Hints for the gardeners on your Christmas list

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As the gardening population continues to grow in this country I find it very interesting (and comforting) that they are getting younger.

Mark Cullen

It is not just that ‘gardening is good for you’ and therefore gardeners age more slowly than, say, mountain climbers or skydivers [ask your insurance agent if you don’t believe me] but the average age is coming down due to an influx of young people. Like knitting, if you want advice on how to start gardening, you might be smart to turn to one of the young converts in your circle of friends. 

Which is to say, based strictly on my anecdotal, thumbnail estimation of the situation, 20- and 30-somethings are getting into gardening in record numbers. Just have a look over the fence of any community garden or allotment and you will see them there, hanging out with their kids, some literally hanging on to a modern day papoose or ‘snuggly’, firmly strapped onto their parents’ back. 

As you contemplate what you are going to buy for the gardeners on your list I ask you to ask yourself the more pertinent question, “What is a gardener?” The answer is not the person in baggy overalls, dirty knee patches, leaning on a shovel with a home grown chicken under her arm. Well, maybe the part about the chicken fits the modern day image of a gardener. 

To truly understand what a gardener is in the year 2013 [almost ‘14], read on.

A gardener is best defined by their ancillary interests. A gardener is, for example:

A Walker and a Hiker

Gardeners enjoy the activity of gardening: bending, stretching, observing, and, of course, walking.  By extension, they also love to hike and walk elsewhere, especially in parks and other public green spaces. Buy them a pair of walking sticks, quality binoculars for looking at birds and trees at a distance, warm ‘wicking’ socks [that pull moisture away from the foot], flexible gloves, a small pocket-sized digital camera, a hat, sunscreen [stocking stuffer!], and speaking of consumables you can’t go wrong with bug spray.

A Birder

Maybe your gardener does not leave the house. Maybe they are one of the aforementioned hikers and walkers. Regardless, they are all birders. Not all birders are gardeners though. Gardeners not only love birds, they go out of their way to attract them.  They plant flowers and shrubs for birds that feed on their nectar, nest in their branches, and munch on their fruit.

Buy the birders on your list quality bird food [without cracked corn and millet in it that most birds push out of the feeder anyway], a seed feeder, hummingbird feeder, blue bird house [which will attract song sparrows and swallows almost for certain], a bag of bird peanuts [which are distinctly different from human peanuts as they are salt free –never feed birds salt], binoculars [another pair – you can't have too many], a folding stool for sitting in the garden to observe birds, bird books/videos/magazines, or a bird calendar. 

Go to a good hardware store, a birding retailer or full service garden centre for [almost] endless ideas. 

An Eater 

You might think that this is a stupid thing to say. Let me be more specific then: gardeners have a refined pallet. They appreciate, more than the average non-gardener, the tart sweetness of a fresh, tree-picked apple, the earthy flavour of a carrot, pulled from the ground and cleaned on your jeans [I  prefer them wiped on the grass], leeks pulled from the earth after several late season frosts, the first tomato of the season. 

All of this is to say that seeds, soil, hand tools like a quality trowel, cultivator or dibbler [Google it] are always appreciated. Hand pruners, gloves, a buck saw for pruning thick branches, a hone or sharpening file, a clay pot and twine to hang in the tool shed, a new pocket knife with holster for the belt, a metal garden planting ‘meter stick’, or plant markers all work. And never mind if they ‘already have one of those’ every gardener can use more of the aforementioned gear.  There is no such thing as too much.

A Cook

Ok, not all gardeners are cooks.  But a lot of them are. And not the ‘tear the label off a package and put it in the microwave’ type of cook.  Gardeners who like to cook like to do so from scratch.  And like a scratch golfer, they love, above most anything, specialized equipment for their chosen discipline. A trip to your local kitchen shop is in order. There you will find the specialized gear to prepare a scratch meal. A good kitchen store is heaven with a two way door on it for foodies. Once they have loaded up they can escape to the reality of their own kitchen. And garden. Regardless of their age.

Of course you could always buy them a gift card to their favourite retailer. 

– Mark Cullen appears on Canada AM every Wednesday morning at 8:40. He is spokesperson for Home Hardware Lawn and Garden.  Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at www.markcullen.com.

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