Monday, December 6, 2010


I once asked a couple, both well known as gardeners, what they wore on their feet when gardening, they seemed offended by the question and said ,rather tersely "What ever we're wearing at the time". I had a picture of them tripping through their bog garden in fluffy bedroom slippers and decided not to pursue the subject any further. Perhaps they thought that I was looking for a recommendation for a pair of over-priced "branded" wellingtons; but rather, I was hoping to find that they had a pair of shoes that though wear and familiarity had taken on the character of a much loved side-kick.
There are certainly many examples of these well-worn items, William Nicolson's painting od Miss Jekyll's Boots is almost as well known as his portrait of the lady gardener herself.

Miss Jekyll's Boots by William Nicolson.

More recently I found in Edwin Smith's beautiful photography book "Evocations of Place" a wonderful picture of Vita Sackville-West's boots. They looked very severe and probably took quite a bit of time to break in, but the photographer certainly saw them as an image worth preserving.

Vita Sackville -West's Boots photograph by Edwin Smith.

I've given up on gardening shoes with cleats, after finding myself several inches taller from the accumulated mud and gravel stuck to the bottom of the soles. For that reason own favourite is a pair of Geox that are easy to slip on and off and with a reasonably flat soles that don't collect debris on the bottoms.

My own well worn boots.


allanbecker-gardenguru said...

Please tell me that the Geox were recycled from street wear when you started to garden in them.

View through your kitchen window is beautiful.

Is the Wiz said...

Great post. Good boots, like a good spade, make the work so much easier. I love how you combine style and practicality.

Barry Parker said...

Fear not Allan, those shoes have had a full life, and should continue to be useful for many years to come.

Barry Parker said...

Hi Isobel, I suppose , in truth, you can't call my footwear a boot, but there is a lot to be said for a shoe that is light and breathes well.
I can't help thinking that the boots featured in my post are a bit of overkill on the part of both wearers. I doubt that Miss J or The Right Hon V. had to deal with rough terrain in Surrey and Kent.

ecoman said...

Hey Barry,
I posted on this awhile back
PS why low cut? Does it not bother you when you get pebbles etc. in them?

Barry Parker said...

Hi Jonas,
Low rise doesn't bother me. I stopped wearing Bludstones after I developed ankle problems.

I like the look of your Gentleman Vector site... look forward to more posts.

gardenbre said...

nice post - in my three years of gardening I have had 3 pairs of (2nd hand) gardening shoe/boots ... I felt guilty purchasing the 2nd pair after realizing I'd left the 1st pair at home and was well on my way to the allotment ... the 2nd hand store was on the way ... I LOVE my gardening shoes (another pair of boots melted in the hot sun and became difficult to put on and take off with their curled up toes) ... you've inspired me to photograph them now for posterity! ... heck maybe I'll even do a painting of them. It's Winter (they and I they won't be need anywhere soon)!

CallieK said...

I confess I often garden wearing flip flops- the kind my mother would never allow me out of the house in when I was child. For more mucky conditions I have a pair of brightly coloured rain boots.

Barry Parker said...

Hi Brenda,

Whatever the kind of shoe, the work we do in the garden seems to give them a lot of character. The more abuse they get the happier they look.

Barry Parker said...

Hi CallieK,
I wear sandals most of the time in the summer, but put on shoes if I have to get into any strenuous digging.
Let's face it in our summer climate we need very little protection from the elements ( a little sun screen perhaps). I can't imagine Miss Jekyll or Vita in flip-flops, they would probably freeze to death anyway.