Gardeners tend to be a contented lot, which can make them hard to buy for this time of year.
Ask any gardener what they want for Christmas or their birthday, and they would likely have something to say about the weather. You can’t do anything about that, but we do have some ideas from our own Christmas lists which can help you navigate this season of giving.
The last shovel they will ever need: We are often reluctant to treat ourselves to the “best” and end up with an inferior tool which will require replacement down the line. A shovel is something that every gardener will use, where “entry price point” can be around $12. For premium quality, the “last shovel you will ever buy” is stainless steel with a hardwood handle. Stainless steel holds an edge, looks great, dirt falls off it and it will never rust. The hardwood handle can stand up to heavy digging and has a nice texture in the hand. There are a few options on the market, but you shouldn’t have to pay more than $60 for a good one. We prefer the long-handled version of a shovel or flat mouthed spade: better leverage.
Gardeners value experiences: Do them a favour by putting something to look forward to on their calendar. Tickets to Canada Blooms, Canada’s largest and best annual flower and garden festival, March 9 - 18. It is always an inspiring collection of 17 feature gardens and so much more. $20 tickets online at www.canadablooms.com.
Update the seed starting operation: For many gardeners, seed starting is the most technical task they will undertake in a season. Some keep their lights going all winter for fresh winter crops of herbs, wheatgrass or even tomatoes. The typical setup is fluorescent tubes, trays and heat mats, but the technology has improved in recent years. The latest and greatest are LED growing lights, which draw much less power and last longer than the old fluorescents. Unlike fluorescent bulbs, which decline in the quality of light they produce over the course of their useful life, LED’s offer a consistent quality of light right until the end. Kits start at about $120.
Rose pruning gloves are useful for more than just pruning roses, though they are prefect for that with their thorn-proof gauntlet to protect your forearms. Winter is also the best time of year to prune prickly raspberries and thorny bushes such as hawthorn. A good pair are about $30.
Raised beds: A raised bed allows gardeners to control soil quality, moisture and light. Depending on how high you build them, they can be made more accessible to the gardener and less accessible to pests such as slugs, snails, and pathway weeds. There are various kits available from the hardware store, or – if you’re handy- make the gift extra special by finding plans online and making it yourself.
A better means of journaling: The garden teaches us constantly from season to season, year to year. The best way to reflect on these lessons is by writing them down, which is why Canadian gardening writers Donna Balzer and Chelsie Anderson came up with the “Three-Year Gardener’s Gratitude Journal.” Balzer and Anderson have done a masterful job of creating a journal which inspires gratitude through the garden, with prompts and inspiration dotted throughout. Available at local book stores and online at (https://donnabalzer.com/garden-journal/).
Our new book: That’s right– our first book together, and we think it’s worth recommending. “Escape to Reality: How the world is changing gardening, and gardening is changing the world” is a collection of essays where we reflect on our collective gardening experience and look at key trends taking shape. Gardeners have incredibly active minds and imaginations that really come to life during the winter months, when we dream of the gardening season. We think we’ve written the perfect book for gardeners in this state of mind. Available at local bookstores and online at (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/escape-to-reality/9781771086936-item.html?ikwid=escape+to+reality&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0).
The garden has taught the gardener on your list the value of gratitude – and now you can give them one more thing to be grateful for: a gift from you.
By Mark and Ben Cullen
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, on Facebook and bi-weekly on Global TV’s National Morning Show.