters, wheelbarrows all receive careful and in depth attention from Bill Laws, along with a number of other less obvious gardening tools – like Wellington boots, a hat and even radios in the section on Wireless Gardening.

Fascinating stuff, thanks Bill.

RHS Tales from the Tool Shed. Bill Laws. ISBN 978-1-84533-884-8. £14.99. 
Published by Mitchell Beazley, Octopus Publishing Group. Available on Amazon. 

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