Professional Show and Tell: Go To Garden Gear
On Sunday, July 12th, 2020 Women in Horticulture held our first virtual Professional Show and Tell! Professional Show and Tells are a great place for presenters to test out a new idea, spark conversation, and share their stories. These are my favorite type of WinH events. It is incredible to be part of a community of people who share their knowledge so freely.
We had originally planned to hold this event in person but we went with a virtual platform because of the coronavirus. Moving this event online worked out very well! Not only were we able to prioritize safety and enjoy the speakers from the comfort of our homes but this also gave us the opportunity to have two speakers from out of state.
Each Professional Show and Tell has a different theme. Our theme for this event was Go To Garden Gear. Each speaker interpreted the theme in their own unique way. We want to say a sincere thank you to all of our speakers for generously giving us their time and sharing their insights into their favorite garden gear! This post is a recap of what the presenters shared but you should really watch the whole presentation on our brand new WinH YouTube channel or check out the video below. And as the kids say don't forget to hit like and subscribe!
Our first speaker, Rebecca Allan, presented "Pruning with Power" from her studio in the Bronx in New York City. Rebecca is the owner of garden design business, Painterly Gardens, and has a background in art and education. She found herself needing to purchase a chainsaw to take down an 11' high and 18' wide, 30 year old yew for a client. Her search for the right tool for the job led her to purchasing a 24 volt Kobalt Lithium Battery Powered Chainsaw. As a gardener who focuses on sustainability, she did not want to use a gas powered chainsaw and instead opted for a battery powered piece of equipment. Rebecca's trusty chainsaw even has a nickname, Darrow (named after the high bush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum 'Darrow'). During her presentation, Rebecca talked about what she liked about her chainsaw, showed us how to take apart and reassemble the saw, care and maintenance, tightening the chain, and even showed us how quiet it is when it is running. It's encouraging to hear from someone who is embracing battery powered tools in their work and having success doing so.
Speaker number two was WinH co-founder and Curatorial Horticulturist at Ambler Arboretum of Temple University, Cat Meholic, presenting "A Curvy Woman's Quest for the Perfect Work Pant". Cat started her presentation by explaining that she got her self-proclaimed "big butt" from years of figure skating and playing roller derby.
Cat explained that she found her body changing over the years as she transitioned from intense physical activity that involved roller derby and speed skating to a more sedentary life while she worked on her thesis to today where she has an active job in horticulture and enjoys hiking and gardening at home. As she tried to navigate her new body, she went on a quest to find new work pants. Cat brought us along for the new pants journey explaining what was wrong with her current work pants, what she needs from the new pants, and what she ended up trying. Luckily for us she put together an exhaustive spreadsheet of all of the pants that she tried with information on the maker, price, whether they are eco-friendly, and more! You can access Cat's Work Pant Chart below.
Our third speaker for the day was Abra Lee, presenting "I Get it From My Mama". Abra is located in Atlanta, GA and is the owner of Conquer the Soil, a community that celebrates horticulture beyond plants. She is a graduate of Auburn University College of Agriculture and a member of Longwood Gardens Society of Fellows.
Abra started her presentation by describing the tools that have always been near and dear to her throughout her 20 years of experience in the horticulture industry. Things like her Felco 2 pruners, goat skin gloves for heavy pruning, and pocket sized folding saw. Then there are the things that are newer to her and have changed her gardening life, like the brightly colored purple Dramm hose! Abra said she is trying to be more true to who she is and not shy away from the things that she loves, and she loves bright colors! Another great way to express yourself and show off your favorite color is with the tried and true Atlas garden gloves. Along with her Oxo hori hori knife, these tools are what she uses on a regular basis when gardening at her condo.
Abra shared that for ten years of her career she tried to assimilate to the people around her, who were basically good ol' boys from the south wearing khaki pants and polo shirts. She thought that if she dressed like them they would accept her because they all went to school together and all work in the landscape business together, but they didn't so she decided to embrace her own style. She drew inspiration from the beautiful black and brown women she saw on a trip to Brazil wearing their hair in turbans and ditched the trucker hats she had been wearing for years.
As far as getting it from her mama, Abra shared that her mom grew up on a rural farm in Georgia, where they always had beautiful baskets around for storage, older well-made clay pots, and the paper bag. Her mother always grew beautiful flower beds with Zinnia, Cleome, and more and when Abra asked how she designed the combinations she told her they stuck all the seeds in a paper bag and spread them out. How beautifully simple is that!
Abra ended her presentation with a few more products that she picked up along her horticulture journey and modeled some of her favorites for us all to see! Check out the PDF at the end of this post for more information on many of the products that Abra shared.
Number four in our line-up was Julia Detwiler presenting "Foxglove Love". Julia is a landscape designer with a passion for gardening. She runs her own landscape design company called Birds and Bees Landscape Design. She has undergraduate degrees in Biology and Studio Art and a master's degree in Landscape Architecture. The focus of her presentation was on her love for the garden glove brand Foxgloves.
She describes herself as "super pale" and is very sensitive to the sun. Finding sun protecting products has always been a battle for her. The thing she loves the most about Foxgloves garden gloves is the sun protection and comfort they provide while you are playing in the dirt. Julia first heard of Foxgloves while working for the owner, Harriet Zbikowski, at the Flower Show. What began as just a job turned into a deep love for the products.
The gloves that Julia likes the best and modeled for us go up to her elbows. The design for the gloves were based on 1950's cotton dress gloves. Julia said not only do the gloves give you great dexterity, they are super light weight and UPF 50+ rated but they also make you feel very fancy while gardening. Julia also showed us two of her favorite Foxgloves hats. These hats are 100% cotton, great for people with sensitive skin, and they are also rated UPF 50+ because of the tight crochet and 4" brim. Each hat is handmade by women in Bali, so each is unique. Julia's main love of these products comes from the fact that they made it possible for her to go outside during the day, which is huge when you are quote, "basically a vampire".
Our second to last speaker was Johannah Fine, ISA Certified Arborist, Urban Forestry Consultant, UC Green Consulting Arborist, community advocate, educator, and West Philadelphia resident. In Johannah's presentation titled "Grappling With "The Girls"", she talked to us about what she calls the Girls’ sledge hammer. As Johannah explains, “It's a ridiculous name for anything, which both gets attention if you're trying to talk to volunteers, interns, or students, and then loosens things up which helps people to listen with less defensiveness.” Bashing and removing concrete is an everyday thing when you plant as many trees as Johannah does. Johannah made the argument that if you don't yet own a sledge, you should! Because it is a water cleaning tool! Learn to use the sledge, teach others to use the sledge, because every square inch of concrete that is removed is creating permeable surfaces.
Johannah's daughter is pictured above modeling the various sizes of sledges available. She informed us that the "girls sledge" that she originally wanted to show is us was on loan to someone who is actively using it. So in it's place she showed us what she calls the "woman's sledge", pictured above in the center. The hand drilling hammer has a 3 lbs. head and is perfect for hammering tree stakes or fence posts. The "woman's sledge" weighs 8 lbs. and the gorilla sledge on the right weighs 12 lbs. The "girl's sledge", not pictured, is 6 lbs. These larger sledges come in handy when you can't pay for expensive concrete removal but need to break up concrete. Most people can handle the 6 and 8 lb. sledges just fine and they work well for breaking up concrete. Johannah emphasized how dangerous using these tools can be and the importance of knowing how to control them.
In the photo above Johannah's daughter demonstrates how physics does the breaking of concrete and the person's job is to control the descent. Let gravity do the work.
Johannah ended her presentation with a plug for the Poacher’s Spade. It was elderly Irish professional gardeners who taught her about this tool as a child when she was learning about gardening. The reason for talking about this tool was to explain that she had to develop a work around after getting bad arthritis in her knees at 40 years old. It works as a standing trowel and is less tiring for a lot of people. Johannah left us with this pearl of wisdom, the right tool at the right time might make the day a little easier and a lot safer.
Our final presentation was "The Gimpy Gardener" presented by Beth MacMillan. Beth is the president of the Four Seasons Garden Club and the Greater Philadelphia Dahlia Society. She is also a Chester County Master Gardener. In the words of Beth, “I have 50 years of gardening trying to make do with the wrong tools, do it myself when I shouldn’t, and overdo everything possible". In her presentation, Beth shared her experiences and suggested garden tools and techniques that she hopes we can learn from, so we don't have to make some of the same mistakes she did.
Beth's do-it-yourself attitude came from growing up in the Mojave desert, where she understood if your car or bike broke down you had to get yourself out and keep moving or the desert would kill you. She had to reconsider her DIY attitude when she moved to gardening paradise...Pennsylvania. Although there was a learning curve when adjusting to gardening in a completely different environment, organizations like the Hardy Plant Society, the Four Seasons Garden Club, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Longwood Gardens, and Mt. Cuba Center helped Beth learn about gardening in this region.
Beth started her presentation by bringing up a very good point, that most garden tools are designed for someone 6' tall and women are often stuck with high priced, cheap imitations. She reiterated many of the safety messages that Johannah talked about, such as having the right tool for the right job and shared a story about cartwheeling down a hill after losing control of an unwieldy wheelbarrow of wet mulch. Beth recommended we don't sacrifice our physical safety for the sake of saving something replaceable.
After sharing her stories of near misses and lessons learned, Beth left us with this. She told us that after trying to jump on a shovel with one foot in a foot brace, she broke her other foot and that summer she was forced to sit in her garden and simply enjoy it without working in it. Turns out the garden looked better than ever because she was able to look at it without looking for imperfections to fix.
Beth's last message to us was this, your body is your most important tool, including your brain. So pay attention when you are hot, tired, physically over stressed, or exhausted. Listen to your body, have a mindset for safety even when your tired, pick the right tools, maintain and use them properly, ask for help when you need it, quit when you should, not after you hurt yourself, and take care of yourself out there because unlike most people you love what you do and you get to do it in beautiful places.
We are truly blessed to have such an incredibly knowledgeable community of people willing to share their expertise. Thank you so much to Rebecca, Cat, Abra, Julia, Johannah, and Beth! And thank you to everyone who attended our first virtual Professional Show and Tell!
Thank you so much to Kate Galer, WinH Program Director, for organizing our speakers and moderating the zoom! She also put together the document below containing notes from the zoom chat and information about some of the go to gear our speakers talked about.
Have an idea for our next Professional Show and Tell? Want to organize a Show and Tell? Want to be a speaker for a Show and Tell? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can get involved!
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