The best presents for the gardener in your life
There are gifts across the price range for your favourite horticulturalists
I won’t tell you what horticulturally-themed horrors I stumbled across while researching this week’s column, except to say if you are unlucky enough to find a pair of crocodileeffect, wedge-heeled wellies beneath the tree this Christmas (I’m not making it up), then you have my heartfelt sympathies. To help avert such a disaster, here are some suggestions for presents that most gardeners would be delighted to receive.
GIFTS UNDER €25
Burren Perfumery’s herbal balms (€15 from Dublin-based howbertandmays.ie), made with 100 per cent organic ingredients, are just the thing for sore backs, insect stings and chapped skin – and what gardener hasn’t suffered from one of those . . .
Keep home-grown herbs handy by growing them in a spacious planter that will fit neatly on a window sill and comes with its own pair of herb scissors (Brussels herb station €12.95 from mrmiddleton.ie, who can supply the herb plants).
Kitchen gardeners can get their kicks with a Shiitake Mushroom Kit that allows you to grow your own exotic mushrooms indoors, giving up to eight harvests over six months (€10, johnstowngardencentre.ie).
Kilcoe Studio’s botanically-inspired calendars are always a treat and its 2016 offering, featuring paintings of Irish wildflowers by Sonia Caldwell, is something any gardener would be happy to hang on their wall (€14), while botanically-themed greeting cards are pretty enough to frame (€9.50 for a pack of six, both from kilcoestudios.com).
There’s still plenty of time to sow Sweet Pea seed, and I know of many gardeners who’d love to find a few packets of seed from UK specialist Owl’s Acres under the tree (sweet-peas-seed.com, minimum order £9.60 including p&p).
GIFTS FOR €25-€50
Few bird feeders are as nice to look at as the Porcelain bird feeder made by Kerry- based ceramic artist Mary Neeson. Clear- glazed and hung on a length of hard-wearing leather cord, it features a dainty wooden perch (€45 plus €5.50 p&p nationwide, from Dublin-based Irish Design Shop, irishdesignshop.com).
A wooden garden trug is great for carrying freshly harvested vegetables and cut flowers from garden or allotment, and Sligo-based Quickcrop stock a great one from the Joseph Bentley range (€34.95, see quickcrop.ie).
Cork-based horticultural suppliers Fruithill Farm has launched a new web shop specialising in top-quality garden tools, and among them is the beautiful, hardwearing and ultra-useful copper hand-hoe “Phoenix” (€44.60, thetoolforge.ie).
Gifts that keep on giving include annual memberships of the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland (from €10, rhsi.ie), the Irish Garden Plant Society (from €15.50, irishgardenplantsociety.com), Grow It Yourself (from €25, giyinternational.org), or Irish Seed Savers Association (from €35, irishseedsavers.ie).
Enjoy close-up bird-watching, courtesy of an ingeniously-designed “Swinging Arm” that allows you to situate your birdfeeder right next to your house/ apartment window (arm €35, to fit “Coloured Cottage” (€64) and “Barn” birdfeeders (€93), all from Dublin-based The Blue Door, thebluedoordirect.ie)
GIFTS FOR €50-€100
Over the last 52 years, English nurseryman and plant breeder David Austin has introduced some of the loveliest and most fragrant new roses into cultivation. Dublin- based Mr Middleton is now offering customers a hand-chosen collection of five varieties for just €50, which can be planted between now and next March (mrmiddleton.com).
The same shop also stocks Haws Indoor Watering Cans, beautifully packaged in a gift box along with a mist sprayer (€50).
Amongst the expected highlights of next year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show (May 24th-28th) are show gardens by designers Diarmuid Gavin, Paul Martin, Cleve West, Rosy Hardy and Andy Sturgeon. One-day tickets start from £47 (see rhs.org.uk).
The “Irish Garden” has been Ireland’s favourite gardening magazine for over 20 years, so why not give the gift of a one-year subscription? (€47, irishgardensubs.com/01-2947712).
If you want to really spoil someone, throw in a subscription to “Gardens Illustrated”, (from £36, gardensillustrated.com).
Real gardeners want wellies that are light, warm, waterproof and hard-wearing, so pick them up a pair of Muckboots from Lusk-based White’s Agri (from €65.50, whitesagri.ie).
2015’s Garden and Landscape Designers’ Association GLDA Annual Seminar was a cracker, leading to high expectations for next year’s event, entitled Ebb and Flow – East/West Landscape Design Influences (February 20th, pre- Christmas/ early-bird ticket price of €75, see glda.ie).
West Cork-based organic seed producer Brown Envelope Seeds does a range of excellent gift boxes and amongst this year’s offerings is the beautifully packaged Armageddon Box, which contains 38 packets of seeds of everything from “Blue Kuri” squash to “Lazy Housewife” beans, as well as a seed-saving booklet (€99.99 from brownenvelopeseeds.com).
GIFTS FOR €100+
What gardener wouldn’t covet an exquisite, limited-edition (€100), archival pigment print of the scarlet-flowered floribunds rose, Rosa “WB Yeats”, by Wicklow- based botanical artist Holly Somerville. Each unframed print is signed and numbered by the artist, with proceeds going towards funding the costs of breeding, registering and cataloguing this Irish-bred Yeats rose (€175, plus €15 p&p standard post/€20 registered post. To order, call 096-49181 or email anirishroseforyeats.com by December 13th to guarantee pre- Christmas delivery.
Dublin-based antiques and homewares shop, The Velveteen Rabbit, sources vintage or re-purposed items from all over Europe (thevelveteenrabbit.ie). In particular, check out the Harold’s Cross store’s graceful, fan-backed, vintage garden chair (€125) and salvaged army box planters (€110).
For the gardener who wants to strike a pose, the French-made “Le Laboureur” wool work jacket is suitably stylish (£160 from theshopkeeperstore.com).
Those with new gardens will welcome a garden design consultation with a member of the Garden & Landscape Designers Association (from €120, see glda.ie for list of members).
PRICE NO OBJECT...
Anyone lucky enough to take one of the Plantsperson’s Courses run by gardener Jimi Blake at Hunting Brook, his home and garden in west Wicklow, will vouch for his talents (12 classes, one Sunday per month, from February 21st, €888, see huntingbrook.com)
Give the gift of inspiration (and relaxation) with a tour of Beth Chatto’s garden and the gardens of East Anglia with Wexford gardener and broadcaster Frances MacDonald of The Bay Garden (July 2016, from €759, see traveldepartment.ie).
What about a beautiful handcrafted, adult-sized willow hut (8ft diameter) from Newgrange Willow Design (from €500, call Ronan Russell on 086-1782 205). The Store Yard in Portlaoise (thestoreyard.ie) is a treasure trove of architectural salvage and antiques. Recent additions include an ornate, early 20th-century bronze garden urn decorated with rams’ heads (€2,575) that would look amazing in any garden. One to dream about . . .