Sunday Opinion: Two Hands

Two hands come standard issue. Lucky for all of us gardeners, but this familiarity makes it is easy to take them for granted.  My two hands are small, but they  have sixty years worth of use behind them.  They are a gnarly as any tree root, but what they are still capable of still astounds me.  They type the sentences for my almost daily posts.  I pet the corgis down with them every day, several times a day.  They hold a toothbrush, a paintbrush, or a watercolor brush effortlessly.  I put my clothes on, I tie my shoes, I put the key in the lock when I leave home-three fingers of one hand handles the steering wheel of my bus-the Suburban.  They unlock the door at work, punch in the code that turns off the alarm, fire up the coffee pot, feed the corgis, open the doors, shade my eyes from the low early morning sun. 

They are equally adept at working a zipper and taping trace paper over a mortgage survey. They can unscrew the top off the milk in the morning, and the sauvignon blanc much later on. With my two hands, I set the table for dinner, arrange flowers in a vase, carry the plates outside.  One hand holds the match that lights the dinner candles. That one hand goes on to hold my fork,  wave off an early mosquito, make my ear of corn available, put my napkin to my face.  The two of them tell the story of the day; Buck says I am always waving my hands. They scratch where I itch, they rub my eyes when I am frustrated or tired. 

They are the most amazing tool I have ever had at my disposal.  They grip my trowel at the proper angle.  They dig on their own, when the idea of locating and using a trowel leaves me cold.  I feel with my hands where a topiary plant needs a stake and a tie-no need to see.  Feeling what a plant needs gives you a leg up; I cannot explain what I mean by this.  I assess the texture and viability of soil, once it is in my hands.  I push the smallest of seeds into the soil with a finger.  I transplant with all ten fingers attending the occasion.  I prune, snip, deadhead, stake, divide, plant, water, feed, harvest, store, fast freeze.  My hands power my spade, my fork, my pruning shears, my hoe.  My garden tools imply, and require my hands. 

I can hold many precious things in the palm of my hand.  A seed. An earthworm.  The palm of a hand outstretched-a gesture of friendship.  The palms of two hands up-hello.  In some cases, they say “I give”.  Mostly they say welcome-and very glad to meet you.  Holding hands-a fresh and friendly gesture that dates back centuries.  What two hands are able to accomplish is formidable. The two hands of one person in concert with the 100 hands of fifty other people-a movement.

 Your garden’s biggest ally-your hands.  I do lots of work for clients that is much about ideas, and drawings.  It is of such serious importance to communicate ideas with a client.  My hands do their part; they draw.  They point out, they trace the edges of a composition, they explain. But real gardening gets done all over this planet, in individual gardens, given one person with willing hands. Hands dig, divide, replant, move-willing hands make the most beautiful gardens.

Take some time to think about how your hands endow your garden.  Look at those hands differently.  Those hands of yours that dig, waver, plant, maintain, entertain-those hands of yours that make for a life; I will repeat.  Those hands of yours are a treasure. 

I value what comes to mind.  I so value that I can think, assess, backtrack, move over, rethink, reassess.  But my most favorite and trusted tool-my hands.  I trust what I can get my hands around, what I can feel, what I can make work out, what I can shape-given my two hands.   

Successful design relationships are all about a group of hands that connect.  If a designer whom you are considering does not encourage you to shake hands-back off.  There is someone else out there that you would be happy to hold hands with.  Should you have a mind to design for yourself-pay attention to what those two hands of yours favor.  Should you be uncertain as to which oath to take, favor what your hands find true.  I am very sure every gardener planet wide puts two hands to their garden. My two hands-how lucky I am to have them.


  1. I, too, am grateful every day for all the ways I am able to use my hands. They are a wonderful tool. Thank you Deborah.

  2. It seems to be great having two hands ? where can i buy such a tool in France ??

    Seriously, i agree with you, i enjoy having those great tools on each arm.

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