Do you have special gardening pants, shoes, or a tool you just can’t live without? For me, it’s my gardening shoes, they’re the ones you can just slip on without needing to tie or untie anything. They have rubber so that it doesn’t matter if I’m gardening in the mud or rain (yes I do this, and often)! And they’re comfortable enough to wear for hours while I pull weeds, though I admit they do get hotter than flip flops. If I were to write a sonnet for a piece of gardening garb, it would definitely be for my gardening shoes.
Today’s story from Karen Keltz honors her favorite: her gardening pants. She doesn’t care that they’re almost 20 years old, they’re only just getting broken in! Keltz doesn’t care if they’re cute, either, she says, “Please tell me real gardeners look like me,” in jest at the gardening magazine covers with women in white dresses and sun hats.
In this ode to her gardening pants, called Garden Fashion, Keltz writes an ode to her “perfect garden pants” that have reached their term of disposal, but not without a eulogy. “My pants are so soft I can bend without cutting off the blood supply to my extremities or pinching the backs of my knees,” she writes, with material so now loosely woven, that it breathes on Summer days. If you know, you know! Keep reading for a good chuckle.
Bon Voyage, Gardening Pants
This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that inject the joy of gardening into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope it does for you as well. Enjoy!
Trendsetter with a trowel? Me! (Riiiiight …)
By Karen Keltz
I experienced a moment of sadness last week when the bolt-like button on my favorite pair of garden jeans fell onto the floor. The piece of fabric where it had been attached had simply worn away entirely. There’s no way to sew it back on, since there is no fabric left upon which to sew. I fear my jeans’ days are numbered—and I don’t like it! They are still relatively young, somewhere in the 18-20 year range, I estimate. They were just getting broken in.
They are perfect garden pants, forgiving when I may have added a few too many pounds over the Winter. The material is loosely woven now, so air gets through for perfect cooling on the hottest days (as hot as Tillamook, Oregon gets, anyway). My pants are so soft I can bend without cutting off the blood supply to my extremities or pinching the backs of my knees.
All the stains appear to vanish during a wash, probably because there are but a few fibers for them to stick to. An old oil stain from their early days does still run down one thigh, but the red paint I’d slopped all over the front of both legs has long been gone from all the thrashings in the washer.
I’m lucky because the waistband had two bolt-like buttons. One remains, so I can still hold my pants up. I guess everyone is lucky regarding that, neighbors included.
I’ve worn other pants in the garden over the years, but none have been as highly regarded. I do have another pair of jeans, my second favorite pair, which I don when my favorite pair is in the washer. They are some sizes larger than I presently am, and I don’t recall when or where I purchased them, but I must have been a woman of some great substance back then. They, too, are extremely comfortable—the fabric can flap in the breeze to keep me cool, and nothing bunches or binds. At my age, an easy pull-off is another benefit, for those times when I’ve stayed too long in the garden and Nature is raring to take her course. They also have pockets where any number of necessities can reside until needed: weed-trimmer string cassettes, seeds, cellphone.
It’s true that I will never look like the photos of gardeners touted in magazines, with their white sundresses and beribboned straw hats, long-stemmed cutting flowers in one hand and lipsticked smiles on their faces.
Please tell me real gardeners look like me. Underneath their sweat-rimmed, vented canvas hats, they hold a small look of malice, thinking of what evil they’ll next conquer, be it slug or grub, bittercress or thistle, with a wickedly sharp tool of death. Their T-shirt fronts display vivid stains that are diverse and indelible, their garden tool belts are securely fastened around their waists, and their pants are threadbare but comfortable, with big pockets. Maybe even one bolt-like button missing! ❖
*Actually IN the garden, that is!
By Karen Keltz, published originally in 2020, in GreenPrints Issue #122. Illustrations by Hannah England.
Did you enjoy this Joy of Gardening story?