This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
Every gardener has a wish list and I suspect that at the top of that list is probably a greenhouse and then some sort of automatic watering system. Down a little farther might be a fancy tool or a handy item of gardening apparel and finally a few specialty plants and a year’s supply of compost. Here are some items to consider for the gardener in your life.
Paperwhites and Amaryllis—there’s nothing like bringing spring into the house in the dead of winter and these two bulbs are ideal for forcing inside. Paperwhites can be forced simply by placing the bulbs in a vase with some gravel to hold them up and enough water to reach the bottom of the bulbs. Roots will form in less than a week and in another 3-4 weeks you will be enjoying the beauty and fragrance of these bulbs that come from Israel. When they are finished throw them out because they are not winter hardy for us.
Amaryllis hail from South Africa and will also bloom in 4-6 weeks with large trumpet-like flowers in shades of white, pink, red or bicolor. You can still find these bulbs in most garden centers and they make great stocking stuffers for under $20.
Seed sprouter—our seed company Botanical Interests has come out with a collection of seeds this fall that are ideal for sprouting and eating rather than growing in the garden. This takes me back to my hippy-dippy days when we used to sprout all sorts of things and grind our own flour and make our own mayonnaise but I am digressing. This seed sprouter sells for around $20 and there are several choices of seeds including Micro Greens, alfalfa, mung beans and broccoli to name a few.
Cape Cod Weeder—a gardener cannot have too many tools and one of my favorites is a Cape Cod weeder. I lost mine a few years back and to my horror could not replace it because the manufacturer in Maine had stopped making them. To my delight I found a new supplier this summer so once again it is back on my wish list. They sell for under $30 and also fit nicely into a stocking handle first.
Border spade—this spade is the perfect size for dividing perennials or edging the border or cutting out sod. Some would call it a “girly tool” because it is smaller than the “manly” ones but for me it is just right with a solid forged blade and an injected polypropylene handle with a steel core. The handle is orange which helps me locate it in the garden on those rare occasions when I haven’t put all my tools back in the shed (which is most of the time). These spades sell for under $30 so they are a great value.
Muck Shoes—if you are up for investing $70 then let me suggest a pair of Muck Shoes. These are by far the highest quality rubber slip on shoe on the market. While not as flashy as the colorful Sloggers, Muck shoes are much more comfortable and have a washable cushion innersole. I have worn through at least 3 pairs in the last 20 years so that tells you how sturdy they are. Anytime I am outside and it is wet I am wearing my Mucks.
So those are five ideas for you to consider as Christmas presents for your favorite gardener. None of them will break the bank and all but the bulbs will give you years of pleasure. Next week I will come up with another five ideas as the clock ticks down to the final shopping days before Christmas.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org.