10 Best Holiday Gifts for Gardeners

How do you know what your gardener wants most? Listen for clues by paying close attention to the gardener's running commentary throughout the year. Among the mumbling and grumbling, you'll hear things such as, "If I just had one more (fill in the blank), it would look perfect," or "One of these days, I'm going to have to get a (fill in the blank)" or the far more subtle, "I really liked how that (fill in the blank) looked in the neighbor's garden.

Rather than giving the same old garden gloves or trowel set, this year offer something more imaginative. Here are my top 10 recommendations for the best holiday gifts for gardeners.

1. Ratchet tools. Among the new tools I've pounced upon are ratcheted loppers with telescoping handles that extend at the push of a button, and ratchet pruners. Both forestall that wrist and thumb pain that becomes so common as we age. Gardeners who suffer from arthritis will find they can last longer, with less pain, by selecting tools that are specifically designed to substitute leverage for strength.

2. Nursery gift certificates. It’s hard to go wrong by purchasing gift certificates for a gardener's favorite local plant nursery. Such gifts are really more than the plants themselves, since the gardener gets to spend a pleasant spring morning outdoors, choosing exactly what tickles his or her fancy.

3. Cash toward a large purchase. Cash toward longed-for garden ornaments, structures, antiques, gates, fences, etc., mean a lot to gardeners, since such items are usually chosen as focal points after much soul-searching, and may represent more to the gardener than meets the eye. They are also costly, so the recipient will be grateful for the contribution you make. Gifts like this will be seen every day and the giver(s) remembered for their thoughtfulness.

4. Services and labor. How about paying for a month of Cultivating The Inner Gardener coaching or a 10-week online Cultivating The Inner Gardener class . A prepaid consultation with a landscape designer? A weekend's worth of labor? A backhoe rental? Or installing a deer exclosure.

5. Books. Garden books make welcome presents, though well-meaning friends and relatives of long-term gardeners are taking a chance by making a selection themselves. A better choice might be a gift certificate to a bookstore, or to Amazon, Search Amazon.com for garden books where an armload of used books can be purchased for a pittance. Since the information in gardening books rarely goes out of date (except, perhaps, for pesticides, preservatives, and pests), think about buying a collection of early books by garden writers, landscape designers, or photographers whose works your gardener admires.

6. Videos. Another option is art-quality picture books or videos of famous gardens from around the world. Even dyed-in-the-wool hands-on dirt gardeners enjoy being transported on an imaginary tour in the dead of winter. I particularly enjoy movies that feature beautiful gardens, such as Howard's End, or My House in Umbria, even though the story may not be about the garden itself.

7. Tours. Garden tours abound locally in warm weather months, hosted by garden clubs, art and historical societies, and museums. Internationally, commercial tour operators who specialize in garden tours to far-off places, such as London, Paris, Thailand, China, and South America offer trips year-round. Tickets to tours, near or far, will be warmly received. One resource is http://www.gardeningtours.com .

8. Naturecams. If your idea of adventure lies more in your own backyard, get a birdcam or plantcam. After the photo (or video) files are loaded into the computer, there will be hours of enjoyment for the whole family.


9. Bird watching accessories. One year, we decided the theme for presents would be birds. There were six birdhouses, four bird feeders, birdseed, scoops for getting the birdseed into the feeders, a suet feeder, suet and a bat house (I know, I know, not a bird) in front of the fireplace. We had lots of fun feeding the birds in winter and choosing the best spots for the birdhouses the following spring. Binoculars are another good choice.

10. Memberships. Simple gifts, such as membership in an arboretum, botanical garden, or conservancy are very affordable and offer a win-win. The organization gets much-needed funding and the gardener gets discounts on programs, trips, and gift-shop purchases. Members may also gain entrée to tour preview parties and plant sales. Many public gardens honor one-anothers' memberships by offering entry-fee discounts.

Remember that gardening is primarily about dreaming something from the mind’s eye into existence. Any gift that helps a gardener birth that dream into the real world is the perfect gift.

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