Giving to a gardener? Here's 35 great gifts for Christmas
Trees to plant, gloves to wear, cards to write trowels to dig, seeds to sow and a pad to rest
David Austin rose ‘Strawberry Hill’ from Mr Middleton – €22
I used to think that when it came to the chore of Christmas present shopping, buying a gift for the green-fingered person in your life was as easy-peasy as it gets. But that was before too many of my gardening friends told me otherwise, with gloom-inducing stories of flimsy secateurs, novelty watering cans and half-dead poinsettias. So here – to spare everyone’s blushes – is a useful guide to the kinds of presents we gardeners would really like to find stuffed into our stockings or under the tree this Christmas…
Show me the gardener who wouldn’t like a beautifully packaged collection of gift cards featuring illustrations of native Irish wildflowers or native Irish trees by the west-Cork based artist Sonia Caldwell of Kilcoe Studios (kilcoestudios.com). The same goes for a pair of well-designed, hard-wearing, lightweight, flexible, comfortable gardening gloves. Examples include the Japanese-made Hoken gloves, a favourite of Great Dixter’s well-known head gardener Fergus Garrett (£13.99, greatdixtershop.co.uk), Showa ‘Floreo 370’ gloves (available from most good Irish garden centres including howbertandmays.ie, €10.95), Rostaing’s winter gardening gloves (€8, fruithillfarm.com and for extra gripping power, ReliefGrip gloves (£29.99, bionic-glove.co.uk).
Likewise, it’s a pleasure to receive a gift box from west Cork-based organic seed producer Brown Envelope Seeds, whose seasonal offerings are always handsomely packaged and wittily themed. This year’s line-up includes “Peas on Earth” (€10), “Fermenters’ Favourites” (€10), “Tomato Rainbox” (€20) and “Armageddon” (€25), brownenvelopeseeds.com. For gardeners with dirty, work-hardened mitts, Compagnie de Provence hand scrub is guaranteed to leave hands feeling smooth and soft again (sevenwood.ie). For the gardener dreaming of figgy pudding, give them their very own fig tree in the shape of Two Timer, a variety which crops not just once but twice a year (€20, mrmiddleton.com). For those dreaming of their very own pear tree, Dublin-based Mr Middleton are also stockists of the ultra-compact Lilliput series of fruit trees, a perfect gift for those with limited growing space (€25). They also stock the must-have David Austin range of roses (from €22). For gardeners missing the delicious perfume of homegrown blooms during the winter months, buy them an Irish-made, hand-poured Sweet Pea and Tea Rose scented candle from Wicklow-based Brooke & Shoals (€22, brookeandshoals.ie).
Handsome houseplants are another great choice for gardeners suffering the winter blues, with a wide selection available from good Irish garden centres and specialist stores such as Johnstown (johnstowngardencentre.ie), Ikea (ikea.ie), Diarmuid Gavin and Dunnes Stores ’s new collaboratiion Outer Spaces on 49 South Great Georges Street, D2 and Dublin’s Urban Plant Life (plantlife.ie): Pair them with an elegant Galaxy hanging planter from April and the Bear on Cows Lane, Temple Bar(€32, aprilandthebear.com).
Meanwhile kitchen gardeners will treasure the complete collection of Klaus Laitenberger’s bestselling books on food growing: Vegetables for the Irish Garden, Fruit and Vegetables for the Polytunnel and Greenhouse and The Vegetable Grower’s Handbook. Available to order from his website at a special seasonal gift price of €32 (normal price is €45) plus €4.95 p&p, they come with a free seed packet from the gardening expert’s own Green Vegetable Seeds organic range, see greenvegetableseed.com for details.
Show me the keen gardener who doesn’t spend a lot of time on their knees. This is why a pair of sturdy, well-made, waterproof, cushioning knee-pads are always useful. Fruithill Farm sell the perfect kind, so tough that they’re also used by miners (€36.51). The Bantry-based firm also stocks a host of other excellent, ergonomically-designed garden tools built to last a lifetime including classics from the Sneeboer range (stainless steel trowels from €37.90 and weeding fork €53.30). I challenge you not to fall in love with the delightful giant glass terrariums, or gardens in a bottle from Howbert & Mays, which are supplied with a set of telescopic hand-tools to help keep them looking shipshape (available in two sizes, medium/15L for €59.95 and large/ 34L for €84.95, howbertandmays.ie.
A gift voucher from a member of the Irish Specialist Nurseries Association makes a great gift for any serious plantaholic, and can also be spent at any one of the association’s many plant fairs held throughout Ireland from spring to autumn (see irishspecialistnurseriesassociation.com for full list of members). So does a year’s subscription to Ireland’s best-selling gardening magazine, The Irish Garden, edited by Gerry Daly, whose many contributors include Klaus Laitenberger, Nicky Kyle, Carl Wright, Frances MacDonald, Tanguy de Toulgoet, Shirley Lanigan and Carmel Duignan (€48, garden.ie), or a year’s membership of the Royal Horticultural Society (€40-€80, rhsi.ie ) or of the Irish Garden Plant Society (from €30, irishgardenplantsociety.com). Galanthophiles will also treasure a ticket to next year’s Snowdrop Gala on February 2nd at Ballykealey Manor, County Carlow, where guest speakers will include Scottish nurserymen and gardeners Iain Christie and Ian Young, Tickets cost €70 and include lunch (pre-booking essential through Hester Forde, 086 8654972, email@example.com)
A year’s membership of privately-owned Killruddery in County Wicklow (€80 for a group of four, €100 for a group of six) giving unlimited admission to one of Ireland’s oldest gardens would make a very thoughtful gift. So would a secateurs from the Japanese Hidehisa range, made using traditional forging and grinding tools in combination with industrial robotics, especially its walnut-handled, steel-bladed garden secateurs (£162 sterling) or flower cutting shears (£152, from suwada.com). Or how about a ticket to the Garden & Landscape Designers Association (GLDA) 2019 seminar, Re-Wilding: Cities by Nature-The Nature of Cities on February 23rd, with a host of guest speakers lined up to address the pressing issues of climate change and habitat loss including living-roof expert Dusty Gedge of the UK, American landscape architect Kevin Sloan, and Monique and Thierry Dronet of Jardin de Berchigranges in north-east France. Tickets from €55 (students), €85 (full members, Friends of the GLDA)), €100 (early bird non-members), €110 (non-members), see glda.ie.
Anyone who spends their spare time working outdoors depends on lightweight, durable, waterproof footwear to keep them dry and toasty. Buy them a pair of wellies from American brand Bogs, whose ultra-handsome range of insulated, waterproof, contemporary footwear combines style with practicality and they’ll love you forever (from £70 sterling upwards, bogsfootwear.co.uk ).
This summer’s punishing heat-wave had the country’s sartorially-minded gardeners searching for elegant headwear to protect them from the searing sun. Anthony Peto’s Dublin hatshop on South Anne street carries a range of handmade, lightweight, breathable panama hats a la BBC’s Monty Don that are just the ticket (from €160-€170, anthonypeto.com ). How about the gift of a gardening weekend (Friday, 1st March- Sunday 3rd March) at the lovely Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara, County Galway, where next year’s guest speakers include Klaus Laitenberger, myself and Anya Gohlke of Kylemore Abbey Gardens, (€199 includes 2 nights b&b, dinner (for one) and a tour of Kylemore gardens, bookings via renvyle.com. For the gardener who loves to propagate their own seedlings, a heating mat is the perfect thing (from €172.50, fruithillfarm.com)while for the gardener who likes to keep an eye on the time, how about a hand-carved limestone sundial from artist Sonia Caldwell (from €300, kilcoestudios.com)
More than €300
For gift-givers with deep pockets, a piece of outdoor furniture from the French-made Fermob range is guaranteed to put a big mile on the face of the recipient (Formality, formalityonline.ie).
So would a garden-themed holiday under the expert care of horticulturists Frances and Iain MacDonald of The Bay Garden in Wexford, organised by the long-established Travel Department. Next year’s destinations include Monet’s garden at Giverny (three nights, from €969 pp), the gardens of Lake Magiorre in Italy (seven nights, from €1,379 pp) and the gardens of Japan (€4,999 pp) as well as a two day trip to London and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (two nights, from €659), see traveldepartment.ie.
A piece of work by one of Ireland’s botanical artists, many of whom are members of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists (irishbotanicalartists.ie) would give a lifetime of pleasure. So would a glasshouse (see my previous column of November 10th for a guide to prices and stockists) or a polytunnel (cwp.ie) while well-known Wicklow gardener Jimi Blake’s annual Plantsperson course, beloved of a generation of keen Irish gardeners, is yet another gift that would pay rich dividends (€900, 10 classes, February-November, huntingbrook.com). Last but not least, a floral-inspired piece by upcoming Irish artist Sasha Sykes, who uses flowers and plants (examples include thistles, roses, seaweed, lavender, gorse, ferns, brambles) encased in resin and acrylic in her sculptural one-off pieces of furniture. Her flower screeen, €20,000 by commission only, is a Christmas gift that would be treasured for life (sashasykes.com and oliversearsgallery.com).
(For a guide to this year’s crop of gardening books, see my column on December 15th)