Gardening: Tips for holiday gifts for the serious gardener

Some ideas, from inexpensive paper whites, to a more pricey pruning ladder.

“Jingle Bells” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” are already blaring in stores in an attempt to get us in the mood to buy holiday gifts. Good grief, Halloween is barely over. Still … here are some thoughts for all you eager beavers who now wish to buy gifts for your beloved gardeners.

Let’s start with inexpensive gifts. Paper whites are good. A half-dozen of these bulbs used for indoor blooming are a nice stocking stuffer at about a dollar each at the garden center or grocery store. Or if you want, fill a low bowl with marble chips and place these daffodil-relatives in it so that your loved one need only add water.

Weeding tools are always useful, as we lose them from time to time. The best of all hand tools is the CobraHead weeder, an indestructible single-tine weeder that I use for everything from teasing out long grass roots to planting crocus one at a time or stirring up the soil to plant tomatoes. It’s available in garden centers or from www.CobraHead.com for about $25.

If your loved one has a brick or cobble walkway, a paving or patio weeder is helpful. This “L” shaped tool has a thin flat blade that gets between bricks and gets out weeds. I bought one years ago from the Kinsman Company (www.kinsmangarden.com). I see they are still available for under $10. They also sell a little glass vase on a stick pin for wearing a single blossom on your blouse. Their “Posy Pin” is just $8.50, a nice stocking stuffer from a family-run business.

Deer repellents, particularly for shrubs, are important in many areas. There are sprays, but I have little experience with them. What I like are garlic spikes, little canisters on clothespin-like attachments. These contain garlic oil and seem to work all winter for me. You just puncture the seal with the little tool (provided) and place two or three on a medium-sized shrub to release the odors. I found them at Gardener’s Supply Company (www.gardeners.com), at about $20 for 25 clips.

Seeds are always useful. Hudson Valley Seed Company (hudsonvalleyseed.com) is a relatively new company with lots of seeds great for New England, and a variety of nice garden accessories. They sell seeds in “art packs,” which feature artist-designed packets that are beautiful and would be great stocking stuffers. I like their selection of tools for sale, including pruners and knives made by the Opinel Company, an old French company that makes fine tools I have used and like.

Also available from Hudson Valley are planting bags: non-woven, recycled plastic bags in bright colors in 3, 5 and 10 gallon sizes. I’ve heard about planting bags, but never tried them as an alternative to pots. At $4 to $10, I intend to try them.

But on to the more expensive things. If you have a home orchard, or trees and large shrubs such as lilacs that you regularly prune, consider a pruning ladder. A good source for these is OESCO Inc. in Conway, Massachusetts. An orchard ladder is an aluminum ladder with a wide, stable base and a pole that is hinged to the ladder and can extend in a range of angles to provide stability on hillsides that a regular stepladder cannot provide. And you can poke that back leg into a thicket of shrubbery and get up to the height you need to prune a runaway lilac back into shape.

OESCO sells Marchand brand orchard ladders, and has an 8-footer for $207 or a 10-footer for $259. These are good, sturdy ladders and are similar to an older style that I often use. The next step up is the Hasegawa brand, which has a telescoping support leg and wider steps. These cost $359 for the 8-footer, and $399 for the 10-foot ladder.

Every gardener wants more perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs. We need tools and fertilizer and compost. So why not give your loved one a gift certificate at your local garden center? Then, in the spring, she can pick out what she wants or needs. We all like to try new plants, even some that might not survive. A gift certificate allows us to try those things at essentially no risk.

Garden books are great presents, too. For someone just starting a vegetable garden, I’d suggest “The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible” by Ed Smith. For an experienced perennial gardener I’d suggest Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques.” For someone developing a landscape with trees and shrubs, I like “Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia” by Michael Dirr. Or anything by Gordon Hayward, Lewis Hill — or me.

Probably the nicest present you can give a loved gardener is your time in their garden, working with them. I know that gift certificates are often not redeemed — it’s why stores love selling them. But if you are serious about giving the gift of gardening, call the recipient next spring and ask, when can I come help you?

— Henry Homeyer’s blog appears twice a week at dailyuv.com/gardeningguy. Write to him at P.O. Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746. Please include a SASE if you wish a mailed response. Or email [email protected]

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