Roots and Shoots: Holiday Gifts for Gardeners

It’s a given that work gloves or a sun hat are stand-by favorites for gardeners. Trust me, I know. If you’re looking for ideas to delight someone who has a passion for plants and soil, here are a few alternatives. 

the secret lives of backyard bugsIf your gardeners have a new patch of pollinator-friendly plants, help them get to know their caterpillars with The Secret Lives of Backyard Bugs. (The authors, Judy Burris and Wayne Richards, also wrote The Life Cycles of Butterflies.) Insects come with a pollinator garden, hopefully, and it’s cool to get to know your visitors. I like the guide because it includes spiders, beetles and bees. The photos show their life cycles and share interesting facts, as well as identifying host plants each insect will need for food, laying eggs or habitat.

Many of the lectures and classes that took place online during the pandemic shutdown are still there. Help your favorite gardeners grow their mind and skills in the offseason with a gift certificate for a class at the New York Botanical Garden. From the warm comfort of a couch, anyone can join a class covering soil science, garden design, plant propagation and many other useful subjects. See nybg.org/learn/adult-education.

Register your yard on the Pollinator Pathway and surprise your family with a yard sign. Organizations such as the Philipstown Garden Club; Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners; and local libraries, schools and churches have joined forces to track connected landscapes. Make a pledge to forgo pesticides, grow native plants where you can and reconsider that your lawn and lawn care practices. Then, order a sign at pollinator-pathway.org/sign and to indicate your yard is on the pathway to inspire neighbors and visitors to learn more about what you’re doing. It will make a nice gift to unwrap as a family. For more info, visit pollinator-pathway.org.

Support a nonprofit while giving a gardener the experience of plants with a membership to a botanical garden or organization that prioritizes horticulture and conservation such as Stonecrop Gardens (stonecrop.org) or Manitoga (visitmanitoga.org). Being able to regularly visit a site and observe changes throughout the season offers invaluable insights into plant communities and cycles.

Aprons are having a fashion moment and made me think of the practical use of wiping the dirt off my hands on something other than my pants when I’m gardening. A quick search on the marketplace Etsy.com will uncover choices to suit any gardener’s style, from prints to utilitarian. Pockets and a sturdy material that will hold up to repeated washings are a must.

ShearsUpgrade their tool sets with pruning shears sized for their hands — left or right — from Felco, a Swiss brand known for its quality. Pruning can be a tiring workout and ergonomics are important. A tool that is sized properly gives you the right amount of leverage and reduces strain. For a really nice gift, include a tool sharpener, oil and a holster. If you’ve ever tried to find pruning shears in the grass under a pile of forsythia branches, you’ll know what I mean when I say a holster would be a genius accompaniment.

For a gardener who is short on yard space and likes unique designs, consider Hypretufa Containers, by Lori Chips, which has step-by-step instructions on how to make troughs by combining Portland cement with perlite, peat and water. The porous containers can be formed to a design using shapes in the book as a foundation. Potted: Make Your Own Stylish Containers, by Annette Goliti Guiterrez and Mary Gray, shares more than 20 designs from easily found materials that are affordable and repurpose other household items. Pair these books with bulbs, seeds or live plants as a special package. 

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, known as the “Jane Goodall of trees,” has a simple plan, the Global Forest Revival, to reforest the planet by having everyone plant a native tree each year for six years. The biochemist and botanist’s book, To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest, addresses how the future of life on our planet is tied to forests; it is at the top of my winter reading list.

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