WITH most of the gardening work done for the year, there's only one thing left to do and that is buy a gift for the gardener in your life.
Choosing the correct gift is hard enough, but when you have to be selective and buy a gift that only a gardener would like, well that's when things really get difficult. Gardeners can be a picky bunch, they don't like that colour, don't like that style or can't use one of those. There are the easy gifts like gift certificates from garden centres, magazine subscriptions from the many gardening magazines or a membership to one of our region's fabulous botanical gardens. If those ideas don't suit your gardener I have researched a few unusual Christmas gifts for the gardener in your life.
A good book is an invaluable resource for any gardener and contrary to what my kids believe, everything in life cannot be found on the Internet, so a good book is still worth having.
If you know anything about horticulture, the name Michael Dirr will be familiar to you and he has come out with another excellent book entitled Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs. Dirr writes thoughtfully about trees, shrubs and vines for warm climates like ours and his book includes 3,500 colour photos with details for identification, planting, maintenance, photographs showing a tree's winter habit, bark patterns, fall colour and more. Dirr's 952-page hardcover book is available from www. timberpress.com for $79.95.
For something completely different, how about giving a Hori Hori Knife? This is not a weapon, it is an unusual and useful gardening tool primarily used when weeding, grubbing or working with perennials. The Hori Hori knife is a cross between a trowel and a knife; it has a heavy steel blade that is concave, with a serrated edge on one side and a sharpened edge on the other side. It is used for planting and transplanting small plants, digging tap-rooted weeds or dividing perennials and it is also useful when digging while metal detecting. Made in Japan, it comes with a carbonsteel blade for $26.50 or stainless-steel blade for $29.95 and it's about 30 centimetres long and includes a belt sheath.
Find it at www.leevalley.com.
For the eco-conscious gardener who has weed issues, there's the EcoWeeder Lady, which uses a replaceable propane bottle to generate heat for ceramic heating elements that reach temperatures of up to 1,000 C. This tool looks like a weed-eater of sorts with a long handle, propane bottle on the handle and ceramic heat elements at the bottom of the handle above the ground. You walk along, slowly allowing the heat from the ceramic elements to burn weeds and weed seeds. It's ideal for those small and annoying weeds growing in hard surfaces. Some common sense and due care and attention is required when using this very hot tool. It's available from www.chemfreeweedcontrol.com for $250.
For the gardener who loves composting, try giving a compost bin. The Garden Gourmet compost bin is designed for residential use, it's rodent resistant, made from black 100 per cent recycled HDPE plastic and it will easily fit into the smallest garden.
Put all your garden waste and kitchen scraps in to help save the environment and prevent tax increases for waste disposal. The removable lid allows easy access to add waste and the sliding bottom door allows easy access to the finished compost. Install galvanized hardware mesh under the bottom of the bin to prevent rodents from burrowing into the bin. The Garden Gourmet is financially subsidized by the North Shore Recycling Program so you cannot beat their low price of $45. Available from www.nsrp.bc.ca.
An unusual gift for the gardener who needs a little advice on how to care for or improve their garden would be an hour-long consultation with a garden designer or journeyman horticulturist. The advantage of this gift is that it's personally tailored to the needs of the gardener because they can ask all the questions they want directly suited to their tastes and needs, so you don't have to guess what they want. Pricing for this one can vary from $35 to $100 per hour depending on whom you choose as your professional.
Be sure to tell the professional you choose that the gift receiver may not use the gift for sometime after Christmas or simply tell the gardener in your life that you will pay for the service when it is used.
Companies offering this service are many, but choose wisely, as not all professionals are created equal.
Probably the most valuable and personal gift of all is offering to donate time working in the garden with the gardener of your affection. After all, time spent with the one you love is the most precious gift of all.
Todd Major is a journeyman horticulturist, garden designer, writer, consultant and organic advocate. For advice contact him at email@example.com.