I‘m not going to pretend that you have a dozen gardeners in your life that you need to get gifts for. We all know these “gift guides” are to help your non-gardening loved ones know what to get you, and since they’re not gardeners they’re not reading this blog, are they? So you need to drop hints or perhaps blatantly submit a list of what you’d really like to see when you open your holiday gift. I’ve gotten plenty of “great gardening gift” press releases but I’m only going to tell you about things I’ve actually used (oops, with one exception*).
Gorilla CartsThese bad boys come in a variety of sizes and price points. I was sent the GOR10-COM to review and it is extremely sturdy and easy to maneuver as long as you don’t take it down a steep hill heavily loaded. (If you do, make sure you are strong enough to keep it from running you over.) It was easy to put together (there’s a video here) and I could use the quick-release dump feature even when it was filled to the top. I use it for big weeding projects and hauling tossable rocks from digging sessions, and it has become the transporter of choice when bringing fire wood from storage to the house. Plus, just remove a pin from the handle and it can be towed by a lawn tractor or ATV–should we ever get one. If you don’t think you’ll need to haul 1500 lbs any time soon, there’s a wide range of sizes and types you can check out here.
I can’t imagine a gardener who’s not interested in the weather. Did it frost last night? Will we get rain soon? How hot is it right now? It’s been over a year since Acurite sent me their 909WES weather station. Since then they’ve upgraded their software and the desktop and phone apps now give more information, which is better organized. As with Gorilla Carts, they have many models and price points. Click here for their full selection. And there’s free shipping on all orders over $50 at the AcuRite.com website.
If you don’t like getting your data from the internet, the La Crosse Technology C87030 Multicolor Wireless Forecast Station may be more to your liking, especially if you’re not interested in wind speed. You can get the max/min temps for the day with a click of a button. Be forewarned, the temperature sensor is only as accurate as the place where you set it up. If the sun shines on it, it will show an abnormally high temperature. However, the price is right, especially if there’s a Costco near you.
The Best Gardening Tool You’ve Never Heard OfUnless you read Hayefield, author Nan Ondra’s blog (and if you don’t read it, you should), you’ve probably never heard of Jakoti Hand Shears. Her brother sells them here. They are the best thing for cutting back perennials and ornamental grasses. Nan also uses them for trimming boxwood; I haven’t used them on anything woody myself. I haven’t seen these sold by any major garden tool supplier. (The one seller on Amazon ships from Great Britain.) They will make your favorite gardener sigh with pleasure, and possibly buy a second pair when you aren’t looking–just to make sure there’s another one on hand in case the first one gets lost. They are that good.
“A garden is the best way to savor life on earth”
There are a lot of gardening books out there. I’ve assembled a list of cold climate ones here. So, if I’m going to recommend one, just one, gardening book to receive as a gift, it has to be more than a practical, how-to book. Oh, sure, you should learn something new, but the writing should rise above textbook-informative and be pleasurable for its own sake. It should make you think–not about the best way to prune your roses, but about gardening itself–which we all know is more than a hobby. It should be a book that you savor, that you re-read on cold winter nights with a warm drink by your side.
Plants With Style by Kelly Norris fits the bill. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I’ve met Kelly and hobnobbed with him at garden writer conferences. I’m pretty sure I’m old enough to be his mother. So how did he learn so much more about plants? Never mind. It’s enough that he did, and wrote “a rhapsody, a paean for a new romanticism born from passionate interaction with plants” (page 9).
The first time I read through this book, I kept noting quotable passages to add to my website collection. (The quotation in the sub-head is from page 8.) The next time I read it, I will be writing down plants I want to track down and acquire. That is the one thing this book lacks–a list of sources. I can understand the omission–the best nurseries change up their stock all the time, and even providing a list of favorite nurseries means inevitably leaving one out. And, as you might imagine, not all the plants he recommends would be suitable for cold climate gardens. But you’ll still be glad you read about them, I promise.
Garden Design Magazine
There was a time when it seemed like Garden Design magazine was focused on patio furniture and outdoor kitchens. There was hardly anything about plants and most of the gardens had a modernistic style that didn’t appeal to me. That has all changed. A few years ago Garden Design was bought out and reimagined as a “bookazine.” It’s pretty thick for a magazine (148 pages), but there are no ads. It’s filled with gorgeous gardens, unusual plants, and the best tips. I bet Kelly Norris reads it. I do, too. I consider it a splurge, an indulgence–but I have to keep from squealing when I see the next issue in the mailbox. I can hardly wait to sit down and savor it.For example, Les Brake’s exquisite garden in Willow, Alaska was the focus of a ten-page article in the Autumn 2016 issue. There are long views of the garden and tightly cropped vignettes, as well as a page of Brake’s favorite plants. You really get a sense of what this garden is about; it’s not just a “sound bite.” You get four 148-page issues for your money, plus the first issue is free. Click here to order, or you can also call Dayna Springfield at 855-624-5110 to order a gift subscription (M-F 8am-5pm PST). Just tell her Kathy Purdy from Cold Climate Gardening sent you!
A Coloring Book With Wit, Wisdom, and Heart
Frequent visitors to my website know I like to have a quote on each page. (You can view the whole collection here.) So how could I pass up the chance to review a coloring book with a gardening quote on each page? The images to be colored in the Garden Quotes Coloring Book are taken from the pages of GreenPrints, a magazine that “shares the joy, the humor, headaches, and the heart of gardening.” Since the pictures are taken from the whole 26-year publication run, they have a mix of styles. I’m not into the adult coloring book fad (*yes, this is the one item I haven’t tried) so I don’t know if this would be considered a plus or a minus. I do know there are plenty of garden quotations I hadn’t come across before–including one from Dorothy Gilman, author of the Mrs. Pollifax series (a fave of my teen years)–so before I give this book to someone who will actually color in it, I’ll be adding my favorites to my website. Great Garden Quotes is 144 pages, and costs $14.95 plus $3.00 s&h from the magazine’s website, by phone (800-569-0602), or by mail (GreenPrints, P.O. Box 1355, Fairview, NC 28730), or at amazon.com.
A (free) gift for you
Gardener’s World is a British gardening television show. The presenters–most especially Monty Don, the host–not only inform you but share their love of gardening. They’re not embarrassed to say that a flower makes them swoon with it beauty. They’re also honest–they’ll tell you a crop didn’t do well, and why they think it did poorly. The show always opens in Monty’s garden, Longmeadow, and Monty looks the camera right in the eye and says, “Hello, welcome to Gardener’s World.” It makes me feel like I’ve been personally invited into his garden. And the way he talks throughout the show–it’s the way one gardener would talk to another, a mix of tips, instruction, and sheer joy of gardening. The other presenters renovate gardens, visit gardeners who focus on a single species, and take you behind-the-scenes at public gardens.This past year all the episodes have been uploaded to YouTube a day or two after they aired in Britain–illicitly, as I just found out. My favorite thing to do on Saturday night was to settle in a comfy chair and watch the latest episode just before going to bed. It filled my heart with beauty and peace and I always had a good night’s sleep after watching it. The season is over for the year, and won’t start up again until March, but you can sometimes find episodes on Youtube before they’re taken down. My favorite from this year was Episode 27, in which Monty briefly waxed poetic over the colchicums in his garden, and Frances Tophill visited a couple in Cornwall who garden on a precarious slope. I was going to link to their channel so you could watch all this year’s episodes, but what I had thought was the official Gardener’s World channel–they had the logo and everything–has disappeared since I last visited in October. So this isn’t as much of a gift as I originally had hoped. But whenever you have a bad day, hunt down an episode and watch. It will take you to a better place.
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