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In the Garden

Gifts for Gardeners


[photo of glazed planters and pots]I KNOW THAT MOST OF you who read this column are gardeners yourselves, and you have no trouble buying gifts for your friends who garden. After all, you've spent hours with them debating the merits of horticultural oil and circle hoes. You probably know exactly what they have and what they need.

So this column isn't for you. It's for the spouse/parent/child in your life who has a black thumb and absolutely no idea what a gardener might want. Just leave it lying around in a conspicuous spot, perhaps with a few strategically placed dirt smudges to guide your loved one through their holiday shopping.

THE HANDMADE GIFT: Your average dirt-under-the-nails gardener is far more likely to be pleased by a gift you made yourself, so consider a hand-painted flowerpot, sturdy homemade candles to burn outdoors in warm weather, or a wreath of dried flowers. If you're handy with tools, the gift of your own labor may be the finest thing you can offer. Every gardener has a project or two on the back burner, from a trellis to a raised bed to a potting shed.

THE ORGANIC GIFT: Here's the trick with organic gardeners: the yuckier, the better. Every year I tell my family that I want a truckload of manure for Christmas, but they seem to think I'm kidding. So let me tell you, in all seriousness, that if you gave an organic gardener dirt or worms this holiday season, he or she would feel understood for the first time and would probably name a first-born child after you. If a truckload of muck isn't your style, gather up some holiday tins or recycled jars and head down to Mad River Nursery, where you can scoop out a wide variety of organic fertilizers from their bulk bins. A selection of bat guano, alfalfa meal, and bone meal, each in a pretty jar with a ribbon tied around it, will surely endear you to the organic gardener in your life.

THE CAN-NEVER-HAVE-TOO-MANY GIFT: Non-gardeners don't realize this, but there are certain things a gardener can't have too many of. I probably own 30 vases and a dozen other bottles and buckets that often double as vases, and yet I need more. Hefty floor vases, delicate hand-blown glass vases, vintage California pottery vases, copper and tin buckets I want several dozen of each of these and won't be satisfied until I have more vases than I do forks and spoons. The same applies to flowerpots: Most gardeners can always use another fancy terra cotta pot or a redwood planter. The more they have, the more they probably want. Plaza Design in Eureka has an interesting selection of both vases and pots in their garden section, as does The Garden Gate in Arcata.

THE FASHIONABLE GIFT: It's not easy for gardeners to look good, considering that we're usually covered in dirt and sweat. But there is one fashion accessory no gardener should be without, and that's a pair of Foxgloves garden gloves. I've been raving about these machine-washable, form-fitting, and oh-so-colorful gloves for years, and this year the company has released a new Grip model that offers a little extra traction in the palm. Sun, Rain, Time in Eureka carries them; for about $25 they can be yours.

THE STOCKING STUFFER: A good stocking stuffer should be both small and inexpensive. You can fill a stocking with garden-themed stuffers if you include seed packets, bulbs, copper plant markers, hand salve, a nailbrush and a good sturdy Corona hand tool. You could even let a small fragrant plant like thyme or rosemary peek out the top of the stocking. The local nurseries are well stocked with small and useful items this time of year.

THE LITERARY GIFT: Bookstores and nurseries around town have plenty of interesting new offerings in their garden book sections. For a beginning gardener in need of a good all-round reference book, try The Ann Lovejoy Handbook of Northwest Gardening from Sasquatch Books. Timber Press has published several useful books about individual plants: Graham Rice's The Sweet Pea Book and Gareth Rowlands' The Gardeners Guide to Growing Dahlias are just two examples. They have also published books on columbines, camellias, primroses, ferns, hostas and others. Their massive new encyclopedia, Flora, is a hefty $100, but it spans two volumes and covers more than 20,000 plants, so it's well worth the investment.

THE EXTRAVAGANT GIFT: I can think of no more luxurious gift for a lover of plants and flowers than the "subscriptions" offered by catalog companies like Smith & Hawken, Gardeners Supply Company, White Flower Farm and Red Envelope. Just think: You write a (rather substantial) check, and a new flowering plant arrives on your loved one's doorstep every month over the coming year. Believe me, if you weren't sure whether you were truly your grandmother's favorite, this will cinch it. You can choose from among orchids, bulbs, or flowering garden plants, and buy subscriptions for three, six, or 12 months at a time. Twelve months will set you back about $300, but don't you know someone who's worth it?


garden-related announcements and news to Amy Stewart.


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