"Dressing for the job"

The subject of what to wear when gardening is an important one!
Sunday, 13 February 2011     

Gardening hat

Because I work from home, I rarely have cause to dress up for doing a conventional day's work in an office. I do, however, give pause for thought as to what I am going to wear when I venture outdoors to do a spot of gardening. Having spent the past week deeply immersed in editing a work connected with skin cancer prevention, I have found myself reflecting on how a gardener should dress for the job, given that we spend so much of our time outdoors, exposed to UV radiation that causes skin damage.

Because of my fair skin, I favour being covered from head to toe. I know it is possible to buy elegant gardening smocks and slacks, but my gardening clothes are what can only be described as the last word in shabby - and not shabby chic! Bespoke baggy cotton trousers with modish elasticised waist for comfort (purchased at op shops for a few dollars); a fashionably loose, old, ragged, long-sleeved shirt cast off by my husband; a large, floppy hat of the type favoured by Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men; sunglasses; leather gloves; and filthy runners comprise the ensemble. In winter, a sloppy joe is added, featuring a variety of tasteful splatters of paint from previous house-decorating projects. In very wet muddy weather, I might swap the runners for stylish knee-length rubber gumboots from Bunnings and add a plastic yellow poncho.

In fact, I do rather resemble an ambulant scarecrow. One of my old neighbours, whose property adjoined the back of our garden, only ever saw me in such ghastly outfits - so much so that when we once met at a fancy magazine launch, she didn't recognise me in a cocktail outfit, heels and minus the hat!

But dressed in my gardening garb, I feel extremely comfortable and quite protected from the sun (or the rain), and able to work outside much longer than I would relying on sunscreen alone to protect my skin. It is also liberating to feel able to really get stuck into gardening tasks without worrying about getting completely muddy or that one's clothes might get torn by thorns or prickles. I can crawl through overgrown borders with abandon; even sit on the ground if necessary.

I ruined more clothes and shoes in my younger days than I care to remember by tackling a gardening job on the spur of the moment whilst still dressed in decent outfits from being out somewhere. Somehow, mud just doesn't never comes out of that expensive silk blouse or pretty flounced skirt. And I can't recommend a foray into a garden bed wearing stilettos!

Even dressed as I am in my outfit, I do try to avoid gardening in the middle of the day, especially in summer, and like to garden early or later on in the afternoon to dodge excess exposure to the sun. I also try to garden where the shade is at any given time. I can honestly say I have spent more happy hours wearing my hideous gardening clothes in pursuit of my hobby than I have in the finest of fancy outfits perched on precarious heels and daintily nibbing a canapé ...

 Reader Comments

1/12  Rae - 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 February 2011

I am learning that I need to change even to water - invariably i duck out to water on a hot night after work while my husband is bathing the kids and one thing leads to another and I am pulling weeds out or cutting branches in my work clothes...

Yes that is exactly what used to happen to me! Deirdre

2/12  Helen - 2154 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 February 2011

Today I am emerging from the 'don't bend, don't lift anything heavy, don't garden' phase of a cataract op. and I can't wait to get into my trusty old clobber and get out there. Thanks Deirdre for your encouragement to give up this refined ladylike life. Helen

Hope you will soon be able to be in your garden again! Deirdre

3/12  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 February 2011

agree with your comments re gardening garb - I put on my oldest pants and long sleeved shirt, as I have a habit of wiping my hands (in gloves) on my pants. I have a pair of leather boots and also a pair of short gumboots, from the UK, which I find are great for garden work.

Thanks, Margaret. Yes, it is a joy to be able to wipe filthy hands on one's gardening clothes! The short gumboots sound good, as the long ones can get rather hot! Deirdre

4/12  Robin - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 February 2011

Thanks for the chuckle, Deirdre. I did so love Bill and Ben and the little Weed. It is good to know others look a fright when tackling their garden. One problem is having too many clothes in the wardrobe classified as potential gardening or painting garb and too few outfits for outings. Robin

Thanks, Robin. All too true for me re the gardening clothes versus the outing clothes! Deirdre

5/12  Margaret - 3777 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Its my house slippers that take a beating from impulse gardening! By the way, my white lychnis problem is solved - a chance visit to Spring Park Nursery at Eganstown (between Daylesford and Ballarat)brought it to light. A lovely, healthy plant for $5.

I keep a pair of old shoes right next to the door for that sort of thing. Great that you found your plant. Hope it does well. Deirdre

6/12  Malle - 2570 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Wednesday, 16 February 2011

I find wearing cargo pants with lots of pockets useful for putting in gloves, secateurs,string, etc and to put miscellaneous produce found in my wanderings in the orchard or veggie garden However they do start falling down with too much of a load!

That's a great idea, Malle! Deirdre

7/12  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 12 February 2018

Thank you for the reminder about protecting yourself, with suitable clothing, when gardening. I, too, have fair skin, so still wear my long pants, long sleeved shirt, gloves and hat, plus sun screen. I, too, have a dirty pair of shoes which I wear in the garden. They need a wash, but as I am in the garden nearly every day, there is no time for this! Even with this garb, I was bitten by wasps, years ago - so painful - but would have been worse if I had not been fully covered. Thanks, Margaret. My current gardening shoes are very filthy! Deirdre

8/12  Susan - 2430 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 12 February 2018

It"s great to read your earlier blogs Dierdre, as I only joined a couple of years ago. Please don"t ever give it up. I have learned so much, being new to warm temperate climate gardening only 5 years ago. As for gardening clobber, I dress in exactly the same clothes as you, and my sartorial excellence is further enhanced with knee pads, gaiters and a tool belt. I always wear those thin white cotton gloves inside my gardening ones. I favour Madgrip silicon finger ones. Rock climbers supplies. Thanks, Susan. I now wear knee pads; I love the sound of the gaiters and the tool belt! Your gloves sound good too. They probably last longer than most gardening gloves! Deirdre

9/12  Joan - 2154 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 12 February 2018

Hi Deirdre can you advise the best way to sharpen secateurs please - or is there somewhere I could take them my crepe myrtle is growing little suckers at the base and I want to do a nice clean sharp removal and not tear the suckers with a blunt secateurs??? I am really keen to buy some of those beautiful blue - large ball flowers - called alliums ???? are they available in any nursery - they come in deep blue and also purple. Do you know them? Many thanks Joan Hi Joan -- if you can get to the Cottage Garden Club at St Albans Church Hall, Pembroke St, Epping this Saturday 24 February from 9 am onwards, there will be a secateur sharpening person there. Re the alliums, they are not very suitable for Sydney gardens, in my experience! Deirdre

10/12  Gaynor - 5044 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 12 February 2018

I was just reading this "older post" last week and am very happy to see it repeated. There must be an army of us - well covered lady gardeners all around Australia. But as you say Deirdre, we are almost in disguise, because our neighbours often don"t recognise us when we do our Cinderella act and clean up. It is important to stay protected, comfortable and hydrated. Most important of all, continue to create beautiful gardens. Cheers and happy gardening everyone!!! Thanks, Gaynor. Staying hydrated is an important point; I keep a water bottle with me whilst gardening. Deirdre

11/12  Lynne - 2479 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 12 February 2018

Even my husband is horrified at my gardening outfit but hey, I am happy in it and it covers me from head to toe - necessary in a sub tropical, tick heaven, area. It does need an upgrade from Worsel Gumage though so I am off to Bunnings or some place to get some new gear. Can"t wait to get it dirty and worn in so I can revert to my usual, sartorial elegance and happy contentment in my garden. Ah, happy days. Yes the added problem of ticks is a worry in some areas. A friend used to soak her gardening clothes in permethrin insecticide, then line-dry them. This is a method used by bush regenerators to try to minimise tick bites. Deirdre

12/12  Joan - 2154 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Is it time in autumn to pot on a couple of frangipani that seem to be doing well - new growth but NO flowers ever as yet - one must be over 2 feet tall and has put on good growth - the other one bought at Aldi"s --- it had 2 what seems to be separate trunks - maybe 2 cuttings were put in same pot - but it is only about 15 0r 18 inches high - but leaves look healthy and happy but both frangi very small pots - maybe if 2 aldi frangi could separate? Tips for repotting. Joan

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