Presents for plant people Gifts: Gardeners are easy to please. Here are some ideas, from a bale of peat moss to a pile of stones.

December 07, 1997|By Ary Bruno | Ary Bruno,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Are you tearing your hair out looking for something "creative" to give someone for Christmas? If that someone is a gardener, it may be easier than you think.

While most of the gifts I'm going to suggest are inexpensive, they will all be appreciated far in excess of their monetary worth. Gardeners are frequently a strange lot (being one myself, I can say this with impunity), and can often be delighted with relatively simple things that may not appeal to the great mass of gift receivers. I mean, who else would likely be impressed with a bale of peat moss? Clean straw is also good. See what I mean?

Other likely presents -- though a bit awkward to wrap -- could include a couple of dozen 6-foot lengths of half-inch bamboo for staking, a roll of burlap or several 40-pound bags of certified organic compost. And I know many people who are rather partial to those big bags of pine-bark-chip mulch, which you can never seem to have enough of. A cubic yard is nice.

There are, of course, more easily managed things. Natural jute twine is always in demand, and a dozen balls of it will fill a fireplace stocking nicely. Another convenient thing is 100 feet or so of plastic-covered copper or brass wire for tying up climbing plants and vegetables.

Unless you know a gardener absolutely needs a tool, it's better left for the gardener to select. Tools are, after all, very personal items, and what may look to you like a decrepit old trowel that desperately needs replacing may be to the gardener a venerable old friend. (One exception to this may be self-sharpening steel scissors with brightly colored plastic handles -- they tend to have a very short life in the garden, being regularly misplaced or lost among the foliage.) If, however, you do buy a tool, get the very best quality possible.

Oddly enough, giving gardeners plants can also be a risky business. Most gardeners prefer to choose them personally. Also, it can be difficult to fathom someone's else's gardening plan, so unless you know the person truly lusts after a particular plant, it is safer not to give any.

This does not necessarily apply to house plants, however. Almost every gardener I know would welcome a gift of paperwhite narcissus, cyclamen or amaryllis to bloom inside during the holidays. Do be careful though, of bestowing plants that may call for years of continuing devotion: Various cactus, trees and others may prove more burden than boon to someone who prefers to do their gardening outside.

Garden accessories can also make great gifts. Like those little verdigris plaques that say, "Gardeners Know the Best Dirt," or classic weather vanes in tin or copper (we all need to know which way the wind blows, right?). And while gnomes and flamingos may not hit the mark, ornamental terra-cotta pots in any size almost always will.

Good quality metal plant labels are a thoughtful gift for the gardener who likes to collect many different varieties of one type plant (say irises), along with a permanent marker. Lanterns are another good bet -- and don't forget the candles or kerosene.

For the structurally minded gardener, gifts of brick and cut stone should not be overlooked. If there is not a place for it today, there will probably be tomorrow, and these materials are the stuff of landscape eternity. Mellow old brick, granite cobblestones and Pennsylvania bluestone never go out of style.

No time to shop? Not to worry, just pick up a gardening catalog, then pick up the phone and order a gift certificate. The best way to do this is jot down the name and phone number from a well-worn copy of a catalog at the gardener's house.

Ordering by mail

Here are a few selected catalog sources:

Carroll Gardens, Westminster, 410-876-7336: wide selection of perennials, shrubs and trees, all locally adapted; knowledgeable staff.

Discount Pond Supplies, 540-889-1536: for all us pond and water-garden freaks; pumps, filters, liners, fish food, plants, books at great prices.

Dutch Gardens, 800-818-3861: Netherlands-based company sells premium-quality spring, summer and fall flowering bulbs, corms and tubers direct at attractive prices.

Gilbert H. Wild & Son, 417-548-3514: hundreds of day-lily varieties from old favorites to latest introductions; also irises and peonies.

Lawson's Nursery, 770-893-2141: family-run nursery specializing in antique apple and other fruit trees; dependable, excellent quality stock.

Mellingers, 330-549-9861: lots and lots of tools and affordable accouterments and gadgets for the gardener as well as vegetable and flower seeds.

NH Northern Professional Equipment & Supply, 800-556-7885: not confined to lawn and garden equipment, but it has great stuff at reasonable prices; seasonal catalogs.

Northwoods Nursery, 503-266-5432: fruits, berries, nuts, vines, bamboo, medicinal herbs; excellent source for those interested in edible landscaping.

Pinetree Garden Seeds, 207-926-3400: moderately priced gardening supplies, bulbs, seeds, smaller-size seed packets and hard-to-find vegetable varieties.

Prairie Nursery, 608-296-3679: wildflower and meadow gardeners, rejoice! Seeds and plants; informative catalog for novice and veteran alike.

Shady Oaks Nursery, 507-835-5033: specializes in hostas, ferns, wildflowers and other shade plants.

Thompson & Morgan, 800-274-7333: perfect catalog/gift certificate for the really serious flower gardener, seeds from xTC everywhere for just about anything; British-based company.

Wayside Gardens, 800-845-1124: excellent quality plants, distinctive trees, shrubs, perennials; beautiful, informative catalog.

White Flower Farm, 203-496-9600: mainly perennials, some rare; guaranteed to impress as a gift certificate with high quality, a gorgeous catalog and prices to match.

Pub Date: 12/07/97

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