Gardening: Cuttings: Plus ca change

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE SHIRE Albums, which you usually find in bookshops set in their own revolving stand, have always been repositories of the most wonderfully abstruse information. Two good ones were reprinted earlier this year: Old Lawn Mowers by David Halford, and Old Garden Tools by Kay Sanecki, both pounds 2.25.

The comforting thing about the tool book is that so many of them are familiar. Ms Sanecki reproduces the illustrated list, published by John Evelyn in about 1659, of the things that every well-kitted gardener ought to have. Here are the same rakes, hoes and long-handled pruners that we use today.

I could do with Evelyn's planting lattice 'for regular planting and setting of rootes and flowers', and much regret that no one is making the charming little four-poster bed frame, complete with decorative finials and 'Curtaines of Greene' that Evelyn recommended 'to draw over and preserve the Choysest flowers, being in their beauty, from the parching beames of the Sunn'.

Having abandoned Mountfield mowers, after 20 years, in favour of a Honda, I also read the lawnmower book with interest to see if I was missing out on anything.

There was once a steam- powered lawnmower invented by a Lancashire blacksmith, Elias Sumner, from Leyland, who had had some success with a steam-powered tricycle. Although it weighed nearly a ton- and-a-half, his lawnmower was a popular model. At the turn of the century it was overtaken by the forerunner of our new Honda, Mr Ransome's first-ever petrol-driven mower, introduced in 1902.