December 12, 2011

Gifts for Green Thumbs

 

STEVE WHYSALL
VANCOUVER SUN

I’m going to sound like Oprah here. There are things I know for sure that gardeners love getting for Christmas. You can never go wrong with a Felco pruner or Haws watering can or Spear and Jackson spade. They are all considered the Rolls-Royce of gardening tools. For me, my expectations are never that high.

I get enormous satisfaction when I find a few Pot Toes (container lifters) in my stocking or a new roll of Velcro plant ties or a pair of Watson gloves. I’ve never owned a fancy Spear and Jackson spade, but I love my Quebec-made Garant shovel and I love everything that Fiskars makes, especially their loppers and roll-handle PowerGear scissor-action bypass pruners. I think the gardener in your life would be very happy to find any of these items under the Christmas tree. Every year, I look for new gifts ideas for green thumbs.

My, my; when I look back over the years, I remember some odd ones. Anyone remember the hedgehog bootscraper or Barnyard Bounty (tea bags for making manure tea) or Slug Snatchers (long wooden tweezers for people who hate to touch slugs)? Victorian gazing balls, strap-on kneeling pads, rubber “duck” shoes and novelty tools like the Garden Bandit weeder or Soil Scoop trowel have become standard fare in most garden centres along with birdhouses, soil-test kits, garden thermometers and moisture-sensing devices.

The PotLifter is an innovative new tool many gardeners would find helpful. It does exactly what its name says; makes it a lot easier to lift and move heavy pots, but you can also use it for moving rocks or logs or pretty much any object the straps will fit around. I tried it out this fall when my son and I had to move a large, heavy rose container into storage and it worked perfectly.

It relies on a basic cinching action to get a tight grip around the object. GardenWorks sells it for $34.99. Lee Valley Tools on Marine Drive is always a fun place to visit if you are looking for interesting gift ideas for gardeners. You’ll find bags of Pot Toes here, but I bought some Pot Pads, a similar product that not only raises a pot off the surface of your deck or patio but also allows you to slide the pot over a short distance. A set of four costs $6.50. I also spotted a nifty Pot Brush for $14.95, ideal for scrubbing down terracotta pots in spring for a new season, and a well-designed pair of Pocket Pruners with bypass action for $7.50.

My wife, Loraine, loved the idea of tidying up the tool shed by hanging things like cords and hoses using the Mega Clamp, a device that works like a handcuff and has a trigger release and a ratcheting jaw to secure the item. The clamps cost $4.90 each. Lee Valley also has a trio of Christmas tree ornaments in the shape of a watering can, spade and garden fork that I thought would make an inexpensive hostess gift. The set of three costs $12.95.

 

 

At the Garden Shop at the University of B.C. Botanical Garden, I lost interest in super-practical garden tools and fell in love with a few quality Canadian made garden-related products that I’m pretty sure gardeners would love — pottery (jugs, plates and bowls) with ladybug and blackberry patterns hand-painted by Swedish-born artist Anita Lindblom, of Blue Dot Studio in Sechelt, and beautiful leather purse-bags produced by Spirit of the Wild with motifs by Prince Rupert-born Bill Helin, First Nations artist, and a lovely herbal Gardener’s Soap made from all natural sunflower, coconut and palm oils, poppyseed and oatmeal.

The pottery ranged from $18 to $25, the bags (red and black) are $42 and the soap is $13. As I said, I am a sucker for pretty much anything Fiskars makes, so I could definitely make use of their new Universal Cutter, which has a rotating cutting head and overall length of 2.3 m (92 inches) but with a reach of 3 to 3.7 m (10 to 12 feet). I do most of my weeding by bending and digging by hand, but as I get older I think I would appreciate owning the Deluxe Telescopic Stand-Up Weeder, which Fiskars promise will put an “end to the back-breaking work of weeding”. The Universal Cutter costs $69.99 and the Telescopic Stand-up Weeder is $49.99.  Both products are available at Canadian Tire. Garden Tubs are fantastic.

I have three and they are continually in use for carrying soil or collecting the debris from deadheading or pruning or general clean up. I even do some of my potting up in spring inside them to cut down on mess from soil spilling over. Yes, I know, not the most exciting or romantic gift, but it is one of the “sure things” I know gardeners love … and hey, if you fill it up with other goodies, you can’t lose. There are two sizes, medium and large, that sell for $24.99 and $29.99 at GardenWorks. Laura Ashley gloves are a good pick for the lady who likes to garden in style.

The gloves are available in purple or with red poppy design from Potters at 48th Avenue in Surrey from $14.99 to $19.99. Potters is also seeing a run on a series of cute little terra cotta woodland “Napa rabbits” that have names — Frances, Calvin, Simon and Winston, the largest one that stands up on its back legs.

These are priced from $35 to $59.99. Finally, a super-sized amaryllis in a gift box, complete with pot, saucer and soil, makes an ideal hostess gift. Planted at Christmas, it will produce flowers before spring. For someone who has never done any bulb-gardening, it can be quite a revelation to see how such an enormous bulb transforms itself into a fabulous, multi-stemmed flowering plant. The wonder of this is a gift in itself.

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