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Thursday 23 November 2017

Christmas gifts for gardeners

BY Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Poinsettia - a Christmas tradition
Poinsettia - a Christmas tradition

Cut and bring indoor any remaining rose buds to enourage to open

Poinsettia - a Christmas must have

Gardeners are the simplest of people to make Christmas happy. No matter what your budget, gardeners tend to be delighted with all horticulturally related gifts.

Seeds are also a great cheap gift and one that will keep giving throughout the year as they say, through sowing, germination, flowering or harvesting. Vegetable seeds for the kitchen gardener, maybe something a little different like golden beetroot [Burpee's Golden], purple carrots [ Purple Haze] or the coral shaped Romanesco cauliflower. Carrots were always purple until the Dutch bred orange ones in the 17th century by the way. Flowers seeds for the ornamental gardener, Sweet peas, wild flowers or perhaps nasturtium which have re seeded in my garden since they came in as part of a primary school project for my children 15 years ago. They really have kept giving.

Plants can be a long lasting and welcome gift to give. Trees can be a kind thought for generations but make sure to get advice abouts sizes and buy something appropriate to garden sizes. Ultimately large landmark trees like Quercus x hispanica [a semi evergreen oak] Fagus sylvatica 'Riversii' [Purple beech] and the fast growing Liriodendron tulipifera [Tulip Tree] are special and easily grown trees but good luck with wrapping them. Smaller trees like Malus 'Gorgeous' will still have crab apples on and look good. White stemmed birch like Betula jaquemontii and Betula ermanii look lovely through winter or maybe pick a conifer that can be planted for outside Christmas lights for years to come like Abies koreana.

Other plants that would fall into the 'special treat' category are the soon to flower Hamamelis [Witch hazel] Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' [Coral stemmed Japanese maple] and in bud Magnolias and Camelias. The David Austen rose collection is a source of lovely roses that will have the recipient hankering for summer earlier than usual. Make up or buy a winter bedding container with primroses, cyclamen and pansies, always a cheery winter addition.

If you are making up the pot yourself you might want to buy a container of quality as part of the gift. The choice is wide and varied.

Books too make great presents. Coffee table varieties are lovely to look at but for me the reference type is much more used. For the tree lover the Collins Tree Guide by Own Johnson and David More is invaluable in helping with tree identification. The Hilliers Manual of Trees and Thrubs is an exhaustive source of information but without illustrations. The Hilliers Gardeners Guide to Trees and Shrubs is less comprehensive but has photographs as well as descriptions. Anything by the Royal Horticultural Society will be top quality. Vegetables for the Irish Garden by Klaus Laitenberger is simply a must for anyone dabbling in veg growing. The mark of a good gardening book in my opinion is how worn and thumbed it is after a few years.

Garden tools are another option and buying top quality is important, which usually means more expensive, if you want them to last. Secateurs with a scissor cut are preferable to those with an anvil cut which cut with a blade onto a flat surface and can tend to crush rather than cut. The Swiss make Felco are excellent. Belt attachable holsters for secateurs are beyond useful and will save Saint Anthony hours of time. A good garden knife is another must have in the jacket pocket of any gardener, and the those Swiss have this covered pretty well also.

Good strong quality digging tools are essentals. There are none stronger than Bulldog strapped forks and spades. Garden forks and spades come in digging sizes and border sizes. Border sizes are great for gardeners who find digging spades too heavy and cumbersome as they are much smaller and lighter. This tool weight can also be applied to shears, hoes and rakes. But be aware that the quality of light handtools is often inferior.

As for the antique Victorian cast iron garden bench, I'd like a matching pair.

Wexford People

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