I am lucky to garden in a place where we have not had a serious drought for a while. In fact I planted my whole garden — which is half an acre — without ever putting in drip irrigation or really even thinking much about supplemental watering. We had outdoor faucets on the front and back of the house and up near the Tea House and that seemed enough. Usually it is. I just hook up a hose or two if we haven't had rain and the garden starts to get parched.
But I find I use watering cans more than hoses to irrigate seasonal containers or new plantings or seedlings. Over the years I've amassed a world of watering cans. I have two cans each that are of American, French, German, and British design and manufacture (from the top of the steps down). They all share certain qualities like being made of galvanized zinc. But a quick glance suggests their differences.
They all sport "roses" aka the removable sprinkler head but only the UK cans (below), made by Haws since 1886, have roses not only made of brass but that come in two different shapes and hole sizes for different tasks. The oval rose is a fine spray designed to water delicate seedlings.
Haws cans also come with a brass emblem so you know you have the real thing.
My pair of of German cans each sport the famous "flying bat" logo. Bat cans date to the 1930s; mine hold 7.5 TGL/liters (2 gallons) and 5 liters (1.32 gals.) I found both of these at antique fairs and they were not particularly expensive. I bought them a long time ago before such gardening objects became "cool," which is probably why they were reasonably priced. I went looking online for more information but only found people with Bat cans to sell — ranging from $145.00 to $245.00 for the next largest size, 10 liters.
The French cans have no identifying marks. I only know they are French because that's how they were identified when I purchased them. One is new (the one still bearing residue of the sales label) and the other is antique.
The French pair are the most decorative with the raised bands of stripes (above). The German pair are more restrained — perhaps a bit of Bauhaus influence?
The Haws can — their "professional" model — is the most elegant to my eye. It's clearly the product of a nation of gardeners and was introduced when most of the work of gardening was all done by hand. They are the perfect embodiment of William Morris' dictum: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."
Now look at the American cans. Functional — and the only can that does not have a rolled or curved handle for ease and comfort of carrying. I never use them as they hurt too much once you put water in them. And even these inelegant cans often sell for surprisingly high prices at flea markets and antique shops.
My Haws cans are a matched pair and hold two Imperial gallons (2.40 American gallons) which makes them heavy containers when full — about 24 pounds each. The tall neck keeps water from spilling out when you tip it to water with the roses. The long neck gives you an extra long reach. They are, by far, the most comfortable watering can to carry and use because of the two handles. I typically carry one can in each hand by the angled top bar. Yes, they're heavy but not uncomfortably so.
I bought my pair of Haws cans in NYC in 1998 when Mark and I were there celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. I got them at the Smith and Hawken store when they sold only the best of garden equipment from around the world. They cost $75.00 each which was a fortune to us. But we haven't been back to NYC since then and Smith and Hawken is long gone. So I consider them a great buy and a wonderful memento of the trip and our anniversary. Today one Haws can like mine costs $157.00 on the Haws website. Shipping is free for purchases over $50.00, so there's that.
It's not that bad a deal when you consider that White Flower Farm is selling them for $179.00 and they cost $168.00 at Terrain, and shipping appears to be extra. The price is pretty outrageous for a watering can. And yet, having used my Haws for almost twenty years now, I'd probably be willing to pay it I love them so much. They're always the ones I reach for first; the others usually just look pretty sitting in a spot in the garden where I don't want people to walk!