TESTED THIS WEEK
Garden Girl: Dungarees & Trousers
Brushcutter: User's Bib and Brace
Softshell: Forestry Jacket
Stihl: Protective Trousers
Lyngsoe: Fox Jacket
Rostaing: Woodcutter's Gloves
THE REVIEW PANEL
Darren Webster, head gardener, Thenford
Matthew Pullen, gardener, Thenford
Rebecca Sanang Joret, gardener, Alscott Park, Warwickshire
Lisa Topham, head gardener, Alscott Park, Warwickshire, and park and gardeners manager, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
Raef Johnson, arborist, Westonbirt Arboretum
- Working outdoors, whether on the nursery, in a park or garden, or up a tree, means exposure to all kinds of conditions. The work may be hard and the weather harsh - hot, cold, wet.
Wearing the right clothing for the job and the conditions is important if you are to perform at your best and keep yourself safe.
In this test, we look at a range of clothing, using the garments in working environments to determine what the best-dressed horticulturist should be wearing.
GARDEN GIRL DUNGAREES AND TROUSERS
Garden Girl, launched 18 months ago, is a range of comfortable and practical ladies' gardening clothes designed by women for women. This is intended to be fashionable and is likely to be a first choice for Margo from The Good Life. But what will professional gardeners make of the line? Garden Girl gave dungarees to gardener Rebecca Sanang Joret and Lisa Topham, then head gardener at Alscott Park in Warwickshire.
As the main products in the range, the dungarees and trousers are made from 100 per cent 300g/sq m cotton to make them flexible and light but durable. The trousers have a zip-front and button and the dungarees have a full-length zip and braces. Topham appreciates the quality of the fabric and manufacturing. "It's good material and it washes really well," she says.
Both items are supplied in full and three-quarter lengths, in sizes from 6 to 22. Leg bottoms are reinforced with 100 per cent nylon and there are adjustable ankle straps - making the clothing suitable for women of most heights.
The great thing about these items is that they match the female shape. The trousers and dungarees have Wonderfit stretch side panels so the waistband stays around the waist, even when bending. This scores highly with our testers. "The elastic-side panels make the garments comfortable to wear when working," they note.
The legs also have a "knee shape" with polyester reinforcement. There are pockets in the knees to take kneeling pads. Access to the pockets to insert the pads, however, is on the inside of the trousers. If you do not want the knee pads banging around your legs all day, you will probably need to take the trousers off to remove them.
"The knee pads are put in from the bottom of the pad-pocket on the inside of the trouser leg," says Topham, almost in disbelief. "It's practically impossible to put the pads in when you have the trousers on and it's a struggle to get them out, too. What's more, the pads tend to slip and move out of place. We were constantly fiddling with them and readjusting their position."
The trousers and dungarees both have large patch pockets to the front and leg pockets for carrying small tools - you need never miss your pocket knife or secateurs again. The dungarees also have two large breast pockets with flaps and there is a mobile phone pouch that detaches and attaches quickly and easily - you can wear it from either of the D-rings sown onto the trousers' patch pockets or from the dungarees' bib.
The hooks and rings cause concern for Topham. "Hooks, rings, mobile phone pouches - anything hanging off a garment is potentially dangerous, especially when working with machinery such as shredders," she says.
While our testers appreciate the quality and fit of the garments, they both hate the colour and pattern of the fabric. Topham admits: "I had an awful time at the builders' merchants. With all these pretty little roses on the material, I just wasn't taken seriously. The clothing should be available in a plain colour - perhaps navy or green."
As everyday workwear, the testers found the garments expensive. "As professional female gardeners, we were excited by the prospect of trying gardening workwear designed specifically for women," says Topham. "There is a huge gap in the market but although these clothes are really well-made, they are more suited to the amateur gardener."
Garden Girl also makes skirts, garden aprons, quilted vests, softshell and microfleece jackets, gloves, hats and scarves, matching plant bags and dungarees for children. As well as the flowery material, there are three other patterns available.
Dungaress: £71.80 (£64.99 until 19 December). Trousers: £65.90 (£56.50 until 19 December).
Contact: Garden Girl - 01494 485229 or www.gardengirl.co.uk
BRUSHCUTTER USER'S BIB AND BRACE
"Too bright for us," say the Thenford team, but this bib and brace garment is ideal for use where you need to be seen - specifically for highway verge maintenance, parks and other public areas.
Polycotton makes this clothing lightweight and comfortable but the main feature is the heavy-duty orange PU coating on the front of the legs. It gives useful protection from flying bits of grass, other debris and the nasties inevitably kicked up by a line-trimmer. A clear advantage of the PU is that wipes clean.
"If you do hit something unpleasant, you can simply wipe off the mess and carry on working," Webster points out.
The PU also offers some protection against thorny vegetation.
Manufacture is to a good standard, with the seams at the sides double stitched and overlocked, though we are disappointed to find the buckles for the shoulder straps are only single-stitched to the bib. The braces are sown to the garment at the back, making it difficult to use your own braces.
There are good sizes pockets on each side and a slit so you can reach to undertrouser pockets on the right-hand side.
A single back pocket has a partly sown-down flap, making it useless in a hurry.
But we like the front pocket on the bib. It's double-stitched and zipped. A very positive point: the garment can be machine washed at 30.
Severnside Safety also offers brushcutter trousers in green with yellow waterproof material to the lower leg and H-Viz yellow or orange trousers for brushcutter operators. The company, based in Cheltenham, has an on-line shop at www.sevsafe.co.uk.
Sizes: S, M, L, and XL
Price: £25 (reduced from £32.90)
Contact: Severnside Safety - 01242 525811
SOFTSHELL FORESTRY JACKET
The jacket is in green with orange shoulders and side panels for visibility but it does not quite match the brushcutter user's bib and brace. It is made of 95 per cent polyester and five per cent Spandex. It is not chainsaw protective, but it is water and dirt resistant and is a useful and comfortable work jacket.
Generally, the construction is good, with lots of strengthening double stitching - to the hem, the side seams and cuffs - although we do find a short run of missed stitches where the collar joins the back of the jacket. If it had been a suit or party wear, we would definitely have taken it back to the shop.
The jacket has a one-way zip up the front. There is a drawstring to make the bottom snug but no elastication or straps to hold the cuffs close to the wrist. There are two zipped pockets at the top but they are not very deep. Much more useful are two side pockets, also zipped.
Overall, at £45.60 + VAT (sale price £30), this jacket is good value for money. Wash at 40 degrees.
Sizes: S, M, L, XL and XXL
Price: £45.60 + VAT (sale price £30)
Contact: Severnside Safety - 01242 525811
STIHL PROTECTIVE TROUSERS FOR BRUSHCUTTER USE
Clearly they have fashion-sense at Stihl. These trousers are stylish without being loud. They are practical without being dull. They fit nicely and, although a little on the heavy side after a while, they are generally comfortable to work in.
Above all, they give a feeling of confidence when debris is flying up from a brushcutter or when you are striding through rough vegetation and prickly shrubs.
Well made and extremely robust, the trousers comprise 65 per cent polyester and 35 per cent cotton, weighing 210g/sq m and with three-ply to the front to protect against thorns. Vents in the upper leg area help to prevent overheating and the back is high to provide protection against the wind when working on cold days.
Strong and frequent loops provide stability to a belt if worn. Buttons are positioned for the attachment of braces if you prefer.
The black and grey colouring, with grey pocket flaps, orange logo on the right leg and Forestwear emblem on the other leg, add to the "designer wear" appeal of this garment. You feel smart in them - and you cannot say that often when you have fluorescent stripes round the bottom of your trouser legs.
There are useful pockets of good depth to the front and a pocket for a mobile phone on the left leg. There is a zip fly with a metal button at the top that is a bit stiff at first but soon wears in.
Sizes: Waist (inches) 31, 32, 34, 35.5, 37, 39, 41 and 42
Price: £52.50 + VAT
Contact: Stihl - 01276 20202
LYNGSOE FOX JACKET
Pullen has worn this jacket, supplied by Severnside Safety, just about every day throughout the summer and autumn. He loves it.
"This is a very nice jacket. I'm very pleased with it," he enthuses. "It's weather proof - stands up to the showers and survives the downpours - and it's lightweight to wear. I didn't get too hot in it and the back is long enough that you don't get a cold back when you bend."
No wonder this is proving to be so popular. It is a windproof and rainproof black softshell jacket with breathability and fleece on the inside.
Pullen reports no accumulation of perspiration or condensation the inside. The outer is made of 94 per cent polyester with six per cent Spandex and the inner is 100 per cent polyester Pular fleece. The Spandex gives it stretch - adding to the comfort when working.
The pockets are just right on this jacket. There are two side pockets, a breast pocket and two pockets on the inside.
In black with orange zips and trim to the pockets, the garment is smart. There are Velcro straps to the cuffs and a cord adjuster at the bottom. The hood is zipped onto the jacket and is quick and easily removed or attached.
There is double stitching, with overlocking, on the side seams. All in all, this jacket is nicely finished. And washing is simple - machine wash at 30. Pullen says it is definitely value for money. Now all that he wants is a pair of matching trousers.
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL and XXXL
Price: £47 + VAT (sale price £30)
Contact: Severnside Safety - 01242 525811
"As a professional arborist and nurseryman, I couldn't find a leather glove that was just right," says Paul Master, founder of Cutter Gloves.
He was looking for something that worked like a second skin, was strong enough to cope with the battering of work but sensitive enough to be used with specialist equipment. In the end, Masters decided to make his own. The result is a glove that he now uses wherever he is not using his chainsaw on the ground.
Cutter gloves are made of thick, grey, goatskin leather. They feel nice and are soft but tough. I personally have never had gloves that felt this good and that also give protection without fatiguing the fingers.
What's more, Cutter Gloves are also robust. They have an extended cuff for wrist protection and the padded palm is an excellent solution to providing extra armour. Kevlar stitching gives the gloves real strength.
These gloves should last for a long time.They are made by hand in China, but we are assured that they are "ethically made".
Sizes: S, M, L and XL
Price: Special offer: £6.99 including VAT and postage
Contact: Cutter Gloves - www.cuttergloves.co.uk
ROSTAING WOODCUTTER'S GLOVES
There are raised eyebrows when I show the Westonbirt arborists these gloves and ask for a volunteer to try them. Clearly, like me, they have never seen gloves like these before.
For starters, the left hand and right hand are different. The right hand looks ordinary. The left hand does not.
These gloves are designed for use with chainsaws and they are only for right-handed users. They are made of full grain cowhide and they are water-resistant.
Unfortunately, the diagram on the back of the box is back-to-front and shows the left and right hand reversed. But in reality, the back of the left hand has chainsaw protection - a protective shell made from Kevlar-based material. The stitching is also made of Kevlar.
"The chainsaw protection is unique. It forms a hard plate across the left-hand glove, yet is surprising comfortable," says Johnson.
"Initially, the gloves are a good fit, with nice soft leather. On the downside, however, after a period of use I found the left-hand glove tended to slide down the hand, making it difficult to use the fingers properly, and for this reason I prefer my usual gloves."
On a positive note, the gloves can be washed with soap and water and remain supple after drying. They are available in sizes from 8 to 11 and are certified to EN381-7 class 1. Specification is 3122 (abrasion/cut/tear/perforation) under EN388.
Sizes: 8 to 11
Price: Expect £25-£30
Contact: Rostaing International - www.rostaing-glove.co.uk