Dress like an ath­lete to clip your hedges

Sports­wear is easy to move in for all that bend­ing and kneel­ing, and helps to keeps you warm or cool, de­pend­ing on your need, finds Stephanie Ma­hon

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - GARDENING -

This sum­mer, work­ers at the gar­dens of Sen­gan-en in Ja­pan started us­ing jack­ets with built-in fans to keep cool in tem­per­a­tures over 30C. They were ap­par­ently de­lighted with their new kit. Be­fore this sum­mer, I would have said this was all a bit OTT, but strug­gling to weed and wa­ter in scorch­ing heat prompted me to re­think gar­den­ing at­tire.

Hav­ing sub­scribed to the “what­ever I am about to throw out” school of gar­den wear, I had to up my game a few years ago when I got an al­lot­ment. Frayed T-shirts and ripped jeans are not hardy or pro­tec­tive enough for digging out bram­bles and couch grass; shorts are a mag­net for net­tles, and skirts are ridicu­lous, es­pe­cially on a windy site.

Now, I wear a uni­form that has been cob­bled to­gether from var­i­ous sources. I wouldn’t be with­out my Dubarry boots, which I fi­nally in­vested in eight years ago and will love un­til the end of time. For flex­i­bil­ity and breatha­bil­ity, I hit dis­count sports­wear shops to find fit­ness leg­gings (of­ten called gym tights) or cheap high-street chain jeg­gings, and then I raid beach­wear de­part­ments for long, light cover-ups and shirts with col­lars.

I was ea­ger to take a leaf out of the book of Avril Chal­loner, a gar­dener and ul­tra-marathon en­thu­si­ast, who uses much of the same cloth­ing for run­ning as she does for gar­den­ing. “Trail-run­ning gear is de­signed to be hard-wear­ing, easy to move in and keep you warm, dry or cool, de­pend­ing on the day,” she says. “There are some great brands like INOV-8, Mon­tane, Salomon and Columbia.” She par­tic­u­larly rec­om­mends the new gen­er­a­tion of light­weight rain­wear, such as the Kam­leika jacket by Bri­tish brand OMM.

As well as cross­over in­spi­ra­tion, I was in­ter­ested in what tips I could glean from those who gar­den for a liv­ing all day, ev­ery day.

“Gen­er­ally, I’m not dressed with any great care,” says Sarah Wain, gar­den su­per­vi­sor at West Dean in Sus­sex. “In sum­mer, I wear a hat with a brim, prefer­ably open-weave straw, and sun­glasses are a must to pre­vent squint­ing in the daz­zling white glasshouses. I like to wear cot­ton, and build up cloth­ing in lay­ers, but when I am pot­ting up I use a green drill cot­ton apron to pro­tect my cloth­ing.”

Troy Scott Smith, head gar­dener at Siss­inghurst, agrees that lay­ers are im­por­tant, at all times of year, so that you can add or re­move them as work dic­tates. He says even though it was so hot this sum­mer, shorts are not great for work­ing. “You spend so much time on your knees that it just makes it awk­ward,” he says. “I like loose trousers of cot­ton or cord, with a belt I can at­tach tool pouches to; and I some­times wear bib and brace dun­ga­rees.”

His favourite item is a blue en­gi­neer’s jacket, which is light and has great pock­ets. Sim­i­lar jack­ets are avail­able from work­wear com­pa­nies such as Dick­ies and web­sites in­clud­ing Pro­tec Di­rect, as well as crafts­peo­ple at com­pa­nies such as Yar­mouth Oil­skins.

WEATHER WISE

Mandy Buck­land, of Green­cube De­sign, sends out her planting de­sign­ers and af­ter­care specialists in all weathers, and is acutely aware that they must not only look pre­sentable to clients but also have ad­e­quate pro­tec­tion against sun­burn and ex­po­sure. She is one of many peo­ple now turn­ing to spe­cial­ist hik­ing-style ap­parel from Scan­di­na­vian brands such as Helly Hansen.

“We’ve just bought new clothes from Cotswold Out­door for all the team, in­clud­ing Lifa long-sleeve tops, which have SPF 50 sun fil­ters, and are quick-dry,” she says.

Gar­den de­signer Rose­mary Cold­stream, who won gold at RHS Hamp­ton Court Flower Show, doesn’t like long sleeves, even in win­ter, but she says: “I know cov­er­ing my fore­arms re­duces scratches and rashes from plants, so I love my cot­ton arm cov­ers from Ni­waki. Com­bined with gloves, they give me great pro­tec­tion. It’s a bit of a crazy lady look, but oh so prac­ti­cal.”

When it comes to the cold, Tam­sin Westhorpe, of Stock­ton Bury in Here­ford­shire, says she prefers body warm­ers to coats. “I bought a sheep­skin gilet last year, which cost over £200, but was worth it. I had it made by a leather crafts­man in Lud­low called Matt Fothergill, and it will last for­ever. At first, I thought it was too smart to work in, but now I have it on all the time.” Dan Pear­son is also a fan, and Fothergill makes other gar­den­ing kit, in­clud­ing aprons and tool pouches.

Cold weather and heavy-duty work re­quires hardier stuff, and David Dodd, of land­scap­ing firm The Out­door Room, says steel toe caps are a must if you are a con­stant gar­dener. As well as a pair of re­in­forced work boots, he sup­plies his staff with steel-toe-capped wel­lies called Buck­lers, “which are ex­pen­sive but very com­fort­able,” and for sum­mer, steel-toe-capped train­ers from Makita. He also rec­om­mends Ul­ti­mate Con­trast hood­ies, “which are very heavy and warm in win­ter”.

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