Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: The Place to Look for Unusual Garden Tools

By Ron Sullivan
Friday June 02, 2006

One of my favorite places to look for—or just look at—esoteric, obscure, clever, or kinky garden tools is Hida Japanese Tools on San Pablo, across from REI and a few doors down from Ashkenaz. 

Hida started as a woodworkers’ tool shop with some bonsai wares, than branched out into other pruning and gardening tools; it’s where I got my brace of hori-horis. (By the way, I was wrong last week when I said they all have full tangs. They don’t, but the tangs are long and the tools are tough enough to stand on.)  

I used to buy stuff from them on a regular basis when I was a pro, and still allow myself to be tempted. For one thing, I made more money gardening than I do writing, and I could tell myself that whatever odd marvel I went home with was part of the job.  

They were, still are, a lot cheaper and more reliable than the average computer accessory.  

I bought my extension pruner there, when they had two models and $50 was a lot to pay. Since then, Hida’s added to the long-reach line and now there are, oh, about a dozen kinds including telescoping and two-handed shear models, and pole saws with those wonderful (and replaceable) Japanese blades. 

I still like the one I have, and Hida still sells it. It’s about five feet long, very lightweight, and has a pistol grip; I can control my cuts with it almost as well as I can with my Felcos. Don’t confuse this with the average pole pruner, which I’ve always found clumsy. Don’t underrate the value of a good controlled cut either, as a tool that lets you make one will maintain even the monetary value of the tree you keep healthy and don’t mutilate.  

Don’t need a long reach? Hida’s still the best place for saws. A good Silky or similar pruning saw cuts through branches like butter. Learn to make a jump cut and, unless you cut a lot of Hollywood junipers, you won’t need a chainsaw. (Those abominable little chainsaws on poles I see in magazine ads shouldn’t be sold without a permit and proof of expertise. Better to buy a three-year-old a pistol. Ugh.)  

Hida’s branched out into kitchen knives and grooming scissors and other tempting cutlery. There are more and better bonsai tools, and oddments like the long, flexible, leaf-shaped knife I find perfect for getting plants out of pots. 

If you absolutely must have a pink trowel, this is where to find it—along with its less colorful brethren in half a dozen useful shapes and sizes. Since I don’t read Japanese, there’s at least one tool there I still don’t know the use of, despite a helpful diagram.  

On the other hand, there are implements there that say, “Take me home!” just by the way they fit and balance when I pick them up, and are eloquently enough made to speak their usefulness immediately. For tools you didn’t know you needed, look into Hida.  


Another hot tip 

The Berkeley Garden Club will hold its annual plant sale at 547 Grizzly Boulevard (at Euclid) from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, June 17.  




Hida Tool  

1333 San Pablo Ave. 

524-3700, www.hidatool.com. 

Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m.