Carry on Gardening!

Age is a number.  Growing old is inevitable; growing up is optional!

However as we get older some of us unfortunately suffer from osteoarthritis, especially if we have led an active life and, or, have inherited the predisposition to develop osteoarthritis in our joints.  In the early 1960s I trained in occupational therapy and as a student loved working in the department at a residential rehabilitation centre, but after a couple of weeks in a department at a psychiatric hospital I realised that I was training for the wrong career.  I left college and went to my local technical college doing a two and a half term course for personal secretaries, minimum qualification two A levels.  I worked as a medical secretary, where my medical knowledge was invaluable.  I loved the work, at first in a London hospital and later for a Harley Street consultant surgeon.  In the late 1980s as a full time mum and in need of the means to buy plants for my garden,  I started selling a few plants to friends and neighbours and later on at our local horticultural society shows.  I turned my long term hobby from childhood into my third career, LW Plants, selling plants from home, at plant sales and local flower shows, followed by garden open days for charities, flower and garden photography, talks to horticultural societies, research and writing.

Over 15 years ago I started getting pain and stiffness in some of my finger joints and in 2005 osteoarthritis was diagnosed in both knees, both of which meant I had to start changing how I approach the way I work in my garden.  In recent years I have been applying what I was taught at college, so as to enable me to carry on gardening and I would like to share this with other gardeners.  Gardening is a wonderful way to keep fit and far more rewarding than going to the gym or jogging along local roads, etc!  My mother was still gardening at the age of 80 and I fully intend to continue enjoying working in my garden for as many years as possible.  Carry on gardening!


I had been using Felco 8 secateurs for many years, but when I started getting pain in my finger joints I changed to the smaller Felco 12 with the roller handle. They make cutting and pruning so much easier to do and are very arthritic joint friendly and I highly recommend them.  I have two pairs and they have an annual service from Felco, which includes new blades and repair or replacement of any part where necessary.  As far as maintenance is concerned I use the Felco sharpener, which is far more efficient than any other makes.

In my experience  Fiskars oil is the best I have used.

To clean the blades prior to sharpening and oiling I use a small square of emery cloth to gently rub off the usual accumulation of debris which collects on them.

Felco 12 secateurs

Watering the garden

My back garden is on a slope and approximately 70 feet long and 30 feet wide.  Thirty years ago there was a 2 foot high retaining brick wall to the patio area, with a steep slope down to the bottom of the garden.  I built a second 2 foot high wall further down the garden, moving soil from the bottom to the middle and ending up with a reasonably level area in the middle.  I now have a very vigorously growing pair of Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ growing in 2 feet of top soil either side of an archway above this retaining wall!

A hose reel is not a safe option for a garden on more than one level.  A trailing pipe is a potential trip hazard and a long hosepipe is too heavy and bulky to carry around when one has arthritic finger joints.  I have found that the most user friendly solution is to have short lengths of hosepipe for watering each section of the garden,  which my left hand can just manage to carry.  In the back garden I have buried a hosepipe on each side of the garden just below soil level.  The one for the bottom section goes down the back of the Long Border, emerging behind the shed.  During the summer months I attach a length of pipe sufficiently long enough to water plants below the retaining wall and store it in the shed during the winter, together with the other extension hosepipes.  The hosepipe for the middle section runs down the other side of the garden, along with the electricity armoured cable to the greenhouse.  It lives in the greenhouse, coiled up under the staging in the summer when not in use and in the winter I detach the extension length of pipe.  The short length for watering greenhouse plants and filling up watering cans, as well as topping up the bird bath, rolls up neatly between the glass by the greenhouse door and large pots stored under the staging.  The hosepipes for the front garden run alongside the house.   Each length of hosepipe has its own spray gun.

Access Irrigation Ltd. brass tap units

The left hand pair are for watering the front garden; the green one for a leaky pipe system just below soil level and the yellow one for a hand held spray gun.  The middle one is for watering pots on the patio, the ferns, hostas and bulbs at the house end of the Long Border and my herb garden at the top of the scree.  On the right the green and yellow pipe is for watering the middle section of the garden and greenhouse.  The grey and orange pipe is for watering the bottom section of the garden.

Patio hosepipe.  Hozelock Ultraflex pipe and Hozelock Multi Spray Pro Gun, with 7 spray patterns and a lockable front trigger spray.   In my experience this is more user friendly for arthritic finger joints than rear trigger action spray guns.

In late autumn before the first heavy frost I dismantle the trident, leaving just the central hosepipe to the greenhouse.  The tap and hose end are wrapped in an insulated cover, tied up with Flexi-Tie and a second insulated cover is then placed on top of the tap and again tied with Flexi-Tie.  When I need to use the tap to water the greenhouse or fill up watering cans, all that is necessary is to temporarily remove just the top cover, without disturbing the cover around the tap.  So much easier to use than the multiple layers of bubble wrap that I used in past winters!  The brass fittings on the permanent buried hoses are tied up in small insulated bags.

Winter tap insulation
Top layer of insulation secured with Flexi-Tie and tied in a reef knot on top. Very simple to remove the cover when the tap is in use.