Retail Garden Center Conversations: Felco Pruners


18-year-old Felco pruners wrapped with bike tape. These belonged to an young man I met recently at a retail garden center  in Portland and they’d been given to him by his former boss at his last job. Warmed my heart a bit…

Some people who know me might actually say I’m a friendly person. I think that like many who prefer to spend their time alone though, I have a selective kind of friendliness. Honestly, I think I’m friendly by accident.

Sometimes at retail garden centers I talk to the cashiers, while other times I try to get out as quickly as possible because I’m feeling anti-social and just want to go home. So often my feet are killing me because I’ve been slowly looking at every single plant and my brain is mush as I try to remember what I’ve seen. If there is a line behind me, well I don’t want to hold them up either. I just want to get in and out just like the next gardener.

Alright, so I get stuck in my head a lot. I like wandering around in there.

What’s bad though is when I’m there in my head, standing at a checkout counter, and then I absentmindedly open my mouth and randomly say something out loud and the cashier hears me. These utterances have nothing to do with communication. Typically I’m just trying to remember something so I repeat it out loud.

A few weeks ago I was buying last minute plants for my birthday party and was standing at the cashier when I turned to look at a wall display and for some reason I said “Felco” out loud since there were so many of them all displayed in one place. I then slowly turned back to look at the young man helping me and I blushed because suddenly I felt self-conscious about having exposed my own personal preference through my own unique form of retail garden center Tourette’s.

Without looking up he said, “I swear by my Felco pruners too. We all have our favorites.”

How he knew I loved mine, I don’t know, but he’d actually understood me.

Then he paused a moment, looked up, and noted no one was waiting behind me. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the Felco pruners seen in the photo above. He smiled awkwardly and said I seemed friendly and he asked if I wanted to hear about his pruners.

I told him I was a garden blogger we both had a great laugh. I continued with, “Of course! Tell me their story but you know I’m going to write about this!” He readily agreed saying that he thought it would be great for me to write about an old worn in pair of pruners.

Who writes about that kind of thing, especially when the tool belongs to a complete stranger?

The Felco pruners had been a gift from his former employer, a great mentor to him, an Oregon nurseryman, and they’re 18-years-old. He’d added the bike tape to them since the grip had worn out on one side and we both agreed that the tape added character. Besides, in a place like Portlandia it just seemed that much more fitting with all the cyclists here. When I asked if he cleaned them a lot he told me they look so polished since they live in his pocket and the fabric is always polishing the metal.

We both continued laughing and enjoyed that uncomfortable feeling of just having bonded with a complete stranger during a random moment which took place during a mundane daily task. We were finally interrupted when an elderly woman came in and asked where she could find a fruit picker. We both looked at her, he told her where they were, and then I grabbed my tray of plants and promised him I’d write a little piece about his Felco pruners as I headed toward the door.

As I drove home I thought a lot about why I’d been touched so deeply by such a silly thing.

I was in awe of the love he felt for his Felco pruners. I silently vowed to clean up my own pair and to treat them better in the future. Pockets of rust had appeared on them last winter when during the nascent period of my divorce I’d neglected them and had forgotten to put them away so they were exposed to the elements a bit. I actually had felt guilty about this but I forgave myself for my absent-mindedness.

So, which tool can’t you live without?

5 thoughts on “Retail Garden Center Conversations: Felco Pruners

  1. I love that…and I'm the same way! It really depends on how “In my head” I am at the time, but I can either be totally reclusive, or ridiculously chatty. I love that weird bond that gardeners can have so quickly…there's something about the love of plants…it must mean we share some weird gene…right?!? I don't think I have a favorite tool…but a good trowel goes a long way 😉


  2. Lovely story about connections. I could not do without my oversized screwdriver, but, try as I might, I can't seem to hold on to one for long. There must be several hiding in the weeds or rotting in the compost by now.


  3. On Thursday I returned my pair of Felcos that I have been using for 16 years. They belonged to the company and it was my last day there. On my way out I bought new pair of my own while I could still get an employee discount.


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