By Dr. Susan Hamilton
I have to confess. I love holidays and gifts. It’s fun thinking about and selecting unique gifts for those special to me, and, as an avid gardener, it’s easy to list garden-related gifts that I love to give to friends and family members who share my passion for plants.
In fact, if Santa (or even my Valentine) would peek at my gift shopping list, he’d find plenty of surprises that I wouldn’t mind finding under my own tree or that would substitute well for a box of chocolates.
I’ve listed my personal favorites, but you may find similar brands in your local gardening center.
1. Perfect gloves
I have worn out more gloves in the name of gardening than anyone could imagine. They are vital to any gardener’s chores. Gloves come in all sizes and styles, but this year, there is a special pair on my list. For about $25, Foxgloves just may be the perfect garden gloves. Made of nylon and spandex, they stretch – but fit snugly and maintain their durability. They come with rubber dots on the fingers and palms to allow for better gripping and handling.
2. Primo pruners
This tool is indispensable. Many consider Felco pruners to be the best on the market. I recommend starting with the original Felco Bypass Hand Pruner (#2), which retails for anywhere from $35-$60 (there must be quite a markup on these). If that sounds pricey for a pair of hand pruners, keep in mind that these are amazing tools. The design has remained unchanged for more than 40 years. The handles are solid-forged metal complemented with a hardened cutting blade (replaceable) and a lower blade with a sap groove. A rubber cushion and shock absorber provide smooth working and soft closing. Length is 8.5 inches; weight is 8.5 ounces. (Available at local garden stores, as well as online.)
3. Sassy shoes
Gardeners need good gardening shoes. I have boots for really tough jobs like planting trees and shrubs or running a tiller, but I would appreciate a good pair of waterproof shoes that I can wear for most of my chores like weeding, watering and planting. I want something I can slip into quickly and not be concerned about getting wet or dirty. For about $40, Anywears Clogs will satisfy my desire. These rubber shoes are virtually indestructible and come in a variety of bright colors. The red ones certainly fit the season!
4. Great books
Gardening books are always a good gift. Here are four on my shopping list:
• The Well-Designed Mixed Garden: Building Beds and Borders with Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs, by Tracy DiSabato-Aust (Timber Press, $40). A fantastic book on how to design and create a beautiful garden using a variety of plant combinations.
• Projects for the Birder’s Garden: Over 100 Easy Things That You Can Make To Turn Your Yard and Garden Into a Bird-Friendly Haven, edited by Fern Marshall Bradley (Rodale Books, $18). Most gardeners, myself included, love having birds visit their gardens.
• Your House, Your Garden: A Foolproof Approach to Garden Design, by Gordon Hayward (W.W. Norton & Co., $40). In Hayward’s garden designs, your house is the center of your garden. You will learn how to create inviting outdoor spaces, solve common problems and establish a unifying flow. You’ll also find solutions to eyesores such as power lines, meter boxes and propane tanks, and more than 200 photos and drawings complement the helpful planting suggestions and plant lists.
• Gardening for Dummies (the whole series). Everyone laughs at the titles, but personal experience tells me that these are thorough, information-packed books that are not necessarily written on an elementary level. They explain the basics while giving detailed information. Some titles are out of print, so availability may be limited.
5. Classic can
These items are functional, but they’re also works of art. My favorite is a Haws watering can from England. One especially nice model is the 2-gallon “Professional Outdoor” can, retailing for about $85. Smaller sizes are also available. The classic version has a galvanized zinc coating to resist rust, a removable fine-spray brass rose with an extra-long spout, double handles for balance and a filter between the spout and can to prevent the rose from getting blocked. The neck is a generous size for filling up at the tap. Built to last, one of these cans may become an heirloom for a future gardener in the family.
6. Super surprises
I thought I’d toss in some stocking stuffers sure to please any gardener. Soaps and hand creams are a must for those who like to dig in the soil, and most garden shops have a nice selection of intriguing and exotic products. Carrot soaps, goat’s milk lotions, creams made with soy, oatmeal and corn – there’s something for every “taste.” One of my favorites: Upper Canada Soap makes a product line especially for gardeners. The items are not tested on animals and are packaged in recycled materials. An impressive gift basket of soaps, hand salves and muscle soaks would impress anyone.
So, if you’re shopping for a gardener this season, just follow this list to reduce holiday stress. If you’re the gardener, leave this article where Santa will see it. I plan to circle item No. 2!
I’ll see you in the garden. (If I’ve been a good girl this year, I’ll be the one in the red shoes.)