Count yourself lucky if there's a gardener on your holiday gift list. While other people stew over "the person who has everything," you don't have to worry. There's no end to what gardeners want. There's always a new plant or a new tool or newsomething they're dreaming of.
If they're vegetable gardeners, they long for flowers; if they're flower gardeners, they long for vegetables -- and each new enterprise they're longing for requires a whole batch of new stuff.
Even indoors they like to be surrounded by things that remind them of gardening.
This year a gardening gift could turn out to be prophetic. When the economy turns bad, gardening always thrives. Next spring you'll probably see a rush of new gardeners (and lots of lapsed gardeners) suddenly getting the urge to stay home and till the soil. You'll look particularly clever if you anticipate this.
First a few general suggestions. Look at your favorite gardener's tool collection. Many people stubbornly labor with old tools that have become uncomfortable to use, so think about replacing anything with rough handles or chipped blades. Look at hardware stores or garden centers for basic tools, but be sure to combine them with something (a plant, a vase, bulbs, a pretty pot) more gift-like.
A subscription to Organic Gardening magazine ($16.97 for 9 issues) is a good way to get a would-be gardener started in the right direction. You can buy the December issue, send in the subscription card and then wrap up the issue as part of your gift. You can also call the toll-free number, (800) 441-7761 to order.
Garden centers would seem the natural place for garden gifts but this time of year they're all packed with poinsettias and Christmas trees and decorations. You'll have to wade through this to get to some real garden things, but be persistent.
In a little side room, Watson's Garden Center (321-7300) on York Road in Lutherville has some beautifully decorated Chinese flower pots ($14.95 up). Back in their main room, they have green-tinted acrylic Labyrinth vases by Two's Company ($8.95 to $29.95) that would be great for anyone but especially for someone with small children or for an office worker. Another vase by Two's Company, Wall Flowers ($5.95), with suction cup to stick to windows, mirrors or smooth surfaces (filing cabinets?) would be a great idea for those office gift exchanges.
Betty's Gardens (823-2321) on Providence Road north of the beltway has herb wreaths, dried flower wreaths and dried flower arrangements. The designs available change constantly but recently a large wreath of sage and roses and baby's breath was $29 and 6-inch wreaths of herbs was $8.95. They do custom arrangements in their containers or yours. "We've even done arrangements in grandmother's cut-glass sugar bowl," says owner Betty Baldwin. "If they bring something with the colors they want, we can match it."
Remember that not every gardener has a garden. Apartment dwellers and anyone in a nursing home or retirement community would welcome something like paperwhite narcissus or amaryllis. Flowers already in bloom will make a big splash but giving them barely started bulbs (maybe give both?) will allow them to enjoy the anticipation.
Bundles of Bulbs in Owings Mills has large-size paperwhites (10 for $9.95) and giant amaryllis bulbs ($13.95 to $20.50). They have a beautiful watery-green glass container they call their Mediterranean bowl ($19.95), just the right size for holding paperwhites or flowers. An Apricot Beauty tulip home forcing pot (10 bulbs in a terracotta container) is $12.50.
They also have Super Vases ("makes a little bit of flower go a long way" says co-owner Kitty Washburne) at $12.50 to $18.25, flower stem strippers ($7.20) and pincushion flower holders ($9.95 and $12.95) for flower-arrangers. Other items -- their "I-Hate-Gloves" gloves ($3.25), spring-handle bulb planter ($9.95), heavy duty trowel ($12.95) -- can be put together in a package with some of the pretty things.
Bundles of Bulbs is primarily a mail-order company but since they have these things on hand, you can call ahead (581-2188 from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday) and arrange shipping or pick-up. They'll be able to suggest ways to give different forced flowering bulbs every month until spring.
Hannah Brown (461-5313) in the Frederick Crossing Shopping Center in Ellicott City has hard-milled gardener's soap ($9) from France, a Trake (combination of trowel and cultivator) at $17.50 and red cotton garden gloves for children and adults ($3). A bark basket containing the gardener's soap, gloves and a set of high quality garden hand tools is $38. Owner Cathy Cruttenden also has seed kits from Le Marche: a child's garden ($27) with book, seeds from Celia Thaxter's island garden ($21) and an herb planter box ($15.50).