KENNEWICK -- Most gardeners that I know appreciate useful gadgets and treasure good quality gardening tools. If you're considering gifting a gardener with something they will cherish, I have some ideas.
One tool I have found especially useful this past gardening season is a Hori-Hori knife. Originating in Japan, the Hori-Hori (meaning Dig Dig) is not a heavy duty pocket knife. It's a versatile garden tool with a wide beveled blade that's typically serrated on one edge and sharp on the other edge. It also is handy for weeding, transplanting, and dividing perennials. The blades of many Hori-Hori knives are engraved with depth measurements to make planting easier.
In purchasing a garden knife or Hori-Hori, look for one with strong handle construction and a sturdy blade made out of polished stainless steel or carbon steel. Because of the sharp edges these blades often come with a sheath to keep you and the blade protected. Good idea! You can find true Japanese Hori-Hori knives with hardwood handles or there are mass produced "garden knife" versions with plastic grip handles from well known companies like Fiskars and Oxo.
I always seem to be snipping, cutting or pruning something in the garden so I carry around three indispensable tools for the job. For "snipping" of delicate stems and flowers, I use Fiskars Softouch Micro-Tip Pruning Snips. The micro snip blades are stainless steel. It comes with 5-inch ergonomic handles that work well in small hands like mine. These little snips work well when deadheading flowers or cutting herbs. I've put mine through some pretty rigorous testing for the last seven years and I'm just beginning to think about getting a new pair.
For cutting, I turn to another Fiskars implement, Fiskars garden shears. I like them because they're tough and take abuse. The garden shears take over where the little snips leave off. I use them for cutting somewhat woody twigs and flower stems along with other cutting tasks in the garden, such as cutting apart plastic plant packs and pots, opening bags of potting soil, or cutting back ornamental grasses. With the ergonomic orange handles and curved, notched cutting blade, they're up to the task. They also prevent me from mistreating my household shears.
There are other brands of garden scissors available. The ColorStorm Garden Scissors are designed to reduce carpel tunnel syndrome and may be worth a try.
When pruning in the garden, I like a pair of ratchet hand pruners with an anvil blade. I use Florian Ratchet-Cut Pruners. Without straining my hand, the ratchet mechanism allows me to cut woody stuff that is too tough for snips or scissors. The teflon coated, high carbon steel blades will cut branches and twigs up to three-fourths inch in diameter. This pair of pruners is both sturdy and light, made of fiberglass-reinforced nylon. I like their bright yellow handles that help me find them when I put them down in the garden.
My final recommendation for a great gardening gift is a stainless steel transplant shovel, loop or stirrup hoe, or a Haws watering can from Lee Valley Tools.
* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension.