By Cyndy Crist
Because I’m a gardener who loves tools and gadgets and all kinds of garden-themed items, I never have trouble selecting gifts for the gardener. But I can imagine that someone who primarily enjoys looking at the results of another gardeners work, rather than engaging directly in it himself or herself, might be at a bit of a loss when it comes time to select a present. To provide a little assistance in completing that task, here are some of my suggestions for gifts that I think will be used and enjoyed by a friend or family member who likes to dig in the dirt.
Anyone who gardens, inside or out, needs to provide plants, at least occasionally, with the water that Mother Nature can’t or won’t give them. That makes watering cans something that every gardener can use. Happily, they come in a wide array of sizes, shapes, colors, styles, and materials, which means that they can be found at just about any price that fits the giver’s budget. For example, one of my favorites is an inexpensive green plastic vessel that I found at Target for less than $10, while another is a pricier copper container shaped like a beehive (sadly, this one is in need of repair, having sprung a small leak in the base, so it’s currently serving a decorative purpose only).
Before making a selection, in addition to the aesthetics of color, shape, and design, you’ll want to think about at least two practical things:
How much water the can holds. For example, very large ones, when filled, can be quite heavy to carry, which may make them difficult to use for houseplants set on shelves or tables, but excellent for large outdoor beds.
How the water will flow from the can. Some watering cans come with a detachable or permanent “rose” that distributes water over a wide expanse, while others have a single spout. I find watering cans with roses difficult to use with potted plants but great for watering newly seeded garden beds or small seedlings that need a gentle watering.
In short – consider both form and function when choosing a watering can.
For gardeners who want to be sure they remember the names of plants, keep track of which seeds were planted in which bed, or inform garden visitors about what is growing in the garden, plant markers can be very useful. These, too, can be simple or ornamental. One of my favorites, and an easy and inexpensive DIY project, is rocks on which plant names are written with permanent markers. These fit naturally into a garden design and can be easily repositioned as plants grow or are replaced. Other options include copper, plastic, slate or ceramic markers in an array of styles. I’ve also seen some fun “upcycled” markers made from vintage pieces of flatware (with the proper tools, these, too, could be a homemade option). I like to combine several small items into a single gift, so suggest you combine something like a book about botanical plant names with a set of markers.
Even a gardener with an array of tools on hand will likely appreciate the gift of a new one. This might be a tool to replace one that has become bent or rusty; a tool that will add a new size or design to the tool basket (e.g., a trowel with an angled, ergonomically appropriate handle); or a beautifully hand-made tool just a bit beyond the price range that generally guides the gardener’s own purchases. An example of the latter might be a beautifully handcrafted English gardening trowel with a wooden handle, a fine Felco pruner, or a well shaped Japanese weeding tool. Here, too, it can be fun to combine a tool with another garden-related item, like a weeding basket, a garden tool belt in which to carry the new implement, or a colorful pair of gloves.
It seems just about every hobby has its own options for specialized clothing. For gardeners, this includes footwear, gloves, and hats. My favorite footwear for the garden is Crocs, including the traditional clog style and sandals (I have one pair of each and like them equally well). They’re comfortable, inexpensive, nearly indestructible, come in a wide array of fun colors, and can simply be hosed off when they get dirty. Then there are the iconic “Wellies” and various knock-offs, some covered in lively floral prints, for those who muck about in more mud and mess than I do. The key is footwear that keeps feet dry and protected from whatever might be underfoot in a garden and can be easily cleaned after a muddy day in the garden.
Gloves come in a number of materials and designs, from very simple to more “fashion forward.” I generally prefer to garden with my bare hands so that I can really feel what I’m doing, so I’m not the best guide here, but I know a number of gardeners who swear by the gloves made by Woman’s Work. Gardeners who specialize in roses will appreciate gloves made especially to resist prickly thorns; rose gloves also often are made to extend further up the arm. There are also rubberized gloves to keep a gardener’s hands dry and gloves made of breathable materials to keep hands cool. Since the fit, feel, and use of gloves is highly variable, I recommend including a gift receipt with a gift of gloves for easy exchanges if needed.
As for hats, choices should be guided by the style of the gardener receiving the gift, but keep in mind that keeping the sun off a busy gardener’s face is generally the most important purpose for a garden hat. Netting to protect the gardener’s face and neck from insects can be useful, especially in areas with heavy mosquito infestations or at times when black flies are especially pesky, or for those who are allergic to insect stings or bites. Finally, a breathable material that helps keep the head cool will undoubtedly be appreciated for use under full mid-day sun.
Don’t Forget Gift Cards
I used to think that giving cash or gift cards was a cop-out for a giver lacking the imagination or commitment to select a good gift, but I gave up that notion some time ago. Frankly, I suspect we’ve all gotten enough gifts that have sat unused for years to help us recognize the value of letting the recipient select something that he or she really likes, needs, or wants. Besides, they can be lots of fun for the recipient. I remember a year when I received several gifts cards and spent a very enjoyable day after the holidays shopping at no cost to myself, a fact that was greatly appreciated since the bills for my own gift purchases had begun arriving.
For a gardener, a gift card or gift certificate from a nearby nursery will never go unused. Many gift shops and bookstores also have merchandise to offer the inquisitive and curious gardener. The gift of a purchase from a seed company or other mail order or on-line source of seeds, plants, and gardening paraphernalia can open up options for choices by the recipient. Finally, the gift of a membership to a local arboretum or conservatory will offer the potential for many hours of learning, inspiration, and vicarious pleasure.
Gift giving can be something of an art, but with a little thought to the recipient’s tastes and interests, it needn’t be difficult, especially for gardeners who seem always to be looking for something new to try. So don’t be afraid – get shopping!