Spread a little garden love this Christmas
From “Brexit” seeds to hanging pots – what to give the green fingered person in your life
Ceramic ‘Girl Power Vase’ by For All Womenkind (€35, aprilandthebear.com )
Badly in need of some inspiration when it comes to choosing the perfect gift for the special gardener in your life? Then this one’s for you:
Dublin-based Clover Rua’s lovely National Botanic Gardens Glasshouse Print (from €19 unframed, cloverrua.com and scoutdublin.com) celebrates the beauty of the Bots’ giant palm house, which was designed by the famous Victorian ironsmith Richard Turner (available in two sizes, A3 and A4, also available as framed A3 print from meadowsandbyrne.com).
Every year the west Cork-based artist Sylvia Caldwell of Kilcoe Studios (kilcoestudios.com) produces a botanically-themed calendar and her 2020 edition is a beauty, taking its inspiration from Irish hedgerows and farmland (€15).
Also based in west Cork, organic seed producer Brown Envelope Seeds’ witty, handsomely-packaged gift boxes make great gifts for kitchen gardeners. This year’s tongue-in-cheek political theme includes both Remainer and Brexit boxes while The Resilient Gardener Box contains a selection of vegetables introduced by the US-based independent plant-breeder Carol Deppe (€10 each brownenvelopeseeds.com).
Gardeners who enjoy propagating their own plants will love the Irish-designed Cutting Globe, an ingeniously simple little device that makes use of the method known as air-layering (€10, mrmiddleton.ie).
Help counter climate -change, fight air pollution and support biodiversity with a ‘Gift a Tree Card’ from Grown, who will send a charming gift card to the recipient letting them know that a native tree has been planted on their behalf (from €12, grown.ie).
Available from most good garden centres, the Showa Floreo 370 range of hard-wearing, lightweight, waterproof gardening gloves are always a hit (howbertandmays.ie) while Slane-based The Natural Spa Company does a great range of natural, plant-based hand creams perfect for keeping those green-fingered hands silky soft (€27.95 for gift-set, thehandmadesoapcompany.com).
Almost all gardeners love houseplants; this year’s must-have varieties include string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus); the rosary vine (Ceropegia linearis ssp. woodii); and the Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides) while recommended stockists include Dublin’s Urban Plant Life (plantlife.ie): Ikea (ikea.ie), and Diarmuid Gavin and Dunnes Stores’s joint collaboration Outer Spaces at 49 South Great Georges Street, D2.
Designed by Deva Pardue of @forallwomankind, the ceramic Girl Power Vase makes a powerful visual and political statement, with 5% of the profits used to actively help female empowerment (€35 , aprilandthebear.com). Irish varieties of snowdrops such as Galanthus Mrs Macnamara and Castlegar are collector’s items and you’ll find one of the very best ranges at Robert Miller’s garden centre cum nursery in the walled garden of Altamont (from €10 as potted bulbs, altamontplants.com)
Belfast-based potter Helen Faulkner’s range of hand-thrown plant pots are prized by gardeners for their pared-back beauty and subtle glazes (from €45, irishdesignshop.com)
Well-made, ergonomically designed garden tools make classic Christmas gifts for gardeners and Bantry-based Fruithill Farm stock a particularly wide range by leading brands such as Sneeboer, who do a fantastic little handweeding fork (€47.50), PKS (their copper Nunki weeder is a brilliant little hand-tool, €31) and Glaser (their oscillating hoes are garden essentials, from €35.01).
Yet another must-have hand-tool for gardeners is the multipurpose Hori Hori knife, which can be used for weeding, digging and planting (€32, howbertandmays.com).
Want to give a plant but just don’t have a clue about what kind of plant to give? Then consider a gift voucher from a member of the Irish Specialist Nurseries Association, which 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).
Show me the gardener who wouldn’t welcome a year’s subscription to Ireland’s best-selling gardening magazine, The Irish Garden, edited by Gerry Daly and with a wide range of expert contributors (€48, garden.ie or call 01-2947712).
Or what about a year’s membership of the Royal Horticultural Society (from €60, rhsi.ie) the Irish Garden Plant Society (from €30, irishgardenplantsociety.com) or Friend Membership of the Garden & Landscape Designers Association (from €50, glda.ie)
American brand Bogs stands out for its ultra-handsome range of durable, comfortable waterproof boots that will keep gardeners feet dry and toasty (from £59.90 upwards, bogsfootwear.co.uk).
From €75 to €150
A ticket to the 2020 Garden & Landscape Design Seminar is sure to please anyone with an interest in sustainable garden and landscape design. Guest speakers at next year’s event (Seeds of Change: Planting Design for the 21st Century, February 29th, Crown Plaza Hotel, Santry) include Nigel Dunnett, Cassian Schmidt, Sandro Cafolla and Sarah Price. Prices start at €95 for GLDA members, €120 for non-members, with a non-members early-bird offer of €110.
Next year’s event (February 1st, Mount Wolseley Hotel, Tullow, Co Carlow) includes guest speakers Catherine Erskine of Cambo Gardens in Scotland and Ross Barbour and Helen Picton of the UK’s Picton Old Court Nurseries plus specialist plant sales by some of the UK and Ireland’s leading nurseries (Tickets €90 includes lunch, contact Hester Forde at 086 8654972 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Or how about the gift of a year’s unlimited access to one of the country’s loveliest gardens. Examples include Killruddery in County Wicklow (€100 Gold Membership, admits six), Blarney Castle in Cork (€90 for one adult/ €210 four-person family membership), Mount Congreve in County Waterford (4-person family membership €100).
Flower-arranging gardeners are sure to love potter Mark Campden’s Large Teasel Jug, whose delicate hand-painted decoration is inspired by the teasels that grow around his home and studio in Kilkenny (€98, irishdesignshop.com)
From €150 upwards
This autumn’s record rainfall taught Irish gardeners the value of good quality rain-gear; among the best is Stutterheim’s Stockholm Raincoat, handmade with double-welded seams (€225, scoutdubin.com).
How about the gift of knowledge in the shape of a one-day gardening workshop at Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork with the well-known organic gardener and no-dig expert Charles Dowding, (No Dig For Healthy Abundance, May 18th 2020, €180. cookingisfun.ie).
TJ Maher is also running a garden course next year at Patthana, his lovely garden in Kiltegan (March-November, one Saturday per month, €350, call 086 1944547).
Laois-based organic gardener Tanguy de Toulgoet’s one-day workshops and courses at Dunmore Country School near Durrow are always excellent (see dunmorecountryschool.ie ) while there’s inevitably a waiting list for Jimi Blake’s enduringly popular Plantspersons Course at his garden Hunting Brook near Blessington in west Wicklow (10 classes, 1 per month, €900, starting February 25th 2020, huntingbrook.com).
Keen gardeners who’ve outgrown their windowsill propagator will be delighted with a jumbo-sized, thermostatically-controlled version from Mr Middleton, which comes with its own soil sensor plus €25 worth of free seeds (€160 mrmiddleton.com).
For gardeners who like to keep poultry, treat them to a snazzy new, predator-proof chicken coop from Farm Fowl (farmfowl.com, from €129.99).
Along with the classic Felco range of secateurs that are popular with many Irish gardeners, Howbert & Mays also stock the Kurumi model from Niwaki, which has ultra-sharp, hand-forged carbon-steel blades and walnut-inlaid handles, making it a tool to treasure (€189, howbertandmays.ie).
The gift of a piece of artwork by one of Ireland’s great botanical artists is one that will keep giving for many years to come. For inspiration check out irishbotanicalartists.ie which gives a full listing of all the members of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists, while I also love Mayo-based Superfolk’s very beautiful handmade prints inspired by garden trees (€240 unframed, superfolk.com).
Okay, I admit, it might present some challenges when it comes to gift-wrapping but the Hotbin range of super-speedy compost bins are winning rave reviews from Irish gardeners and selling out like hotcakes (from €195, quickcrop.ie)
For the ultimate treat, how about really spoiling the gardener in your life – as well as giving them some welcome respite from the endless rain – with a sun-filled, garden-themed holiday organised by the Travel Department, where they’ll be under the expert care of horticulturists Frances and Iain MacDonald of The Bay Garden in Wexford.
Next year’s destinations include the gardens of Andalucia (6 nights, from €1199pp) and the gardens of New England (seven nights, from €1379 pp) as well as a two-day trip to London and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (2 nights, from €699, see traveldepartment.ie).
Alternatively, I don’t know any gardener who doesn’t dream about owning a sturdy, well-built glasshouse (alitex.com, greenhouseireland.ie, owenchubblandscapers.com and gabrielash.com) or a polytunnel (thepolytunnelcompany.ie and polydome.ie).
(PS: For a guide to this year’s crop of great gardening books, see next week’s column)