Though Black Friday and Cyber Monday have already passed, I'm guessing many of the deliciously materialistic pleasures found on those days seemed to fall a little short for the gardener on your gift list. I admit it, we're a tough crowd to buy for. One gardener I know with a really stellar husband manages to get deliveries of manure for Christmas each year, but most of our friends and relations are afraid of sending the wrong signal with a truckload of garden gold. No matter. I've compiled a list of must-have gifts for every type of gardener in your life.
Pacific Northwest Foraging by Douglas Deur, Timber Press 2014. Though most of us are well aware that we can eat salmonberries, native currants and huckleberries, this book takes foraging way beyond the berry comfort zone and gets you experimenting with eating chard-like coltsfoot (Petasites) leaves, steamed horsetail (Equisetum) shoots, sticky-sweet pine cambium and plentiful but not terrifically tasty sword fern roots. It will definitely make you look at the native plants and weeds growing in your garden in a whole new way.
A bare root fruit tree. A $30 gift certificate to a local nursery would be enough to purchase any one of a wide variety of bare root fruit trees in January. I'd recommend a 'Burgundy' or 'Golden Nectar' plum (great for making infused liqueurs), a 'Sweet Treat' Pluerry (plum-cherry hybrid) or an apple locally grown and grafted by Fieldbrook Nursery (available at local retail nurseries).
Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired Ideas and Practical Advice to Unleash Your Garden Personality by Rochelle Greayer, Timber Press, 2014. Greayer has edited a few gardening publications including Leaf magazine and the new Pith and Vigor horticultural newspaper, and that perspective is evident on every page of her long-awaited book. Divided into 24 gardening styles including Abstract Vogue, Homegrown Rock 'n' Roll, Forest Temple and Wabi Sabi Industrial, each section has photo collages, furniture and décor suggestions, and planting ideas that will get you inspired to create your own personalized backyard oasis.
Radius PRO Garden shovel. If you want to give your favorite gardener an oddly-wrapped gift to put under the tree, you can't do better than one of these O-handled stainless steel shovels. They come in stylish shades of purple (squee!), orange, lime, and turquoise and are built with an ergonomic handle and a gorgeously shiny stainless blade that makes digging with them a true pleasure.
The Wild Thing
Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard by George Adams, the University Press of Kentucky, 1998. The wildlife gardener in your life will love learning about how to provide food, shelter, water and nesting sites at all times of the year. My favorite part of the book was the section outlining bird-attracting plants, with a listing of the specific birds we can expect to see visiting each plant, as well as a description of what each bird is after, whether it's seeds, sap or insects hiding in the crags of bark. If you have someone in your life who enjoys both gardening and watching birds, this book will help them go beyond setting out a birdfeeder to create a true year-round habitat.
Mason bee house. If you've ever had fruit trees that flowered but didn't fruit, or similar pollinator problems in your veggie garden, then you know why mason bee houses have been such a popular splurge for gardeners. These good-natured, non-stinging native bees nest in little tubes, which are set within the bee house during the growing season. In late winter and early spring, the bees make their way out of their mud-capped nests to pollinate fruit and other plants, making them ideal partners for anyone with fruit trees or a passion for wildlife.
The Earthy Type
Bogs classic short garden boot. For some people, the activity of gardening is a physical meditation and an excuse to commune with the elements and the soil. Though many gardeners take shelter at the first sign of rain, we all know one of those hard-core gardeners, who just doesn't feel good until she's gotten outside and made progress on the garden to-do list. Even if it's raining. If you have someone like that on your list, consider picking up these classic waterproof gardening shoes. I'm partial to the short garden boot, which is just tall enough to keep the dew off my pant legs. The self-cleaning soles keep me from building up a slippery mound of mud during my winter tasks, and the soft handles set within the neoprene top of the boot make them easy to pull on even when I'm cold and impatient.
Lesche digging tool and sod cutter. Though the standard Japanese hori-hori/ soil knife serves well for most gardeners, I've recently discovered this new tool, which is popular in the metal detecting community for digging, prying rocks, and sawing through roots or weeds. The blade is offset from the handle, providing good leverage for any kind of weeding or small digging task, and the impressively toothy blades are, like most good tools, unsafe for use by either children or those with more than a couple glasses of wine in them. If you've ever broken a hori-hori through improper use as a pry bar (ahem), you'll be delighted to find this tool is too tough to damage.
If you want to make your own gift for friends and family, consider the following:
Mosaic stepping stones, garden art, or outdoor barstools. Creating handmade garden art to give as gifts is time-consuming, but need not be expensive or particularly difficult to achieve. Local mosaic diva Laurel Skye offers supplies, classes, and has even written a book of projects called Mosaic Renaissance which is available at any bookstore.
Personalized terrariums and aeriums. Local garden shops and thrift stores carry an array of vases, terrariums, and open glass balls which can be filled with sand, twigs, lichen, air plants and more. Air plants are very easy to keep and only require spritzing with water and occasional soaking to stay happy. If you're lucky, they even sometimes bloom.
Crafting with succulents. There are so many beautiful ways of crafting with succulents that it would take multiple books to list them all, but some of my favorites include succulent picture frames, topiary spheres, and miniature succulent gardens in nearly any kind of container (even an Altoid tin). To learn how to do all of these crafts and more, check out Debra Lee Baldwin's book Succulents Simplified. By using repurposed materials and cuttings from your own succulents or those of friends, you can create living works of art that are easy for your friends to care for.
The December gardening to-do list:
Protect frost-tender plants
Apply your first dormant spray to fruit trees
Harvest brassicas and root vegetables as they mature
Shop for bareroot roses
Plant bare root berries and vegetables
For a more detailed to-do list, visit www.northcoastjournal.com/GardenTodo.
Genevieve Schmidt is a landscape designer and owns a fine landscape maintenance company in Arcata. Visit her on the web at www.GenevieveSchmidtDesign.com.