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).
Get growing with a Plantsperson's Course with Jimi Blake of Hunting Brook Gardens (12 classes, one Sunday per month, from 22nd February, €888, see huntingbrook.com).
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).