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Article for PGG Magazine, by Helen Finch

Tried & Tested, Gold-leaf Gardening Gloves.

It was an inauspicious start to a gardening career.  A few weeks work in the school holidays in the alpine department of the local nursery learning how to water plants in pots properly, and being able to name 10 different varieties of aubretia was followed by a trip to the doctor.  One look at my cracked and bleeding fingers, and I was told to avoid contact with petrol, washing-up liquid, and soil.  Luckily I harboured no ambition to be a forecourt attendant or kitchen skivvy, but not touching soil was going to be awkward.

In the 20 or so years since the diagnosis, I have tried most of the gardening gloves on the market at one time or other.  Every now and then a new style arrives and makes life a bit easier, thankfully long gone are the days of rock-hard leather with gappy cloth wrist bands.  But most of the better quality gloves I have seen tend to be great thick leather gauntlets for rose pruning.  Well, I may be the odd one out but I invariably take my gloves off to prune roses, especially the climbers & ramblers, in order to cope with string, secateurs, knife and a ladder.  What I need are gloves I can weed in, gloves to carry pots round a nursery in, gloves to plant out vegetables in.  Recently I have been using the green ‘gristle’ gloves as they are cheap, have a decent level of water resistance and fit reasonably well.  They do make my hands smell foul after a warm day’s work and go to holes at the tip of the right-hand first finger after a month or two, however.

At Chelsea Show this year, I was drawn to the striking black and gold stand of Goldleaf Gloves, promising unmatchable dexterity with close fit and durability for their products.  Could this be true?  I slipped one, carefully chained to the stand, on. The palm of the ‘Soft Touch’ is soft leather, the back made from lycra and nylon, and with a velcro closure at the wrist it was very comfortable, flexible and close-fitting.  Triumphantly I took a pair home.

So how do they measure up, and at £17, are they really worth four pairs of the old ‘gristle’ gloves?  They are the most comfortable gloves I have ever gardened in.  Trying them in summer meant hot days of weeding, hedge cutting and a very wet day planting a lavender hedge. They didn’t get sweaty and unpleasant, though there was a fair amount of yellow dye from the leather on my hands after the first few wet days, and we haven’t had any rain in the last few weeks, so I can’t say if that tendency has worn off.  The Velcro closure is brilliant, keeping a close fit without having to struggle to get them on and off, though the Velcro did get clogged with mud on the wettest day.  A sponge down that night restored the gloves and they dried overnight still soft and supple for the next day.  They are a pleasure to wear and easy to work in, certainly they have more ‘feel’ than anything bar the latex surgeons gloves I keep by the potting bench.  I would definitely buy them again, though they show no signs of wearing out yet, and might even splash out on a second pair, the Dry Touch, which are lined and more water resistant, for the winter.  Goldleaf gloves are not widely available yet, but stocked by some RHS gardens, or email to ask for your nearest stockist.

By the way, does anyone still grow Aubretia ‘Dr. Mules’ and the rest?