Fashion in the garden is much misrepresented by all those mischievous country charm catalogues. Do you fancy a spot of weeding in your oyster coloured moleskins?
Do you visualise yourself doing the winter slash and burn with white linen trousers tucked into gumboots and a cute little floral shirt? Or will you stride out to do the roses wearing a fisherman's vest full of pockets? Somewhere to stash the secateurs...
Summer Garden Fashion
Lets get two things straight. Summer gardeners like to sit in the warm dirt to weed. They don't want to get bitten, or too sunburnt, and their clothes must portray a careless elegance (in case of unexpected visitors). Pale blue country checked shirts are a good look, if there is the slightest hint of a photograph...
Years of Garden Fashion
Winter gardeners are allowed to dress like bad weather trampers. They are inclined to kneel (rather than sit) in the mud, and when the ground is too muddy they will spend hours with their bottoms in the air. Such body positions require the correct insulation - and most outdoor manuals suggest layers of wool or thermal clothing.
layers of style
The layered look is very functional. Layers of winter gardening clothes can be peeled off easily. Consider a typical winter gardening Saturday. The intrepid gardener emerges at 8:30 am. The temperature is three degrees (Celcius). The sun bravely tries to peer through the shelter trees. She will be tri-thermalled and probably bi-fleeced, vested, balaclava-ed and gloved, with the resulting shape of a half oak barrel, or a Michelin woman.
She will then spend two hours hugging armfuls of pine and gum tree debris and loading them onto a trailer. There will be a bonfire in the middle of the back paddock, where she will do the dance of the seven thermal layers, shedding each until she hops around like a brightly striped red-faced bird, with naked knees and elbows. Three cheers for her gardening long-johns!
For summer gardening a most important fashion item is the gardening shirt. It must be loose and flowing. Specifically, it must flow over the hips and bottom of the gardener, making her appear elegant in all gardening postures, particularly those which involve lunging or bending over.
Shorts and Footwear
Gardening shorts can create the illusion of extreme toughness. So they should be sturdy and sensible, hanging to the knees, like those of an experienced Himalayan trekker. Footwear is definitely seasonal. Gumboots are not a good summer look, neither would any self respecting summer gardener be seen weeding in boat shoes. Boots are best? I think so. Support for the over-worked arches is quite sensible, as well as protection from brambles, spiky sticks, and insect bites.
Say no to 'crocs' and open-toed sandals. In winter, mud and moisture (plus the thickness of the favourite socks) are good indicators for safety and comfort.
As in any type of fashion, accessorising is the key to success. Garden accessories will define the unique essence of a gardener. Favourite spade and wheelbarrow will attain ye olde worlde rustic charm if left outside in rain. Secateurs and hand diggers similarly get a retro muted orange look. Gardeners who insist on clean gardening jeans every day will, no doubt, clean and store all their gleaming hand tools at the end of each gardening session.
Me with Gunnera Leaf
And remember that extreme gardening might require extreme equipment - a gardener can still look stylish in her neoprene waders.
Apres gardening is an important fashion moment, and here there are very definite stylistic rules. Apres gardening clothing must be delicate, create the impression of slenderness. And, oddly, it absolutely must the attract dirt. This is the time to get out those white linen trousers - white is a most suitable colour for apres-gardening. There can be no sneaky poking in patio pots or weeding. Can't get those trousers dirty, can we? The apres gardening look is usually completed with clean brushed hair and lavender scent. Family and friends will appreciate this new aroma, and partners might even comment that the gardener's hair looks 'fluffy'.
There are also rules of style for the garden paparazzi. These are the gardening photographers who pop up around Moosey's Country Garden from time to time. Their softness of step needs the contrast of loud, garish coloured clothing. They must be visible to the gardener at all times through the greenery, and they should not spend ridiculous amounts of time and money trying to take photos of insects.
garden paparazzi in action photographing a miscanthus seedhead
So next time you peruse the country charm catalogues, or see pictures of tidy garden owners (like HRH the Prince of Wales) weeding in cream slacks, think again. Gardeners are lovable but messy creatures. Don't be tempted. Remember that mud always sticks - particularly to moleskins.
Removing Bonfire Ash
And when in doubt, just go for basics - a little black top, jaunty fur-trimmed waterproof boots, and denim skinny jeans. Stretch denim, of course...