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Gifts of Special Garden Tools

By Margaret Page Culver, Master Gardener, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

Often it's difficult to think of gifts for loved ones with special needs.

Here are some gift suggestions for avid gardeners who may believe they can no longer enjoy the joys of gardening because of physical impairments caused by aging, accidents or disease. Many tools are readily available locally and by mail order.

If you're unfamiliar with the idea of therapeutic gardening tools, visit the Denver Botanic Gardens Center for Horticultural Therapy. Ergonomically designed garden tools are permanently on display at the Morrison Center, located across the street from DBG's main entrance on 11th and York. Staff members are willing to answer questions and outside raised beds will help you envision possibilities. Various height beds are suited for different people and garden spaces.

Several Denver area stores carry tools for special needs. Birdsall and Company carries a very wide selection. Oscillating hoes, which relieve pressure on the back, are helpful to persons with diminished strength and endurance. They work through a push and pull movement from a standing, not crouching, position. The one handed flower snips are designed for persons with bending difficulties or impaired mobility. The tool neatly holds stems after cutting so flowers don't drop to the ground.

Birdsall also carries ratcheting pruners and loppers. It takes little pressure to cut through branches with these tools that magnify and conserve the force you apply. Any gardener who has ever suffered a bruised palm from pruning will appreciate these as gifts.

Look to Smith and Hawken for oscillating hoes as well as long-handled pruners for persons who experience bending difficulty or mobility impairment. These longer-than-average tools promote good balance for a safe pruning experience. This type of pruner can be useful to persons in wheelchairs.

Also shop Smith and Hawken for trigger-grip trowels, forks and cultivator forks designed to aid persons with limited grasping ability or diminished strength and endurance.

Youcan Toocan carries a wide variety of products for the disabled, all designed to promote independent living at home. Among these are a number of garden products that can enable disabled and older persons to continue horticultural activities. The Good Grips garden tools brand feature rubber grips to help persons with swollen or deteriorating joints of the hand. Ergonomic garden tools like small hoes, cultivators and spades are engineered to allow use of elbow joint strength rather than that of the hand or wrist.

Also browse the reachers, designed to pick up dropped garden tools or plant debris. Other items include foam tubing that can be cut to length and applied to tools for a better grip, and the "Uniturner," an aid for turning on outdoor faucets.

You may also find tools with soft, rubber grips at many neighborhood stores to aid persons suffering from arthritis or degenerative bone diseases.

If you prefer shopping by phone or on the web, try the Gardener's Supply Company out of Vermont. Their catalog features specially designed tools as well as other garden-related gifts.

Sources mentioned -

Birdsall and Co. - 1540 S. Broadway, 303-722-2535
oscillating hoe $45, one-handed flower snips $11-$17, ratcheting pruners $15, ratcheting loppers $85.

Smith and Hawken - 268 Detroit, 303-329-6938
long-handled pruners $68, trigger grip trowels, forks and cultivator forks for $9 each.

Youcan Toocan - 2223 S. Monaco Parkway, 303-759-9525
Good Grips Garden Tools including garden scissors, forks, cultivators, weeders and trowels at $10 each. Ergonomic sets of three tools (small hoes, cultivators and spades) for $40. Reachers for $16 - $40, foam tubing at $3 per tube and the "Uniturner" faucet grip at $18.

Gardener's Supply Co. - 128 Intervale Rd., Burlington, VT 05401
Phone 1-800-863-1700,

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010