Speaking of Garden Coaches…


Genevieve_schmidt A couple weeks ago I interviewed Genevieve Schmidt, an Arcata, CA landscape designer and garden coach for an article I was writing.  You can read the whole thing here and here, but this is the part I wanted to talk about:

It has never occurred to me that I could try out a tool in
my own garden before I bought it. When
I think of all the money I’ve spent on tools that fall apart, don’t fit in my
small hands, or don’t accomplish the job I’d hoped they would accomplish, I realize
that I’ve probably wasted hundreds of dollars over the years.

But when Genevieve came to my
house, she brought a tub of her favorite tools and let me play with all of
them. She had a pair of pruning shears from Bahco that she swears are better
than Felcos (gasp!); a groovy little sharpener called a Speedy Sharp, available
at garden centers and hardware stores, that fits in the pocket and easily
sharpens any kind of tool; and a very lightweight soil knife. I didn’t even know I need
a soil knife, but I’m all over it now.

Anybody else do this?  Seriously, I was blown away by the idea of any kind of gardening professional coming over to my house and letting me try out tools in my own garden before I buy them.  If I owned a garden center, I would seriously be thinking about a way to do this for my customers.  There’s a service the big boxes can’t offer!


  1. The best tool you will have is your truck and then from there it is job/ client/ consultant / project specific that dictates the other tools that should be brought along.
    A clear plastic bin with snap on cover can always be found sitting in the back of my king cab. It holds my most used tools. There are three tape measure ( a fat max, a 100 footer and a 25 footer) a laser level, an simple eye + line level and masons string. Felco’s gloves , plastic baggies , paper towels , a hori hori , a couple of duplex screws , a hand trowel and a hammer. They are always there and ready to be used.

    I don’t keep my transit and tripod, spades and forks or any of my other garden tools in the back bed of the truck . I only take them if the consult is going to require it.

    I also take my digital camera. It is an extremely useful tool.
    If you have a cell phone that also works as a recorder that feature comes in handy when working in concert with the camera.
    I find it much more professional looking , cohesive and legible to go back to the office and draft up a maintenance plan with the notes.
    To my minds eye it looks a lot better than handing over a bunch of scribbled notes at the end of the meeting.

  2. I’ve heard raves about Bahco pruners, too. Bob Denman, a local blacksmith (how cool is it that blacksmithing is still an active trade) and co-owner with his wife of Red Pig Tools, (http://www.redpigtools.com/servlet/StoreFront)
    told me about them. One of the big pluses is that you can custom make a pair of pruners – provided the dealer is set up to do so, that is. That’s a big plus since I also have small hands. I hope to make a trip to his shop soon to pick up a pair.

    For any of you in the Portland metro area, a trip to his shop is a treat and definitely worth the gas. Best to call to make sure someone is around and with luck, you’ll get hands-on demos, too.

  3. I purchased a soil knife this past winter at a trade show. How did I live without this soil knife? A bit stronger than a Hori Hori and an orange handle! I love it!

  4. I also love to have a pair of ‘garden scissors’. They so great because they are strong so if I’d laid down my pruners and cannot find them for the moment the scissors can cut thru just about everything. Mostly I like them to cut thru plastic bags, cut tags off and thru plastic pots. They are great. I believe they are Fiskars. I used to carry a very inexpensive pair of scissors in my pouch but I would break them all the time this garden scissor is very strong and I’ve had them for two years and will be able to use them again this year. Try it you’ll like it.

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