Sunday, July 5, 2015

"If you have a garden

and a library, you havc everything you need."
 ~Cicero

Even though summer officially starts June 21, the Fourth of July marks the true summer opening, but, whenever, flower, herb, and veggie gardens command attention.  With that in mind, I turn to the watering can.   Below in an illustration from The Compleat Florist written by Louis Liger in 1706.

Liger (1658–1717) was a French agronomist and prolific writer on flora and fauna.
The name ‘Watering Can’ first appeared in 1692 when Lord Timothy George of Cornwall wrote about watering cans in his diary.  Before that and after 1580 when it first appeared, the term ‘Watering Pot’ was used according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  Pots had holes in the bottom at first before the idea of a spout was invented some 50 to 100 years later.  Early cans were made in copper and then in 1850 iron, brass and zinc cans appeared.

The watering can we know today was the design by John Haws, a civil servant for Queen Victoria.

His hobby was growing vanilla plants, and he found the watering can hard to maneuver.  The style of the time had a handle that arched from the front to the back of the can making it hard to balance while watering plants on higher shelves.
When Haws retired, he realizes the Victorian gardening revolution demanded hand watering.  The wealthy upper class were erecting glass greenhouses throughout England, and greenhouse cultivation demanded better watering techniques.  So, in 1885, he was issued the first patent on a watering can.  

His patent claimed:  “This new invention forms a Watering Pot that is much easier to carry, and at the same time being much cleaner, and more adapted for use than any put before the public.”  According to my research, "the key innovation his Haws design was the addition of a second handle. The previous French design had just one large front to back handle. However, Haws design had a “carrying” handle on top and a “tipping” handle on the back of the can to allow a more even distribution of water and his design also called for a spout located at the bottom of the watering can to allow for easier watering of plants on high shelves."
The Haws watering can is still popular today although Michael Deas got a later patent by replacing the top mounted handle created by Haws and mounting a single round handle at the back for ease of pouring. The slight improvement took off and is still a popular design that is seen today.   By the way, the cap on the spout is called a "rose".

So now when you see a watering "pot", check the handle!

“Plants want to grow; they are on your side as long as you are reasonably sensible.” 
~Anne Wareham

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