Garden Lessons: Books and tools

Books and Tools

These are the tools that are indispensable in our work here. Some of them we did not discover for many years, so we hope they might be of help to you.

compost drum
expandable rake
weeding tools
larger florian rachet pruners
limb pruning saw
pumps and pump net socks
soaker hose and attachments
green woven polypropylene leaf bags
box store bins
large fish bins
large 2 handled flexible rubber tubs
bone meal,
bulb food
wood ash
5 10 5
potted plant food to alternate:
wood chips
shredded leaves
composted manure
coarse builders’ sand
compost/topsoil incl sand
Y stakes
peony cages, our homemade
burlap and stakes
green twine
twist ties
vine clips


English Y Stakes

Here at The Cotton-Arbo retum these Y stakes are as important as our shovels and pruners. This is particularly true in the fall,when tall perennials and ornamental grasses(both short and tall) get top heavy, and when sedums splay and so many perennials get ‘blousy’(a great British expression.)We also use Y stakes for shrubs and small trees, to keep branches from shading out nearby plants or from fountaining out over a pathway.For our vines, particularly honeysuckle and clematis,we use Y stakes to guide baby vines upward and onto a larger support, be that a fence, tree, arbor or obelisk. With our many ornamental grasses, we begin staking them in late June with the shorter 2 ‘ or 3′ Y stakes, and then we add the tallest Y stakes as the grasses ascend. Because we leave our grasses up for the winter, we leave the Y stakes in place and remove them the following spring when we cut back the grasses to the ground.The stakes weather beautifully, with none of the colored coating chipping off. In fact, except for scratches or dirt, they never look weathered. Our only wish for them to change would be for them to be able to penetrate rock (we are in New England, after all!) but we think that is a bit of an unreasonable wish on our part!!

We find the opened Y stakes easiest to store, not in a canister/barrel, but anchored in the ground, in an out of the way garden corner or behind a gate.

We purchase ours in bulk from .

(See the Garden Lessons: Techniques page for our adaptation of these for heavy ornamental grasses.)


Florian Fine Nose Pruner aka Ms. Snippy’s Snippies

I can understand Felco pruners being on a number of Favorites lists and I agree that they are essential. But interestingly enough, I have a tool that has replaced my Felcos for 99% of my needs. It’s a pair of what I have dubbed “my snippies.” They are very lightweight and short so they fit in my pockets easily, and they can cut anything up to and including 1/3″+ branches. I use them for everything shrub and perennial(plus small tree branches), just not thick tree branches. I keep one pair inside , to do indoor plant pruning and cut-flower arranging, and 3 pairs outside. They are made by Florian Tools in Ct. This is my ‘desert island w/one gardening tool’ pick!

Also, Florian’s large ratchet loppers are excellent for larger branches(we have both the large and largest sizes) and the ratchet concept saves you from having to have alot of arm strength. The tool actually does it all itself. All you do is hold one handle steady and lever the other handle up and down, while the ratchet blade closes down on the branch and cuts cleanly through it.

The loppers are expensive but I can’t tell you how thrilled we have been with them.They will be with us through a lifetime of gardening, as will our felcos and snippies. Like any great tool, always a wise investment. Everyone I know who has not sprung for a great tool, after they finally do buy one, is kicking themselves for having waited so long.

- Maxi lopper – Of the two loppers, we use this one the most.
- Minilopper
- Long handled shears – These are our best find for ornamental grasses, large stands of iris, peonies, or other perennial swaths.


Green Poly Woven Refuse Bags

These heavy duty, feather light, puncture resistant, open top bags accompany us everywhere in the garden. We use them for pruning and cleaning up while in the depths of a bed, because they are so lightweight that they can rest on growing plants without hurting them.(They do not have a formal shape and bottom that must be flat, so they are much easier to situate.)They are open and floppy and can accommodate long stems and branches. We have seen them in catalogues and some friends have found them in box stores. The best priced large ones we have found are through (not a mailorder place but they will probably send them if you call and ask Amy.)

Return to Top