by Terry Kramer

Years ago my parents thought I was a bit daft for requesting a bright red wheelbarrow for Christmas. They ignored my wish.

About a month after Christmas I was lugging a heavy wooden box of potting soil to the greenhouse when I lost my grip. I got a painful foot injury and some big doctor bills, and my parents got the point: a wheelbarrow wasn't such a dumb gift idea. It appeared at my home a few days later.

Granting a gardener's gift wish for the holidays may seem bizarre. Wheelbarrows, shovels, weed trimmers and pruners mean work after all. But the right tool for the job can make garden work easier and safer. And some gardeners think tools are cool.

Nurserywoman Yvonne Colburn of Miller Farms Nursery thinks almost any kind of garden tool will make a gardener happy. "Tools are neat to give," she said. "Hand tools, rakes, weed hoes and especially pitchforks are really nice for turning compost and adding amendments to the soil."

And don't forget to consider a wheelbarrow. "Garden carts and wheelbarrows are real handy," said Colburn. "It would make a nice gift to fill up a garden cart with tools, plants, bulbs and gloves."

Professional gardener Janet Czarnecki says you cannot possibly go wrong purchasing quality hand tools like "a good pair of Felco pruners. Spring for the money. They are worth it." She also suggests digging tools from the Smith and Hawkins catalog such as a flat-ended fork and shovel. "You can do everything with them," she says.

Books make fine holiday gifts for the gardener as well. Midge Catching of Mad River Gardens Nursery advises giving vegetable cookbooks to produce gardeners. "Alice Waters' Chez Panisse or Charlotte Trotter's Vegetables are two great gifts for vegetable gardeners," she says. She also recommends The Shade Gardener by Ken Druse, and the new completely revised and updated Sunset Western Garden Book.

For gardeners who like to start their bedding plants from seed, Czarnecki suggests Park's Success with Seeds, published by Park Seed Co.

Nurserywoman Lydia Rieman of Pierson's Garden Shop thinks that water wands, pump-up sprayers, irrigation timers and other practical items are appropriate holiday gifts for gardeners. "How about a gas-powered weed trimmer? My husband gave me one for Christmas and it was pretty neat."

For those who like to grow plants from seed Rieman suggests putting together an herb garden kit, with a planter, seeds and potting soil. "You can start it inside in the winter and put it out in the spring," she suggests.

And then there are gifts that can add artistic charm to someone's garden. Rieman says statuary, wind chimes and bird feeders will enhance anyone's garden. Althea Taylor of the Garden Gate in Arcata thinks gazing globes, those shiny spheres the size of soccer balls resembling big Christmas tree ornaments are suitable gifts.

"They are a lot of fun. In fact, my husband bought me one for Christmas as a surprise, and I was surprised," she says.

Taylor also thinks top quality flower pots make nice gifts. "Nice pottery, like Bennington pottery from Vermont, which is one of the oldest pottery makers in the U. S., dating back to the 1700s, offers something different," she says.

Midge Catching suggests garden tiles by artist George Carruth as affordable and beautiful garden gifts. The tiles, from 2-by-2 to 12-by-12 inches often depict caricatures of Carruth's family members who run the business. "The work is just beautiful," Catching says.

For stocking stuffers, most professionals agree that seed packets and bulbs are sure to please. And for the gardener who is hard to satisfy?

Give a gift certificate. It's like going shopping with someone else's credit card!


Terry Kramer is a Bayside free-lance writer and owner of Jacoby Creek Nursery.

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