I was lucky enough to receive a selection of tools from the company Burgon and Ball this week. Burgon and Ball, of Sheffield, have been manufacturing high quality tools since 1730. Their tools are made from high carbon steel which is then heat treated to give it extra strength. They are the largest manufacturer of sheep shears in the world.
The tools they sent me were a trowel from the Sophie Conran range, a Japanese razor hoe and a pair of flower snips.
Although the weather hasn’t been great and it is a quiet time in the garden I used a dry spell this morning to get out and road test the tools. I had noticed the mild weather has encouraged weed growth at the allotment around my biennial flowers so I set off with the Japanese razor hoe to see what it could do. If I’m honest I can’t say I’d heard of one before but I was impressed. It is very sharp and cut through the weeds with ease. Not much longer that a trowel I found it really useful for hoeing in between the Sweet Williams and Stocks and would see this as being an excellent tool for people with raised beds where planting is denser. I can see me using this a lot next year, particularly when my beds are densely packed with flowers and vegetables and a long-handled hoe can be a bit cumbersome. I liked the wooden handle, tools with wooden handles always feel good to use and it felt very robust. This is the sort of tool that really will last a lifetime.
I had also spotted some stocks that were flowering (that’s the sort of strange autumn we’re having) so I gave the flower snips a try. These snips were Amateur Gardening’s Best Buy scoring 19 out of 20 (July 2010). I thought they were a great addition to my tool box, ideal for the cutflower garden or for cutting herbs. They are lightweight and smaller than a pair of secateurs but I tried them on a range of stem sizes back in the garden and they coped with a surprising thickness. Although I wouldn’t use them for this on a regular basis it is always useful when tools can cope with a little bit more. Again they felt well made, durable and long lasting. My only gripe was that the handles were racing green in colour. I love the colour and it does look stylish but I know I’ll put them down and lose them in amongst a pile of foliage. A nice baby blue would be good alternative – stylish but would stand out amongst all the garden greenery.
And finally the trowel. The designer Sophie Conran wanted to produce a range of gardening tools designed with women in mind, tools that were made for smaller hands. This trowel made by Burgon and Ball is good and sturdy. The handle is a little smaller and is significantly lighter than my own trowel and does fit nicely in the hand but it is the scoop design that I like the most. I had a few bulbs left over that I needed to plant so I gave it a go. Most trowels are quite shallow, meaning that you can’t actually scoop out a lot of soil when you make a hole, the scoop design of this trowel meant it made a better hole. A really simple design feature but it really did make a difference.
Overall I would recommend all 3 products. I was impressed with the quality of the tools, they felt like they were built to last which in today’s throw-away, built-in obsolence culture is refreshing. Another bonus is they are made in the UK, sustaining jobs and the economy. But ultimately the tools worked well and I look forward to a long growing season next year when I can fully put them to the test.
The hoe costs £11,95, the snips £9.95 and the trowel 14.95.
For more information on their large range of gardening products and where to buy go to http://www.burgonandball.com/.