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Choose the Right Watering Can for Convenience and Style

Watering cans have a long history of appeal and many plant lovers today enjoy both function and the tradition of use

Watering cans are both decorative and quite functional. For many gardeners and plant lovers, using them is a nostalgic event. Others find them useful for balcony settings and those places a watering hose simply won't go. Styles range from purely practical in plastic or metal to the higher end designs that include beautiful copper.

Regardless of why you use a watering can, you'll find some tips here for choosing the right one, along with a little bit of history.

From Renoir's famous "A Girl with a Watering Can" all the way to the Tales of Peter Rabbit, watering cans have found a niche in history. The appeal of their shape makes them collector's items, containers for flowers, and purely decorative. They're also icons found on jewelry, fabrics, and in many a miniature format for dollhouses. Children's watering cans are also abundant.

A Brief Watering Can History

Historically, of course, watering cans have existed in some form since man (and woman) had a need to collect water. They were known as watering pots and pails in more modern times, with popular mention as early as the 1600s. Much later, in 1886, an English gentleman - John Haws - claimed a patent on "watering pots." He set about to make great improvements that remain popular today. The Haws company remains at the forefront of gorgeous and functional watering cans in a range of prices and materials.

Choosing the Right Watering Can

There's much more to choosing the right watering can than just grabbing the cheapest model off the shelf. Even if you decide to go decorative, there are a few components that, as part of the design, will make plant nurturing easier.

Size is an important issue. Too small and you'll be making multiple trips to the faucet. Too large and it might not fit under the tap if you're filling it from a sink. A watering can full of water is also pretty weighty, so keep that in mind. Will you be lifting it for watering hanging plants?

A watering can's anatomical parts are simple. Mainly, the container with handles and a short or long spout. At the spout's end you'll find the "rose." This is the piece that contains the perforations allowing for sprinkling rather than pouring. Many can styles also feature a brace for the spout, which is in the form of a wire wrap or is welded in place.

Other features to look for include:

Balance - always important as the can should be stable when empty or filled.

Handles - these should be rounded or rolled and feel comfortable. In addition, look for cans with top and back handles. The top one makes it easier to transport and those at the back are for lifting and pouring. You'll find many that feature a single loop that also serves this purpose.

Material - Plastic is great, but certainly won't last as long. Steel is a solid mid-to-high range choice, but be sure the can is galvanized. Ceramics are beautiful, but perhaps best for display and occasional light indoor use. Copper is considered the best and will only become more treasured over time. It will develop a patina and these pots are often purchased for their heirloom qualities.

Measurement markings - It's much easier to add soluble fertilizer if the can has imprinted markers.

Rose - this piece will be removable on better watering cans. You'll want to take it off for cleaning on occasion and to dislodge any errant debris. Some spouts also feature filters that eliminate blockage at the rose. Brass is the best choice as it is highly resistant to corrosion and hard water deposits.

Shape - The best cans will have a design that prevents spillage, even when the can is tipped at extreme angles.

Spout - The length of the spout is also an important aspect of watering can selection. For hanging plants, a longer spout is more convenient. Also, the spout's end should be situated on a plane that is higher than the container portion.

Tips for Using a Watering Can

-Gardeners know that their plants enjoy a good drink - but at room temperature. Outdoors, that means surrounding air temperature. Tap water is generally a little too cool; it's best to let the water "rest" for a while before dousing.

-Many people own at least two watering cans. One to hold plain water; the other for fertilizing mixtures. According to tradition, the former should be green and the latter red.

-Never leave water in a can, especially if it can freeze. If it's plastic, protect it from sunlight, to reduce material breakdown.

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