No doubt about it--gardening is hard work. But many nifty inventions on the market offer shortcuts to make chores easier and more pleasurable.
Garden Tools

Clippers and Gloves
Wiss thread clips are actually made for the sewing industry, but gardeners are discovering they make handy gadgets for quickly cutting herbaceous plants. Model 1570B (in blue, about $10) features stainless steel blades and a larger, more comfortable plastic handle. Model TC1 (silver, about $15) is made of nickel- plated drop-forged cutlery steel. For slightly more serious work, try the Wiss grape thinning/orchid snips (model C4AS shown with black handles, about $25). The straight blades made of drop-forged steel are great for reaching into tight spots. Cooper Tools; (919) 362-1670;

These TAIA secateur clippers (yellow handle) have been field-tested in the vineyards of Italy, where they are made. Two forged-steel cutting blades slice woody material with precision, leaving a clean cut that promotes quick healing ($50 including shipping and handling). The Rare Fruit Council International, Inc., 14735 SW. 48 Terrace, Miami, FL 33185; (305) 554-1333.

Washable leather gloves (shown in red) won't get stiff or brittle even after a day in the dirt. These cowhide gloves feature durable nylon stitching. About $33 from Gardener's Supply Company; 1-888-833-1412;

Foxgloves (shown in blue) are made from spandex and nylon for a great fit; they keep your hands clean and protected all day long. About $25 from Petals from the Past, 16034 County Road 29, Jemison, AL 35085; (205) 646-0069.

Decorative Watering Ball
The Glassfactor Watering Ball will be the best-looking tool you have. Just fill the reservoir with water, turn it upside down, and insert the stem into your container. The water is gradually wicked out of the glass and into the soil to keep your plants from getting thirsty. About $25 from Petals from the Past, 16034 County Road 29, Jemison, AL 35085; (205) 646-0069.

Adjustable Rake
The telescoping/expanding leaf rake from Smith & Hawken is the most adaptable rake you will ever see. When compressed, its compact size is nice for saving room in the shed, but the real beauty of this gadget is that one size fits all gardeners. The handle telescopes out for tall folks, and slides in for shorter ones. The tines on the rake are expandable. About $16 from Smith & Hawken; 1-800-940-1170;

A Versatile Trellis
For an instant support for climbers, this bamboo tepee trellis can't be beat. Depending on your needs, it can be expanded or contracted. Made of rot-resistant bamboo, it is strong enough to support heavy vines, while lending an attractive element to your garden. It comes fully assembled and folds up to store for the off-season. About $20 for 5-foot trellis from Gardener's Supply Company; 1-888-833-1412;

A Smart Water Timer
The beauty of this Quick-Step Water Timer by Gardena is definitely in the simplicity of its design. It has one dial, no buttons, no programmable screens, or other bells or whistles. Simply attach one end of the timer to your spigot and the other end to your hose using the snap-on hose connector that is included. Then twist the dial to the number of minutes you want the water to run (as little as 5 minutes or as long as 2 hours), and walk away. At the end of the cycle, it turns off automatically. This water timer costs about $40 from Gardener's Supply Company; 1-888-833-1412;

"Great Gadgets for Under $50" is from the Southern Living Gardening Guide 2002.