Gifts for the Gardener
By Tony A. Glover
Cullman County Extension Coordinator
I usually leave the gift selection to my wife who enjoys shopping much more than I do, but, if I can do my shopping at the local Quality Co-op or Garden Center, I get a little more excited about the chore. For one, I like to support local businesses; and two, I often find secret Santa gifts for myself in the process. If you are shopping for someone who is a garden enthusiast, I have a few suggestions to help with your gift-buying challenge.
Tools are always a safe bet. There are many items that would make great gifts for the seasoned gardener, as well as those who are just beginning to get their hands dirty. While the veteran gardener probably has most of these items, who wouldn’t enjoy a shiny new upgrade?
• Spade – This item is a short-handled shovel with a square head. It is great for digging holes for planting and edging beds. A really well-crafted one can be fairly expensive, but worth every penny. A quality spade will last well into the next generation of gardeners.
• Hand Trowel – Trowels are a “must-have” for those small chores around the garden. They are perfect for planting small annuals, vegetables and herbs. The most durable ones are constructed of one piece of forged steel, with a rubberized handle. Choose one with a good ergonomic design that fits the hand well.
• Bypass Handheld Pruners – This tool is the real “workhorse” of the garden. They are a necessity for many jobs, including deadheading, shaping and cleaning up last season’s worn foliage. A good set of pruners can be a little pricey, but quality and durability make them worth the cost. Make sure they can be taken apart for cleaning, sharpening and even blade replacement purposes.
• Loppers – If they have trees and shrubs in their landscape, they may need a pair of pruning loppers. Typically, they can be used to cut branches with a diameter up to and including two inches, which makes them very handy for many pruning tasks in the garden. They should be bypass rather than anvil types for smoother and easier cutting.
• Pruning Saw – Small, folding pruning saws are much easier to use for limbs larger than two inches. Those that double as a pole saw are even more useful and may keep you off the ladder.
• Hand Rake – This item is perfect for those small areas. It has narrow tines which prevent damage when removing leaves and debris from annual and perennial flower beds.
If you are buying for someone with some physical limitation such as arthritis, there are many ergonomically designed tools to make the job easier. Items with larger grips or pruners with a ratcheting action are just a couple of examples. For those who have a hard time bending over, there are short garden seats on wheels with swivel seats and knee pads (garden kneelers) with hand supports to help you get back up. Garden carts with four pneumatic tires are much easier to use than old-fashioned one-tire wheelbarrows.
If tools are not quite what you are looking for, a gardening reference book may be just the ticket. One great book is “Easy Gardens for the South.” One of the authors is Harvey Cotten, the director of the Huntsville Botanical Garden. This book has 300-plus pages of good, practical gardening information and great pictures for the Southern gardener. Another valuable reference source that is an oldie but a goodie is “The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists: The Best Plants for All Your Needs, Wants, and Whims” by Lois Trigg Chaplin (another one of your CFN magazine authors). With over 200 lists, this book is great for making sure that you have the right plant for the right place. It includes trees, annuals and everything in between. This reference also addresses challenges such as slopes, poor drainage and alkaline soils. Either of these books would make a great addition to any gardener’s library. If you have a gardener on your list that is a fan of native plants, I like “Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast: Landscaping Uses and Identification” by Leonard E. Foote and Samuel B. Jones Jr.
Plants are always great gifts that continue to give enjoyment long after the gift is given. If you don’t know what plant to buy, then let your favorite gardener make the decision themselves. A gift certificate to a local mom-and-pop garden center of choice could be the perfect choice on your gift-buying journey.
I don’t know if I will get what I asked for, but I think it is a great idea to give of yourself. One way to do this is to make up your own “gift certificate” of your labor that they can redeem later. The certificate could be redeemable for a few hours of your labor to help them with a gardening task that may be difficult for them to do. I think this is an especially good idea for teenage grandkids to give to their grandparents.