Holidays bring a harvest of gifts to spring on a gardener

THE REAL DIRT

December 07, 1991|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

What holiday gifts are favored by gardeners? A shiny new tool? A gift certificate from a seed company? A subscription to a favorite horticultural magazine?

Good choices, all. Santa planted each of those presents under my tree last year. I love my new hoe. It does everything the old one did, including bashing me in the head when I step on the blade in the garden.

The gift of seeds lets me grow varieties of plants I would not have ordered otherwise, given the rising price of seeds. And the buoyant, glossy magazines keep my garden hopes alive on bleak winter days.

Colorful wall calendars are also popular among gardeners, for much the same reason. None are more vivacious than the spectacular wildflower and garden calendars from Camden House (Ferry Road, Charlotte, Vt. 05445). The $10 price includes a packet of 1,000 mixed flower seeds.

Of the hundreds of horticultural books published annually, few are as essential for the weekend gardener as the following:

*"Everything Sold in Garden Centers," by Steve Ettlinger. A crutch for gardeners who are overwhelmed by the thousands of products when they walk in the store. And who isn't? (Macmillan Publishing, $24.95.)

*"Gardening by Mail," by Barbara Barton. A Who's Who directory of mail-order resources for gardeners, including seed companies, plant societies and horticultural libraries. Tells you where to buy everything from bonsai tools to worm castings. (Houghton Mifflin, $16.95).

*"Beds I Have Known," by Martha Smith. Tackles delicate problem of "Peonies Envy" and philosophical questions like "Canna Lily Kill Ya?" Easily the funniest garden book ever written. (Macmillan, $17.95.)

Practical gifts include a gardener's hand brush, made in England and guaranteed to clean the nagging garden grit from beneath one's fingernails ($17, Denman & Co., 2923 Saturn St., Suite H, Brea, Calif. 92621, phone (714) 524-0668.

Tired of snagging your sleeves while pruning roses and picking berries? New "Thorn Sleeves" are 17-inch waterproof vinyl arm coverings that protect your clothes, and arms, from bothersome brambles. Yellow, with hand-painted ivy design. ($16.95, Kinsman Co. Call [800] 733-5613).

Chapps Leg Protectors provide similar safety against stones and lawn debris kicked up by mowers and weed trimmers. The lightweight cotton protectors slip on easily with hook and loop fasteners. Great for hot days when wearing shorts. ($22.95 per pair, W.E. Chapps Inc., P.O. Box 291054, Dept. OG, Port Orange, Fla. 32129.)

Gifts for gardeners' kitchens include a set of ceramic salt-and-pepper shakers, one shaped like a bunch of carrots, the other like scallions. Both look like they were just pulled from the back yard. Perfect for seasoning your home-grown produce. ($17.95, Sturbridge Yankee Workshop. [800] 343-1144).

How about an edible wreath made of fresh bay leaves, for decorative or culinary purposes? ($25, Williams-Sonoma. [800] 541-2233).

Gardeners become depressed in winter when they can't play in the dirt. Cheer them up by trimming the tree in a garden motif. A set of six glass vegetable-shaped ornaments (corn, cucumbers, tomatoes) costs $18. Organic gardeners will also enjoy the ladybug and frog ornaments, made in Germany ($16). A set of 20 red Christmas lights shaped like chili peppers sells for $11. All from Smith & Hawken (25 Corte Madera, Mill Valley, Calif. 94941, [415] 383-2000).

There are dozens of gifts for young gardeners, from child-sized tools to pint-sized terrariums. Most inventive, perhaps, is "The Bug Shirt," a boisterous T-shirt designed to familiarize youngsters with garden insects. The shirt, which is colored with leaves and berries, comes with six giant plastic bugs that snap onto the fabric, giving it a three-dimensional look. Bugs include praying mantis, spiders and beetles. Note: Remove bugs before washing the shirt. ($14.95, Toys to Grow On. [800] 874-4242.)

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