Getting a gift for someone who has a strong interest in an activity or subject (beware of calling gardening a “hobby” with a gardener in hearing distance) may seem easy. Your gardener friend usually gets gloves, a sun hat, brightly colored pruning shears and/or a jar of hand balm for dry skin.
Each is generic enough to be inoffensive, and possibly useful. But if you want to impress a gardener, check out these ideas in our ninth annual gift guide.
Seed Saving Kit
Breed plants by selecting the vegetable or flower varieties that thrive in your garden and landscape, then collect the seeds. This kit from Hudson Valley Seed comes with instructions and the basic tools to get started. Seed saving leads to seed sharing and you can expect this gift to come back around next season.
Pair it with The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving from the Seed Savers Exchange. Edited by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel, it covers the botany of seeds and plants and detailed instructions for different crops. Your special gardener will become a master seed saver.
During a recent workshop, the presenter said he had cultivated native plants in his landscape without disturbing the soil. Over three decades on his land, he simply cut back the invasive plants and the undesirable plants. He never pulled weeds by hand or tilling. The Kana Scraper is the right tool to practice this in your own landscape. Use it to shear off the plant without damaging the plants around it or the soil microbes.
I discovered Julia Whitney Barnes’ art on Instagram and love watching her creative process and images of new work flow through. She uses native and cultivated flowers to compose cyanotype prints, originally used by botanic artists. The resulting images are richly colored, a little mysterious and gorgeously layered. Find prints, original works, textiles and paintings on her website and through Carrie Haddad Gallery.
Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future
Elizabeth Kolbert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction, has been called “the best storyteller of climate change” by Bill McKibben. Her work on the Anthropocene has influenced my life and choices for decades and this book, published in 2021, looks at what people did to solve so-called problems with nature in the past that created other natural problems people are trying to solve now. She covers carbon-capture technologies, conservation, geoengineering and other approaches to stave off or adapt to the worst impacts of climate change.
Anne of Green Gables
While this is not exactly a gardening book, Anne’s delight in her natural surroundings is the perfect follow-up to Kolbert’s book. Published in 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s rich descriptions of the idyllic landscape of Avonlea and Anne’s deep appreciation for the trees and flowers and the stream where she imagines great adventures, all make up for the sense of despair that can hit me when reading about the challenges of climate change. Consider this your brain purifier.
Iwígara: The Kinship of Plants and People
This book by Enrique Salmón examines the relationships between Indigenous North Americans and plants, which they considered to be interconnected and sharing the same breath. The ethnobotanist includes 80 trees and plants and the ways that groups used them. This book expanded my perspective and knowledge about each of the species covered.
Gardening involves a lot of observation, and while we can learn valuable things from this, I also appreciate a rigorous scientific study to inform my choices in the vegetable garden. Jessica Walliser’s book examines the ways that plants influence and support each other, which is fascinating to understand. Go beyond the three sisters — corn, beans and squash — with techniques gleaned from this book.
Got a problem with multiflora rose? Japanese barberry? Poison ivy? Get your favorite gardener a small herd of Nigerian dwarf goats. These herbivores can clear a forest floor of the thorny invasive species that we all hate. As a bonus, you can visit the goats but not have to take care of them!