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5/4/2003

Making hay among gardening enthusiasts

By Elisabeth Nardi
The Daily Times-Call

Frank Armbruster and Ben Veltien have found a niche for those with green thumbs. Or those just tired of using ladders to get to their hard-to-reach plants.

The pair has started their own Longmont-based company, A&V Enterprises, which has but one product: the Waterup.

The Waterup is a plastic tube with a syringe handle at one end and a spray nozzle at the other. It sucks up water and sprays it onto hard-to-reach plants.

It might look a little quirky, but it and many other odd but practical inventions are popping up at local nurseries and garden shops.

“I just thought this was a well-conceived invention,” Armbruster said. “I have been finding out that garden retail is an incredibly large industry — surprisingly so.”

Not just large, but lucrative. According to the National Gardening Association, consumers spent more than $39 billion on their lawns and gardens in 2002, a 5 percent increase from 2001.

Gadgets for gardening can range from the ordinary to the unusual.

At the Flower Bin in Longmont, Michael Morris, hard goods manager, is the self-described “lawn master.”

Sure, his store sells shovels. But Morris gets excited when asked to show the more off-the-wall items.

He recommends a large tool called the “Japanese Knife.” Specifically designed for Japanese gardens, it can trim, weed and shape grass and plants. The six-inch knife retails for $29.98 and has a handy, six-gun-like holster that can hang on a belt.

“A nice tool for mom,” Morris said.

Or, if mom is not inclined to wear a holster, how about getting her some all-natural weed killer made from corn gluten?

Or maybe one of the Flower Bin’s new products, Horticultural Polymers.

These are small, hard crystals that can be sprinkle into soil.

When they get wet they expand and turn into jelly blobs that store water and release it slowly.

Another water conservation gadget is the Water Watch, a gauge that attaches to a faucet or showerhead and records how many gallons of water it has used.

For those who need to water a tree all day and still save water, there is the Tree Gator.

When filled with water, the Gator looks like a green trash bag wrapped around the base of a tree.

The bag slowly deflates as the water absorbs into the ground around the tree.

“These are very popular,” Morris said.

The gardening industry has come a long way from a shovel and a hoe.

Since 1997, lawn and garden sales have grown at a compound annual rate of 8 percent, according to the National Gardening Association.

And in 2002, men were the largest consumers of garden products.

Even if it meant sometimes buying skirts for their trees.

Elisabeth Nardi can be reached at 303-776-2244 Ext. 389, or by e-mail at enardi@times-call.com.