Garden tools rarely survive from generation to generation since the more they are used the more likely it is they will break or wear out, and get repaired or replaced. So now early garden implements are almost as scarce as references to them in original sources. Overlooked as commonplace, looked down on for being merely utilitarian, the wooden ones have rotted and the iron ones rusted away.
Most garden tools in the past were hand made from wood and iron. They were usually simple, and often quite crude, adaptations of farming implements. Specialization started in the 16th and 17th centuries so by about 1700 when John Evelyn drew the tools used in his own garden [see the picture below] he had wheelbarrows and waterbarrows, rakes of “severall sizes and finesse”, and a veritable array of spades, trowels, hoes, shears and refined pruning tools to say nothing of other garden essentials such as flower pots sieves and measuring equipment. The proliferation of unusual or specialized equipment in the 18th and 19th centuries is almost unbelievable. How about cucumber straighteners, sunshades for individual dahlia blooms or four handed shears?
Now of course we can enjoy the benefits of mass production and mechanization in almost every task. But are the tools we use as beautiful or as interesting as those used by gardeners in the past?This talk tells some of their stories