Deborah J. Benoit, University of Vermont
The daylight hours keep growing shorter, and the days are flying by. Before you know it, the holidays will be here. If you have a gardener (or garden lover) on your holiday gift list, you may be wondering what might make them smile during a season when the garden is buried beneath the snow.
For new gardeners or those who like to dream and plan their next gardening adventure during the cold, winter months, consider a book that focuses on their favorite garden subject. Books are available covering all aspects of gardening from regional how-to to growing specific plants such as roses and techniques such as square-foot gardening.
If the gardener on your list likes nothing better than hands-on “playing in the dirt,” there are all sorts of possibilities that will be useful in the garden come spring. Pruners, trowels and other hand tools come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
A gardener can never have too many pairs of garden gloves, but a pair of garden gauntlets can come particularly in handy when pruning roses or working with berry bushes or any other thorny plant. They not only protect the gardener’s hands, but forearms as well.
Something as simple as a foam kneeling pad can make garden tasks far more comfortable. Even better, a combination bench/kneeler that folds flat for storage (and gift wrapping) can be used as a seat or turned upside down to become a kneeler, complete with side handles to make getting back up much easier.
If you’re looking for something perhaps a bit less practical, decorative gifts can add interest and a focal point in the garden. Wind spinners, sculptures, birdbaths and birdhouses are all possibilities.
A themed selection of seed packets can form the basis of a special garden — a flower cutting garden, a pollinator garden or the ingredients for the salad of their dreams. Even just a few packets make a handy stocking stuffer.
For indoor gardeners who prefer houseplants to garden plots, plants such as jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) or gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) can fill the indoors with sweet fragrance and make the winter months seem to melt away. If not available at a local nursery, check online for sources that will ship safely even in winter.
Seasonal plants like amaryllis (Amaryllis) are another option. These large bulbs are available in stores leading up to the holidays. They are easy to pot up according to directions provided with the bulb and fascinating to watch as the leaves and tall stem emerge and produce a showy display of flowers.
An easy homemade gift is a selection of spring bulbs packaged to force into bloom indoors well before their outdoor counterparts have awakened from their slumber beneath the snow. Bulbs are still available in many stores or can be ordered online.
Select a container, fill it with potting soil, plant a selection of spring bulbs and include instructions on how to force the bulbs to bloom. Information on forcing bulbs can be found here.
Still not sure? Consider a gift certificate to their favorite nursery. The recipient will certainly enjoy checking off an item on their garden wish list. Or perhaps your local plant store offers classes. Creating a terrarium or learning the basics of seed starting can be a taste of spring on a cold winter’s day.
Whether it’s packets of seeds as a stocking stuffer, plants or something for the tool basket in anticipation of spring, gardening-related gifts can help spring seem a little closer for gardeners and garden lovers.
(Deborah J. Benoit is a University of Vermont Extension master gardener from North Adams, Massachusetts, who is part of Vermont’s Bennington County Chapter.)