Unlike weird Uncle Joe, who hates everything, or rich Aunt Maude, who has everything, gardeners are easy to buy gifts for because there's so much we love.
In addition to grubbing around in the garden (for which hand salve, kneepads and other protective gear are always good), we love continual bloom -- hence bulbs for indoor forcing and winter-blooming plants like jasmine or the exotic (and expensive) clivia. We love gardening gadgets and quirky but useful tools. We love things to decorate our gardens with, whether antique or artsy, functional or frivolous. And we love books -- books on how to make our gardens more beautiful and productive, books on gardens we can visit for inspiration, and books on the joys of gardening, despite the labor.
Here are a few gift ideas for the garden lover on your list.
Plants. Themed seed collections such as the "Urban Jungle Veggie Garden Basket" from Territorial Seeds ($89.95) are whole gardens in a gift box. For nearer-term gratification, there are winter bulbs like amaryllis, whose blooms come in a variety of colors and configurations from painted and netted creams, crimsons and striated salmons through pinks and burgundies with blooms ranging from buxom to frilly to the spidery cybister types.
Tools. Every gardener needs a razor-edged Japanese hand hoe. Now there are also ergonomic Radius Hand Tools from Lee Valley Tools Ltd.; a set consisting of a garden trowel, a bulb trowel and a cultivator sells for $36.50.
Antiques and decorations. Barbara Israel Garden Antiques in Katonah, N.Y., sells antique stone benches, planters and statues. For those of us with less money to spend, Great Stuff by Paul, in Frederick, offers international finds including 1920s painted ceramic downspout fish from China, big olive oil urns from Turkey, and English ceramic garden edgers, all at reasonable prices.
Books. Two recent must-haves for Maryland gardeners are Month by Month Gardening in the Mid-Atlantic by Jacqueline Heriteau, Andre Viette and Mark Viette (Cool Springs Press, 2004, $19.95) and Garden Walks in the Mid-Atlantic by Lucy D. Rosenfeld and Marina Harrison (Globe Pequot, 2005, $14.95). The first is a guide for Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., written by gardeners who actually live here. The second is a tour of 100-plus gardens from New York to Maryland.
Stocking stuffers. How about a pruner sharpener or a hand-blown glass watering bulb for houseplants so you can take extended leave, and fun collapsible vases? They're all available from Lee Valley Tools Ltd.