The Garden Hose

My most intimate conversations with my garden take place over the watering. Proper watering takes patience, and even more time. Time to really see what is going on. Time to shed the babble of the day, and concentrate on what is in front of my face. What I see while I am watering, and make note to attend to-makes my garden better. I resent being tied down to one spot and one task-but once I get over that resentment, I relax and tune in. I have an irrigation system, but it does not handle every watering issue I have. Were I able to design an irrigation system that could sense on its own when each individual plant needed water, deliver that water, and regroup for tomorrow or next month-I would be able to retire, afford houses with gardens all over southeastern Michigan and have a life casually looking after all of them in turn. Should I ever devise a method by which to intelligently install and maintain such a superior watering system, I would be able buy every photograph that Lynn Geesaman ever took of a landscape or garden. Since the chances of either of these scenarios coming to fruition are poor to none-I am left holding the hose. The garden hose. Since hand watering is a job, a good tool helps.

Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes-Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron are the biggest. Michigan is furthermore laced with inland lakes. We have an embarassment of treasure in water. I have been watering a bed of newly transplanted ferns by hand with the hose every other day this week-watching those drops drip off the fern fronds and into the soil says everything about the life that clean water affords all living things. Keeping all that water clean, a matter of pride and concern to everyone. The challenge lies in the delivery of that water. New cities, new neighborhoods, expanding populations-this is as much about the delivery of water as anything. It would be interesting to see a map showing where my water comes from, and how it is delivered and ready for me to use. Once in in the garden, my delivery system is the hose.

Does it not seem that given the long history of gardening, and the necessity of easily transporting water from a source to a plant, that a perfectly designed and executed hose would be available to me? My shop, and my home have no end of spigots, to which are attached 75 foot hoses. I hate each and every one of them. These heavy duty commercial grade rubber hoses weigh a ton-before they are full of water. They need to be long to reach the outlying districts needing water; dragging them, rolling them back up, and storing them is a colossal pain. They do not coil up easily; Buck says new hoses are directional hoses- meaning they roll up one way, and one way only. You must twist as you roll. The lightweight hoses (my preference) twist, kink, tangle and are otherwise unsatisfactory. They fail in the blink of an eye; the material splits if you look at it too long. A truck tire will crush the fittings. Dropping the hose on the pavement will put a fitting out of round just enough to leak all over you. New hoses-who chose that nuclear green for a hose color? All I want is a hose in an unobtrusive color that winds up effortlessly in the twinkle of an eye, that weighs next to nothing, dwith strong well made fittings that do not leak-am I asking too much?

I am not particularly adept given a discussion of mechanics. Clients who cannot sleep at night unless they have a licensed landscape architect on their project-I try to explain that engineering is vastly different than design. The design and manufacture of durable and serviceable hose fittings-who does this? Like a hairdresser needing the perfect scissors, the chef that needs a perfect knife-I need good hose fittings. Most I have tried leak instantly, or within a week or month. The hose stop valves are the devil to turn on and off. Even if I were to forgo any fitting with a plastic part, the metal ones perform poorly too. I despise having water leak all over me when I am trying to get water to a plant. A great hose-I have been after this Grail my entire gardening life.

Plants need water; no gardener disputes this. When the shop is busy, and I have a little less than an acre to water, the design of the hoses matter to me, and more so to Rob. The watering cannot be left to an amateur-there is too much at stake. A little less than an acre to keep watered is a big job; knowing when and how to water is a skill, and an art. Rob doesn’t mind the fire hoses, as they deliver lots of water in a short time. He is able to drag them, and he knows at what pressure to deliver the drink. Clients ask me-why do your gardens look so good? Rob waters. Would that we could find a better hose, with excellent fittings-and a proper wand.

Every season I try the new watering wands. In my dreams, I would want a wand that delivers an enormous amount of water, gently. Watering wands-I fall prey to all of them. This one has so many plastic parts, I am sure something will go wrong soon. For the moment, I like being able to turn the pressure up and down with my thumb-as I am watering. I am able to turn the water off with this feature-no need for a leaking stop valve. I’ll give it a try. Buck lectures me regularly about proper fittings. Fittings-who knew that a serious discussion of landscape work would involve little parts.

A hose reel is a big part. This one-our second, as the first version came apart and fell of the wall, holds 150 feet of hose. I have no need of such an apparatus at home, but at work, it is a necessity. Rolling up the hose is a workout, as the mechanism is not particularly smooth or well balanced.

My 2010 attempt to find a hose and wand suitable for my home garden is pictured above. I can hold all 75 feet of it with 2 fingers-this I like. The narrow diameter means it takes more time to water thoroughly; I am happy to put up with that, given that I don’t perspire heavily getting it from one place to another. It seems like the wand will be good-the metal fittings are substantial. This hose must have a giant metal spring inside-it has a life of its own. I am twisting as I roll it up. We’ll see if I fall for it-our hot and dry season is just about here.