Gardening gloves growing stylish

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If you found Elsie Pope's gloves, please return them.

Not that you have much chance: She lost them about 10 years ago. But she remembers them fondly, and if you think that's a bit over the top, you're probably not a gardener.

Gardeners love their gloves, and once they find a pair they like, it's like finding the perfect mate. As with love, though, nothing's guaranteed. Gloves wander off. They wear out. They disappear forever.

"It's always the one-glove syndrome," says Deborah Carr, a member of the Horticultural Art Society in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"I try to keep the gloves in my waistbands, but I forget. They just disappear, or my dogs are always running away with them."

Pope's gloves were actually pricey brown biking gloves. In those days, garden gloves weren't as high-tech as they are today, and they were sized to fit big-fisted workmen. Those bike gloves, however, were dainty and "so thin I could separate seedlings with them," Pope says.

But she and the gloves parted company when she was cleaning up the Horticultural Art Society's demonstration gardens.

"I spent two days looking for them. And I had everyone else looking for them, too. Just ask them. They remember to this day," she says.

At least she doesn't have to resort to biking gloves anymore. Gardening gloves have had a fashion and technological transformation.

"We call them designer gloves now," says Wayne Fisher, owner of Good Earth Garden Center in Colorado Springs.

For one thing, gardeners are not using heavy gloves much anymore, Fisher says. Some gloves employ Nitrile, a breathable coating that protects palms and fingertips and still allows you to feel what you are doing -- even picking up seeds.

"Some of the Nitrile ones feel like skin," Fisher says.

And you almost need sunglasses to check out the blazing colors of the modern glove. But those neon lime, purple and hot-pink babies aren't just making a fashion statement -- they make it easy to spot a misplaced glove.

Glove types

There are lots of gardening gloves out there, but we tried to winnow the selection to a few favorites. You can find several of the products at gardening centers or online.

Weeders Gloves, latex-free gloves for those with allergies. Sensi-touch technology gives them breathable feel, about $6.

Atlas Cool Touch gloves have a polyurethane coating that is ultra-thin for maximum dexterity, and a nylon liner to keep the hands cool, $6-$7.

West County Work Gloves have polyurethane suede palms to protect against tool impact. The index finger is padded to prevent blisters while pruning, about $23.

Steiner's "ultimate gripper" has fleece insulation to keep hands warm in globby mud, about $25.

Atlas "garden grip," a favorite with professionals, has textured palms for great gripping, and are flexible, about $7.

Foxgloves, made partly of Spandex, fit snugly and reach to the forearm to protect when you're elbow-deep in shrubs, about $25.

Premier pond gloves are waterproof with a sleeve that covers entire arm, about $20.

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