Garden Variety: Gifts for gardeners can be wide-ranging

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Do you have a gardener or aspiring gardener on your holiday gift list this year? Are you a gardener or aspiring gardener and looking for a special treat for yourself? Winter, and the holiday season especially, is a great time to shop for garden tools and supplies, indoor plants, books, and garden-related outings. These garden items help gardeners prepare for the growing season and serve as an excellent reminder of warmer, sunnier days.

The best gifts, of course, are catered to the recipient. If shopping for a garden item for someone else, learn as much as possible about their garden skills, interests, tools they have, and what might be on their wish list. If shopping for yourself, take an inventory of what you have, invest in the basics, consider what items would have been helpful during the growing season, or seek out something that inspires you or brings you joy.

There are a few items that gardeners with all interests can use: pruners aka pruning shears, a trowel, a knife, and a watering can. Good quality versions of these items are lifetime tools and are worth the investment. There are different types of each and the best option here depends a little on the type of gardening the recipient prefers.

For pruners, look for curved blades, metal rather than plastic for durability, and handles that have an ergonomic design or fit hands well. Curved blades do not pinch and damage plants when they cut and are preferred over flat blades. Besides pruning trees and shrubs, pruners are used to trim houseplants, cut flowers for bouquets, harvest produce, and more. Sharpen blades periodically with a small file. Felco 2 is the industry standard for pruners but also consider options for lefthanded users, pruners made for smaller or larger hands, and models with rotating handles for better ergonomics.

Trowels tend to be inexpensive and often come in sets with tools that are unlikely to ever be purchased otherwise. Instead of getting the 3-pack, opt for a trowel with a sturdy blade and comfortable handle. Trowels are primarily for digging small holes such as those needed for transplanting flowers or vegetables. They are also good at scooping small amounts of soil, loosening weeds, and splitting plants during division (perennials or houseplants typically).

Knives are often overlooked on the garden tool list, but gardeners use them plenty. The type and size of knife depends on the gardener and type of gardening. A basic utility knife or pocketknife might be adequate for removing tags from trees and shrubs, cutting open bags of seed and fertilizer, slicing open the root systems of rootbound shrubs and perennials at planting, etc. For the gardener who is interested in propagation, especially of woody plants, look for knives specially made for taking plant cuttings, budding, and grafting.

There is a trowel/knife crossover that many gardeners deem essential. It is called a Hori Hori knife. It works great for all of the things for which trowels are used, but has a serrated edge on one side that gives it an advantage for loosening weeds and splitting plants, and cutting tangled roots.

For watering cans, look for function over form. A can with a large reservoir and narrow spout takes less trips to the water source and the water can be more easily directed when poured out. Quality water cans may be made from heavy duty plastic, stainless or galvanized steel, copper, or other materials.

For gardeners who have high quality versions of all these basic items, there are many additional options.

Consider garden gloves as the next item in line for any kind of gardener. Thin nitrile gloves are ideal for working with indoor plants, flowers, and vegetable transplants. Canvas or leather gloves offer better protection for gardeners who prune roses or other shrubs regularly; who shovel lots of soil, compost and/or mulch; or who occasionally handle rocks, brush, fencing, or other miscellaneous rough garden materials.

For gardeners who are always watching the weather, invest in a weather station or at least a rain gauge.

For gardeners with many indoor plants, consider a unique planter that fits their personality and style.

For gardeners who enjoy cutting flowers and bringing them indoors, look for a unique and meaningful vase. Good quality flower shears are another good option here.

Wildlife lovers might enjoy a mason bee house, butterfly house, bat house, bird feeder (seed feeders for winter or hummingbird and finch feeders for spring), bird bath, or other items that attract beneficial animals.

Fruit and vegetable producers will appreciate a good quality harvest basket. Some of the best on the market have a wire mesh bottom and wooden sides, but there are many options. Also, look for a seed storage tin (with a tight-fitting lid to keep insects and moisture out). Gardeners who plant flowers from seed and/or who save seed back from year-to-year will also appreciate a storage tin.

A notebook with waterproof pages is helpful for a gardener who likes to take notes, record garden events, or journal while they are enjoying the garden.

Finally, for gardeners who love inspirational and experiential gifts, consider passes to regional botanic gardens, arboretums, etc. and gift certificates to local greenhouses, garden centers and plant shops.

— Jennifer Smith works in regulatory horticulture and has worked as a horticulturist for various government entities. She has experience in landscape design and maintenance and as an educator.


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