Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
November, 2004
Regional Report

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Not everyone appreciates garden ornaments, but to me this flamingo is endearing and provides an element of surprise in my shade garden.

What Gardeners Really Want

Gardening is America's number one hobby, so it's likely you have at least one gardener on your gift list. If you are wealthy enough, finding the right gift is easy. Perhaps your favorite gardener can really use an estate-sized garden tractor, complete with a charming and handsome operator who will be on call at all times. If a tractor seems too vulgar, how about a vanity rose? For about $10,000 or so, one of the major rose breeders will breed a rose just for your gardening friend or relative, and name it after him or her. This gift also includes a specific number of the named bushes, so your favorite gardener can have a complete vanity flower bed.

If these two suggestions seem just a little over the top, you can take comfort in the fact that gardeners really are simple creatures. Even good dirt excites us, especially if we garden in sandy or clay soils. Fortunately, there's a whole host of small gifts that will delight gardeners. These can be used individually as stocking stuffers or hostess gifts, or batched together in an attractive basket or large plant pot.

Small Delights
Almost every gardener I know can use a new nailbrush. Even if you wear gloves, there are times when you have to take them off and actually get dirt under your fingernails. This means you will also have to resort to using a nailbrush before going out in polite society. There are many styles and colors available.

To a gardener there is absolutely nothing worse than a flopped-over peony or a lily leaning slowly towards the horizon, and every gardener has at least one plant that needs tying and staking during the course of the growing season. Packages of bamboo stakes make great inexpensive gifts, as do rolls of green, plastic, plant-tying tape. If your particular gardening friend doesn't like plastic, there is plain old twine, which has a multitude of garden uses and comes in natural shades or dyed green. There are also various kinds of metal supports that come in a variety of heights. None of them cost very much, and no gardener can ever have too many at hand.

With catalog season upon us, small notepads with self-adhesive strips on the backs of the pages make perfect stocking stuffers. I like the kinds that come in four colors because they help me organize my garden wish list. When I thumb through a catalog I use one color for "must have" items, another for "maybe's," and still another for things that I want to remember to recommend to other people. By spring my catalogs are usually bulging with these notes, and they really do keep me from becoming lost in the mail-order thicket.

Another nice Christmas gift is a series of flower pots of varying sizes; gardeners never know what they're going to need so pots of different sizes always come in handy. Or, how about garden gloves that really fit? Women, especially, have trouble finding work gloves small enough to fit properly. I like a pair of leather gloves for moving rocks or bricks, spreading mulch or trimming raspberries; and a pair of goatskin for lighter work, such as transplanting perennials in the fall. The new rubberized work gloves are handy for transplanting during cold, damp conditions.

Indispensable Hand Tools
For Christmas a couple of years ago I received an adjustable leaf rake. The tines are connected to a movable grip that slides up and down on the handle shaft. At the top-most position, the tines are forced closer together, making the total width about 6 inches. At the lowest position, the tines are farther apart, reaching 18 inches in width. This ingenious set-up allows for large-scale leaf gathering in open lawn areas as well as tighter maneuvering in a rock garden or between closely spaced shrubs. The whole thing is made of lightweight aluminum, handle and all, with a comfortable rubber grip that minimizes fatigue.

I have come to use this rake almost exclusively, but it's wearing out, and the adjusting mechanism refuses to stay locked into place. The early models like mine have proved so popular that new stronger models have been developed. Adjustable rakes make great gifts; they sell for $10 to $20.

Every gardener -- from the dabbler to the determined -- needs a good set of hand pruners. The scissors-type pruners, also known as bypass pruners, are recommended over the anvil type. Anvil pruners (those with a blade on one side and a flat surface on the other) tend to dull quickly and crush tender stems. Include a holster for easy access and for those quick draws on unruly branches. Expect to pay at least $30.

A heavy-duty trowel is a gardening necessity. Look for trowels with brightly colored handles and finger grips. The most durable trowels are made of one continuous piece of metal. I've had one of these for over a decade, and other than misplacing it a few times, it is still as good as new. There are even specially designed hand tools for people with limited mobility or reduced hand strength. Prices start at $7.

Books and Software
Garden books are always acceptable gifts. If the recipient is a relative novice, a "how-to" type of book will prove the most useful. Once a person has graduated to upscale gardening, the artsy books tend to have more appeal because they provide the inspiration to attain higher goals in the garden.

Some great plant CDs include Michael Dirr's "Woody Landscape Plants." It's a 4-CD set with over 7,600 images of plants, including their buds, flowers and leaves. "Horticopia" includes 2 CDs devoted to trees, shrubs, ground covers, and perennial and annual flowers. It includes lots of details on plants, and you can even generate lists of plants with particular bloom times or flower colors.

Something For Everyone
Here are some other gift ideas for gardeners: a tool carrier; work apron; bag of Zoo Doo fertilizer; sundial; birdbath; boot scraper; garden clogs; leaf shredder; compost turner; indoor mushroom farm; coupon good for two hours of weeding, planting or raking leaves; or a partridge feeder in a Bartlett pear tree.

Rocks are considered an integral part of the landscape. If your gardening friend lives in a flat topographical area, you can surprise her with a handpicked, dragged-home, authentic boulder. The smile on her face will be brighter than Christmas tree lights as she figures out where she will place this year-round, natural garden ornament in her yard.

Any gardener, beginning or expert, would love to record for posterity his gardening efforts and successes. Digital cameras are excellent for sending your newest daylily bloom or the spring bulb explosion to your relatives and gardening friends. Chronicling the birds and animals that visit the gardener's private wildlife sanctuary will be a treat to those who normally don't get to experience such miracles of nature. If your gardener already has a camera, how about some large photo albums to show off lovely photos?

Finally, don't forget to wrap a gift for a gardener in interesting, appealing things other than Christmas wrap. Try wrapping in burlap and using raffia instead of ribbon, with fresh holly as decoration. Place a gift in a flower pot and tie it up with garden twine, place pinecones or small pine twigs on top or on the side, or use a watering can as your box. If you are giving your gardener a gift certificate, wrap it around a brick, put it in a nice, sturdy box, and wrap it like it contains the crown jewels! You also can use the tall grass blades of ornamental grasses as twine and the plumes as decoration.

Happy Giving!

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