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Holiday mail order catalogues have been choking my snail and email boxes for several weeks now. The many products they contain keep me occupied for hours, so I thought I’d bring a few of the more relevant ones to your attention to help you find the right gift for your favorite gardener.

I’m one of those people who are hooked on having beautiful, growing things around the house, especially in the dead of winter. There is nothing more amazing to me than watching what emerges from an amaryllis bulb.

Giant stems reminiscent of Jack and the beanstalk, followed by strappy leaves and finally a bulging bud that pushes up to reveal a magnificent flower. When it comes to amaryllis, size does matter: the bigger the bulb, the bigger and healthier the flower. Here is where it pays to spend a little more and to my surprise, my catalog cruising uncovered lower prices from my favorite garden center (for curbside pickup) to my local grocery store (they deliver!). These bulbs come in many presentations to fit any budget: waxed (the newest thing), bare root, in a plain green plastic pot, or in an attractive ceramic planter. There are tons of them! To make the gift complete, add a bottle of Coast of Maine Liquid Squid Fertilizer for Indoor Plants.

If your gardener loves tools, I can’t say enough about all the cordless power tools that have hit the market in recent years. I have been especially pleased with the blower/sweeper combinations. That tool set lets me clean up outdoors after potting something or mowing, or just blowing debris away from the front door. With two rechargeable batteries at the ready, I can take care of what needs to be done without gasoline, maintenance, noise, etc. Like most things, there are several options on the market so read the reviews and decide for yourself which one is right for you. So far, I have acquired the blower and trimmer/edger from Worx and the cordless mower from Black & Decker. All can be delivered to the door (look for free shipping offers) and will look smashing decked out with a big red bow.

Seeing other gardens and being inspired by them is the best way to learn to be a better gardener and to improve your own garden. The Garden Conservancy can help here. It’s an organization dedicated to the preservation of America’s finest private gardens and provides access to some of those gardens. As a result, each year hundreds of garden owners from coast to coast open their magnificent spaces to more than 75,000 visitors, providing a rare opportunity to enjoy beautiful gardens not normally open to the public. The small fee one pays to visit these gardens supports the national preservation work of the Garden Conservancy such as the rehabilitation of the gardens on Alcatraz Island, as well as local non-profit organizations designated by the garden hosts. Why not purchase a gift membership (they start at $50) or a booklet of garden entry tickets (cheaper for members)? Go to for all the details.

Invariably when I’m in the garden, I realize I forgot a tool and have to trudge back to the garage for it, sometimes forgetting by the time I get to the garage why I’m there! Or just the opposite: when I start out, I load up the wheelbarrow with what I think are all the tools for the project du jour. The tools then get buried and I either can’t find what I need or it’s difficult to exhume it from the pile I’ve created. The solution to this dilemma is a sizeable garden tool bag. Not just any tool bag, but one designed to take what a gardener can dish out. It needs to be a decent-sized bag that can be loaded into the wheelbarrow or hang onto the handles. It needs to have an inner cavity with enough room for everything from seeds and bulbs to gloves and flower pots. A non-negotiable is a set of practical outer pockets to hold hand tools like pruners and trowels. Some kind of closure (Velcro, cord, zipper, etc.) at the top of the bag would be appreciated to keep everything firmly in place. Sturdy, strong handles, a shoulder strap, and four standing knobs so it can be stable once it sits on the ground complete the design. Of course it needs to be super-tough to withstand an occasional poke from a sharp implement. Plus it must open wide to allow easy access. You’re sure to find the right one once you plug “garden tool bag” into your favorite search engine. Then you can fill it with a few packets of seeds, along with a bag of Coast of Maine Seed Starting Mix, and maybe a new trowel or pruner.  

Speaking of pruners, a well honed and sharpened pruner is indispensable. The best way to always have yours sharp and ready to go is to acquire and learn how to use a sharpener. There are many of them on the market as well as very instructive You Tube videos to show someone how to do the deed. No more torn stems and branches!

If you’re really unsure of what to get your gardener, you can stop the angst by getting a gift certificate or two. There are several choices for you here. Your local independent garden center is a great start. A gift certificate can easily be spent on inventive and artful arrangements for any occasion.

You might find a well grown potted perennial that can be planted out next spring, or a unique colorful container. 

Most garden centers offer gift certificates through their websites so you don’t have to step outside the house. One of the best options is a gift membership to a premier horticultural organization like the American Horticultural Society so your gardener can be with their tribe.  The joy is always in the giving.

Written by Lorraine Ballato, author of Success With Hydrangeas

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