Shopping for gifts for the gardeners on your list should be a pleasurable and easy experience, but it unfortunately is not always that way. Just at the time shopping begins to get serious, all those attractive garden things disappear from the
stores under an avalanche of gold glitter, red felt and green plastic.
But all is not lost. With a little thought and imagination, there are good things out there for the giving.
First, hand tools.
I don't know about the other gardeners out there, but this one is always in need of replacements for the tools that have disappeared over the growing season. There must be enough to stock a store laying around in my garden - under shrubs, in the compost bin, stuck in trees and probably carted out to the city brush facility.
I can always use a good pruner and trowels. If you are buying these, get the most expensive ones you can afford. Stainless steel is a wonderful invention. You do get what you pay for here, and tools get blunt and rusty even if you manage to keep track of them all summer.
Then there is the gift of time. A card to promise a trip to Amish nurseries or a local greenhouse in the spring would be something for the recipient to look forward to for months. Or just a promise to help with digging and planting would be good.
How about one of those seed trays with the plastic dome and a small bag of seed starter potting soil, along with packets of lettuce and radish seeds? You could also offer to take the gift back home with you and plant it up and regift when the seedlings germinate.
Of course, there are plants that appeal when the weather is cold and the short days are dark. The poinsettia is always attractive and they come in such an array of colors and size, there is one to suit every decor.
Last year, I brought home a white one that had been dyed purple for church decoration in Advent. When it reverted to white, I planted it outside. It grew into a large bush, too large in fact to dig it up and pot it this fall, but I did enjoy it in the garden. Look for one with healthy foliage and bright, clear colored flowers, and check leaf axils for insects or small holes.
A cyclamen is nice and very seasonal because it is dormant in the summer time and comes into its own as days grow shorter.
Choose one that has only a few flowers open, with strong, straight stems and a lot of buds near the soil line.
These plants appreciate bright, indirect light and moderate temperatures, mainly below 70 degrees. A good soaking followed by time to partially dry will keep it healthy. Dead flowers or leaves need to be removed.
Amaryllis is an easy bulb to grow, but you can do better than purchasing a boxed set.
Buy the bulb from a garden center or greenhouse, along with some good sterile planting soil, and choose a smaller pot because the bulb prefers to be pot-bound. It is not necessary to cover the plant completely or to use fertilizer.
A Christmas cactus is an appropriate present, and one that, with care, will last for many years. They come in a range of colors, including yellow and white, and will withstand warm and dry house conditions. Water only when the top of the soil feels dry.
Any time you give an indoor plant, be sure growing directions accompany the gift.
If there is no informative label, look up the plant on the Internet and print a couple of pages of growing directions. And there you will find suggestions for other varieties, such as rosemary trimmed into a Christmas tree shape or bonsai evergreen trees.
So, there are planty of gifts sure to be welcomed - and good for all-year-round enjoyment.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.