Christmas gifts for gardeners
What garden lovers will be happy to find under the tree this year
Clarke’s Soaps, handmade in Dublin
Kelway’s Manual, from many botanical prints in the extensive RHS collection
Urban Garden, a space-saving solution for balcony gardeners
A Colworth Flower trug from Quickcrop in Sligo
Dewit’s ash-handled carbon-steel trowel
The steel Pip-pip Bird Feeder
I could start off this week’s column with a Grinch-like list of gifts that the nation’s gardeners are hoping not to find under the tree this year (badly made tools, concrete gargoyles, allotment ‘tuck boxes’ and frog-themed ceramic solar fountains, for instance), but that would be churlish of me . . . Instead, here are some suggestions for presents guaranteed to bring a happy smile to the face of your green-fingered loved ones this Christmas.
Gifts under €25
Gardening is a mucky old business, which is why I’m a fan of Dublin-based Clarke’s Soaps, handmade using only ethically sourced, natural ingredients (from €5.50, see clarkesofdublin.com), as well as Le Couvent de Minime’s Gardener’s Hand Healer cream (€13.99, as a set from boots.ie). For the same reason, a pair of lightweight Showa Thornmaster gloves (€8.95, howbertandmays.ie) is always welcome. Gloves aside, Howbert & Mays’ Monkstown shop is choc-a-bloc full of other gardening goodies including colourful watering cans (from €12.95), vintage Irish-made terracotta pots perfect for tiny succulents (from €1.50) and the Dutch DeWit range of ash-handled, carbon-steel garden tools built to last a lifetime. In particular, check out its hand trowels and knacky little weed-popper (from €11.95).
Madeline McKeever of west Cork-based Brown Envelope Seeds also always has some great Christmas offerings – this year’s includes a Seed Savers gift box (€20, brownenvelopeseeds.com), while techie-minded kitchen gardeners will love author and expert organic gardener Klaus Laitenberger’s handy new app, a version of his ‘A Vegetable Growers Handbook’ designed for smart phones (€2, see greenvegetableseeds.com ), or the IntoGardens magazine app (from £2.95, intogardens.com).
Perfect for the smallest garden, Raspberry ‘Ruby Beauty’ is the world’s first dwarf patio variety, reaching just a metre in height (€12, from Mr Middleton, mrmiddleton.com).
Tinier again are the selection of vintage-style bottle vases from Article, perfect for showcasing the beauty of homegrown flowers (from €8, article.ie).
Whether tying up sweet pea or marking out seed rows, string is one of those gardening essentials, which is why Cork-based supplier Fruithill Farm’s traditional twine dolly will always be a classic (€11.80, fruithillfarm.com).
Fast becoming a classic is the SpeedWeeder, a small, lightweight, ultra-useful hand tool that gets into the tightest spots (£6.60 from Organic Gardening, organicgardening.com).
Boodthirsty gardeners will have fun with a carnivorous Venus fly-trap plant (€7.50, available from Urban Plant Life, plantlife.ie). Feed galanthophiles’ passion with a handsome pot of Irish-grown snowdrops (starting from €7.50, from Altamont Plants, see Facebook page or contact via email@example.com).
Any gardener would be happy to get a copy of Skibbereen-based Kilcoe Studios 2015 calendar, featuring artist Sonja Caldwell’s beautifully detailed watercolour illustrations of Irish native trees (€12.50, kilcoestudios.com), or a botanical print from the extensive RHS Collection (image here of Kelways Manual 1898, from £20, rhsprints.co.uk).
Help gardeners keep track of both the time and the temperature with an outdoor clock/thermometer made from recycled plant pots (€11.80, available from Cork-based The Secret Garden, thesecretgardener.com).
UK-based Pictorial Meadow’s seed mixes, which played such a starring role at the 2012 London Olympic Games, allow gardeners to create astonishingly beautiful, impressionistic flower meadows (from €17.04 plus VAT, pictorialmeadows.co.uk).
Gifts from €25-€50
For an indoor garden in miniature, get one of designer/florist Mark Grehan’s glass terrariums filled with fleshy succulents (€39 from The Garden at Powerscourt, thegarden.ie).
Sligo-based Quickcrop (quickcrop.ie) do a great selection of handsome garden baskets and trugs, including the shallow Colworth Flower trug (€45, perfect for cut-flowers) and a traditional Bentley wooden trug (€29.50).
For the glossiest of glossy gardening magazines, take out a one-year subscription to Gardens Illustrated, (€47 for 12 issues, buysubscriptions.com) or enjoy the homegrown version, The Irish Garden magazine, which is filled with handy tips, informative articles and stories of Irish gardens and gardeners (10 issues, €46, irishgardensubs.com).
Gardeners who love the Dutch-made Sneeboer range of handmade tools will be delighted by its new short-handled digging fork and spade, designed with the help of Fergus Garrett, head gardener at Great Dixter (Prices from €59, available from Fruit Hill farm, Fruithillfarm. com).
Some gifts just keep on giving, such as annual membership of The Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (from €10-€40, rhsi.ie), the Irish Garden Plant Society (€15.50 to €30, irishgardenplantsociety.com) or Grow It Yourself (from €25, giyinternational.org).
Or how about becoming a supporter of Irish Seed Savers Association (from €35, irishseedsavers.ie)
Head off to Ballymaloe for a one-day course on building willow structures with willow wizard Norbert Platz (€95, 16th February, cookingisfun.ie).
Amongst the expected highlights of next year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show (19th-23rd May 2015) are show-gardens by leading British designer Dan Pearson and the Dubai-born landscape designer Kamelia Zaal. One-day ticket prices start from €60; (see rhs.org.uk).
Buy a gift voucher from Dublin-based Mount Venus, one of Ireland’s most exciting specialist plant nurseries, (mountvenusnursery.com). With a stellar line-up of speakers including UK gardener Keith Wiley, American landscape architect/internationally respected blogger Thomas Rainer, Patric and Sylvie Quibel of Le Jardin Plume, and seasoned Irish garden designer Verney Naylor, next year’s annual GLDA conference promises to be a cracker (7th February 2015, special early-bird non-member rate of €75 if booked before December 23rd, see glda.ie).
Few bird tables are as elegant as the coated-steel Pip-pip Bird Feeder (€79, available in a range of colours from Inreda, inreda.ie).
There’s nothing like a cosy woollen throw for gardeners who like to enjoy the twilight with a glass of wine outdoors (Studio Donegal throws from €89, available from Article, articledublin.com)
Invest in a limited-edition archival print of one of the paintings from the wonderful Aibítir touring exhibition of botanical art (€117 incl. P&P, irishbotanicalartists.com).
Along with limited edition prints and a range of illustrated gift cards featuring her paintings, award-winning Irish botanical artist Lynne Stringer also sells her original botanical art works (from €250, lynnstringer.net).
Designed by Jerszy Seymour, Flux stackable chairs are sleekly contemporaryand come in a choice of zingy colours (€245 per chair from Inreda, inreda.ie). Also from Inreda, the award-winning Urban Garden is a stylish, space-saving solution for balcony gardeners (€645). Or what about the VEG Trug, a timber V-shaped vegetable planter? (€199 from GIY, giyinternational.org).
Kitchen gardeners can make even better use of their delicious home-grown produce with a food dehydrator that preserves freshly harvested fruit and vegetables (from €139, see juicers.ie).
Forget hammocks, the best way to hang out in a garden is in a Cacoon, a comfy hanging seat whose design was inspired by the nest of the Weaver bird (from £225, see hang-in-out.com).
Price no object…
Get inspired with a five-day tour of the gardens of Cornwall with Wexford-based gardener Frances MacDonald, (from €899, see traveldepartment.ie).
Indulge yourself with a beautiful piece of garden sculpture from Russborough-based artists and blacksmiths Calnan & Anhoj. I’ve taken a particular fancy to their magical Venetian hare, made from forged steel (€4,600 from Gormleys Fine Art, gormleys.ie/ calnan-anhoj.ie).
Keep warm with a very cool fire-pit from Minima (€2,100, minima.ie). Some greenhouses have all the looks, such as the handcrafted Victorian planthouse from Meath-based Norman Pratt (price from €5,900, normanpratt.ie).