Good gardening gear: How to avoid damp bottoms and cold backs

From the best boots to the cosiest gloves, gardening experts on how to stay warm

When it comes to garden workwear, I could never be described as stylish. So you won't find me artfully sporting a straw sombrero and swathed in silk scarves while snipping roses, or rocking a pair of knee-length tweed knickerbockers and laced leather boots à la those famously beautiful, sepia-tinted photographs of stylish women gardeners taken by the late Valerie Finnis.

That said, I do like my garden clothes to be properly fit for purpose. This means a warm, light, comfortable, waterproof, windproof coat with deep, generous pockets. It also means tough but lightweight, breathable garden boots that keep my feet snug and dry, a winter hat that keeps my head and ears warm, and garden gloves (when I remember to wear them) that are light, strong, warm and waterproof, plus lots of other breathable layers of clothing to keep me toasty. Get these things right and I can comfortably work long hours outdoors on all but the coldest and/or wettest of days, something that’s so important at this very busy but meteorologically-challenging time of the gardening year.

A quick call around to some gardening friends revealed some of the useful ways in which we can protect ourselves from the worst of the elements while hard at work in our gardens or allotments.


Well-known garden maker, plantsperson, broadcaster and natty dresser Jimi Blake of Hunting Brook gardens ( in west Wicklow, says he wouldn't be without his thermal long-johns.


Long-johns. Really? “Absolutely. I always wear a really good-quality pair under my clothes when I’m working outdoors at this time of year along with two long-sleeved thermal tops. It makes a huge difference and is something that I’d always recommend to my students. It’s so important when you’re working long hours outdoors in cold weather.” Other garden essentials on his list include a lightweight, wind-resistant bodywarmer/sleeveless jacket by Regatta, “which gives me another thermal layer without restricting movement” and a “really good fleece by Revolution”. While he generally prefers a sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots, “I’m thinking of investing in a pair of Hunter wellies for those very mucky jobs.”

For Ita Patton, another gardener friend who works in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, the Cofra and Jolly ranges of footwear are her two go-to brands. "I'm looking for boots that are sturdy, long-wearing and waterproof but breathable and lightweight." As a full-time gardener who inevitably spends a lot of time on her feet, she offers some other very useful tips on how to stay snug and comfortable. "I always use those liquid-gel boot inserts for extra cushioning and make sure to moisturise my feet every morning, something that my chiropodist originally recommended and which, strange as it sounds, really does make a difference."

Just like Blake, she also stresses the importance of wearing lots of lightweight layers to stay snug and dry and particularly likes the Regatta range for its garden jackets. "I also couldn't be without my Mascot work trousers, which are really tough-wearing, have plenty of side pockets to conveniently stash things like secateurs, pencils and plant labels as well as in-built pockets for knee-pads, brilliant for when I'm doing a lot of weeding or planting." In common with most serious gardeners, Patton also likes the Showa range of garden gloves, particularly the lightweight Showa Floreo 370, available from, "which are strong enough to protect my hands without reducing mobility".

Rolls-Royce of gardening

Known for her stylish workwear, the Cork gardener, nursery owner and galanthophile Hester Forde ( swears by the British-made Genus brand, which she describes as "the Rolls-Royce of gardening clothes. Just brilliant. Head-to-toe, it's what I always wear when I'm working outdoors."

Designed by Sue O’Neil, a passionate gardener based in the Cotswolds who “hates wet knees, damp bottoms and a cold back”, this high-performance range offers several styles of gardening trousers including a waterproof and insulated version for those chilliest of days. “I live in them,” laughs Forde, who has the waterproof version and the three-season version. “Every single little design detail has been so carefully considered from the raised waist band to protect your back to the little buttons at the bottom of the legs, the waterproof padded knees and the generous amount of pockets for things like your mobile phone, seed etc.”

She’s also a huge fan of this brand’s range of base layers (leggings and tops), which are made using a merino-blend fabric that wicks away sweat to keep you dry and warm and which is temperature-regulating, soft and non-itchy with dual-layer knees for extra durability and warmth. Forde also highly recommends Genus’s gardening gilet and its gardening jersey, both of which she says are smart enough for normal daywear. “It’s certainly not the cheapest range out there but it’s exceptionally high quality and impressively long lasting. I’m still wearing Genus trousers that look every bit as good as the day I bought them a decade ago.”

While Genus doesn’t make its own gardening gloves, it does stock the Swedish brand Ejendals’s award-winning super-lightweight, waterproof gloves, plus thermal silk glove-liners so fine they can be worn under normal gardening gloves. Some other accessories to put on the wish list include Genus’s gardening socks, neck warmers and showerproof gardening hats, while it also stocks the Australian brand Blundstone’s 510 boot, a lightweight, durable, hardwearing gardening classic. Garden footwear, however, is the one thing that Forde prefers to source elsewhere. “After trying out countless different brands, my go-to gardening footwear is a pair of hiking boots made by Lowa. It took a long, long time – far too long – to find the perfect pair of gardening boots but I love these.”;;

This Week in the Garden

This is a good time of the year to plant pot-grown trees, shrubs, climbers and roses as long as the soil isn’t frozen or sodden. There’s also still just enough time to plant these as bare-root specimens, but make sure to do this as soon as possible. The bare-root season will very soon be coming to an end as temperatures and light level rise, encouraging winter-dormant plants to start back into active growth.

Once the dainty flowers of snowdrops have faded, this is the best time of year to divide and move very large, established clumps while they’re still “in the green” rather than later in the year when the bulbous plants have gone into summer dormancy. Use a garden fork to gently dig up these big clumps and then separate them into small clumps of three-six bulbs before replanting these quickly into their new position in the garden or allotment, spacing them no less than 15-20cm apart and finishing off with a light watering.

Dates For Your Diary

Wednesday March 16th (7.30pm-9pm): A presentation by the organic gardener, Kitty Scully, where she'll be introducing her recent filmed interview with Joy Larkcom, the legendary west Cork-based garden writer and vegetable gardener, see

Sunday, March 13th, Killruddery House & Gardens, Bray, Co Wicklow: Grow Your Own Cut Flowers, a one-day hands-on workshop with the flower-farmer-florist and The Irish Times gardening writer Fionnuala Fallon (@theirishflowerfarmer) on growing and arranging your own cut flowers seasonally and sustainably, € 160, lunch and refreshments included, see