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Gifts for gardeners

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By Dennis Morgeson

With about a month until Christmas, it’s time to start thinking about what to buy that special gardener in your life. If you aren’t a gardener yourself, it may seem difficult to buy a gardening-related item for an actual gardener, so I thought I would give you a few ideas to make it a little easier.

Houseplants make good gifts. This gives the gardener something to occupy his or her gardening time while the snow is piling up this winter. If you do decide to give a plant, go with something that is easy or requires low light. Many times people give miniature roses or even gardenias, which just don’t appreciate winter conditions indoors (or outdoors for that matter). Easy-to-grow plants such as wandering Jew, mother-in-law’s tongue, cactus of any kind, arrow head plant, peace lily, or even flowering plants, such as holiday or Christmas cactus or cyclamen, are a safe bet.  The gifted gardener will keep most of these plants for many years and most likely will have the flowering plants re-flowering for years to come.

Another plant that you see this time of year is the amaryllis, but don’t give the plant while in flower to a gardener. Give them the dormant bulb instead. This will give them weeks of enjoyment watching the plant grow and flower. Many times you can get these fairly cheaply and even in a kit with the soil and pot enclosed. The gardener can keep these bulbs from year to year and have them in flower next Christmas.

Pruners and pruning saws are a good gift for any gardener. But don’t get those cheap ones that you see at the big box stores. Buy them something nice that they will use for decades. Now, I am not one for dropping brand names but this is an area that you truly get what you pay for. The best pruning tools are made by Felco. They are used in the commercial horticulture industry almost exclusively because they are tough, easy to sharpen and will last a very long time and are given a lifetime warranty if you order them from the Felco Store Online.

Pruning saws are used on limbs from one inch and up. They are different from regular hand saws because they cut on the pull stroke making it much easier to saw limbs, etc. The blades are narrow, making it easier to get them into tight places.  Hand pruners are used to cut branches up to one and one-half inches, depending on your hand strength. They cut with scissor action. Never give or use the anvil-type pruners. They crush plant stems and can cause problems down the road.

Most gardeners will also appreciate shovels, spades, forks, hoes, rakes, etc., if they are given extra nice ones. Shovels have a concave blade and are used to dig or move soil, while spades have a flat blade and are used for cutting roots, transplanting trees and shrubs, edging beds, and shaping straight-sided trenches.  Garden and spading forks are used to turn soil, compost, or for digging potatoes or other root crops. They have four tines that are thick and rectangular or square. Be sure to not get them confused with a pitch fork which is for hay, etc. Now, even though you all know what a hoe is used for, they aren’t all made equal. You want to buy ones with a thinner blade. Those cheap ones you see with a six-inch tall by six-inch wide blade just aren’t good for general weeding and other gardening chores.  Choose ones with a two- to three-inch tall by six-inch wide blade.  Also buy hoe’s with the head in one solid piece. The welded ones don’t last long. That’s why they are so cheap. One last note on tools. Try to buy ones with smooth, solid handles or even fiber glass. They last longer and cut down on blisters and calluses.

If you are willing to spend a little more, remember that power equipment will not go unused. Rotary tillers, leaf blowers, weed eaters, lawn mowers, or even hedge trimmers all make good gifts. Generally I am not a fan of electric equipment because you are so limited to where you can use them or to the limited strength of the equipment. As far as tillers, buy the rear tined. They are easier to use and do a tremendous job of working up the soil. With leaf blowers, get ones that have a multiple wind speed selection and have a reverse or vacuum setting with an attached bagger. If you are going to buy a lawn mower as a gift, keep in mind the lawn size.  Small yards require small mowers and large yards require larger mowers. With weed eaters, two-string models are better. With hedge trimmers, buy according to the size of your gardener. The cutting blades can be anywhere from one to three feet long.  Go with something in the middle. One foot is too short and three is too long. Hedge trimmers may also be an area where electric is all right. The gas powered ones are too heavy for many gardeners.

One last thing about buying gardening-related gifts for gardeners, gift certificates are always appreciated or even preferred. They allow the gardener to buy what they want and many times it allows them to buy things they probably wouldn’t normally and this includes plant material. Gardeners are generally frugal and many times don’t buy the best for themselves, even though they deserve it!

If you really want to make a gardener happy this winter, buy them a very nice grow light system or even a greenhouse. If you want more information on these items give me a call at the office at 859-336-7741. Happy shopping!