And the garden

When modern architecture goes outside

Christmas Gifts for Impossible Gardeners


When buying presents it is always a mistake to aim – unguided – at the recipient’s main interest, whatever it is.  So far over the course of his life, my husband has been given enough random or whimsical golfing paraphenalia to start a small shop.  Had we but kept it (Ahem).  My much loved late mother-in-law was prone to this and absentminded with it, and I have very fond memories of the look on my husband’s face as he unwrapped – for the second year running – the little framed cartoon depicting some humorous egg/golf ball confusion.

Gardeners are terrible people to buy presents for, unless you are a gardener yourself, and, moreover, an equal or better gardener than they are.  What follows is harsh, but true.

Do not give them a book about gardening.  The book you give them will be the equivalent of giving ‘How to read Music’ to James Levine, or ‘My First Cookbook’ to Mary Berry.  If by some stroke of luck you do give them a book they really want, they will already have it, having bought it themselves, being unable to wait.

No you may not give them a plant.  Not unless you collected it from the wilds of Tibet yourself (or you know someone who did).  They struggle enough with where to put the plants they bought themselves on impulse, without having to place your offering.  It will sit with the other plants in their pots in the corner of shame – every garden has one, usually by the garage – and deliver mute, root-bound reproach to the gardener whenever they walk past.  And there’s the worry you might ask about it, next time you visit.

You especially may not give them a houseplant.  Just because the Poinsettia is one of the few plants you can recognise and name, doesn’t automatically mean your gardener will welcome it.  They may not be very good with houseplants [blushes]. Unlike cut flowers, one is supposed to keep houseplants going year after year, for diminishing returns (and I include the entirety of Orchidaceae in that).

That garden-motto’ed mug with its special compartment for the biscuit?  It will make good crocks in the bottom of a pot of bulbs, but that’s probably not what you intended.

You are perhaps feeling a bit less charitable now towards the gardener in your life (or towards me.  Hopefully just towards me).  If you haven’t been put off by this glimpse into the blackness of our hearts, anything on the following list is certain to be received with unalloyed appreciation by your gardening friends and family.

Ten Presents for Picky Gardeners

1.  One tonne bag of fine bark mulch.  Providing your gardener has space to put this outside within reach of a tarmacked road, this is a perfect present.  No one ever has enough mulch to spread on their borders, and the bags that one buys in garden centres are expensive, heavy to hoist into the car, and disappointingly small.  From £75 per bag, delivered, from people like Scotbark.

2.  Felco secateurs.  The best secateurs in the business.  Models 6-12 are all good, £40-£55.  From Felco.

3.  Plant voucher.  A plant voucher from a good nursery that delivers mail orders to your country.  My favourites in the UK are Ashridge, Victoriana, Jacksons, Junkers, Kevock Garden, Peter Nyssen and the ever reliable Crocus.

4.  Root grow – 2.5L.  Mycorrhizal fungi that you sprinkle on the roots of trees and shrubs to help them establish and grow faster than they otherwise would.  Recommended by the RHS and in my own experience this makes a huge difference £45, a tub is a great luxury but small sachets also available for stocking fillers, £2.25.

5.  Solar powered/wind up radio.  Very handy to take around the garden with you – never miss the afternoon play because you’re gardening.  Lots, but here from £25.

6.  Landscaper’s rake.  They make have a rake.  Bet they don’t have a rake this good.  It’s twice the width of a usual rake, light as a feather and invaluable for creating a tilth and other wierd things gardeners do. £40-£50

7.  Niwaki tripod ladder.  This one is pricey.  Maybe for Christmas and birthday combined?  A joy to use, weighs nothing at all and the tripod design means it’s super stable and you can position it anywhere without squashing your plants.  I love mine.  From £160 to £300.

8.  Twine.  One can never have enough, and it’s handy to have tins of twine in different places.  £7, from Nutscene, the best.

9.  Jiffy pellet seed trays.  Brilliant way of sowing seed – get Ref R-JPT38PK2 which gets you two trays with 60 cells,  each with a pellet that swells on contact with water.  Some spare pellets (R-J7C42PK), the whole set should come in around £30 from LBS Garden Warehouse.

10. Neom Organics bath oil.  Taster set of six £20, probably for the she-gardener.  Heavenly smellies, just right for relaxing after a cold wet day’s digging.


Perhaps as a result of being bludgeoned with their respective hobbies for so many years, my husband’s family now circulate lists of the stuff they really want (by email, with the links to the online item).  I found it surprisingly easy to get over my initial disapproval.

Update: Christmas 2016 list of 10 gifts for gardeners, all of ’em under £15, can be found here.


3 thoughts on “Christmas Gifts for Impossible Gardeners

  1. Couldn’t agree more that gardeners are difficult, Helen. That’s why I always look round for garden-themed presents that show you know their interests but don’t presume on their territory. Actually this is a bit of a shameless plug for my blog, where I’ve posted quite a few Presents for Gardeners over the years…

  2. I scuttled over to your blog directly, and am as we speak trying to add the smock to my Christmas list. How did you get on with the half length white wellies, by the way? (I did not let the comma chancing its luck instead of a full stop between Gazely and typepad deter me, but thought you should know). You have made me very happy with this, the first ever comment on my blog – thank you!

  3. I give copies of “The Well Tempered Garden” by Christopher Lloyd to gardening friends. It matters not if they have read it already, only that they don’t already own a copy, so I ask spouses to check, or scan their bookshelves and loo myself!

    I would like to have the equivalent of a Wedding List of plants that I want (AND the stockist/nursery that I trust). I’ve never had the courage to send an EMail WishList to accompany a dinner invitation! but my heart sinks when someone brings me a single bottle of Wine (the village fete benefits though …) or, worse, a plant. However, in my experience it is worth asking a gardener WHAT plant they would like …

    Love your idea of a one tonne bag of mulch – definitely going to have one delivered to gardening friends that we weekend with from now on!

    I’ve fallen out of love with Felco’s. Used them for many years and assumed them to be the best, but the silly locking-catch which is able to self-lock always annoyed me, particularly when wearing gloves, and I’ve since switched to Japanese steel secateurs – you’ll find anything from cheap to lavish on Jake Hobson’s site
    but I just buy the bog-standard Okatsune ones – from whichever is the cheapest Japan-Direct Retailer on Amazon Marketplace. I am not sure they can easily be sharpened, but although I’ve tried several times I never managed to get my Felco’s as sharp-as-new, so I don’t think my technique is good enough to sharpen them anyway, and Felco’s service-service is not much cheaper than a new pair, so I no longer attempt sharpening myself.

    I reckon you’d make a friend for life if you give a gardener with plenty of annual tying-up to do a Max Tapener tying gun – worth buying a spare box of 6 x tapes, staples and spare blades with it. Those items are cheap enough, but bought separately often cost quite a lot in postage, although if you have a trade account with a horticultural wholesaler that is better still.

    Couple of additional thoughts: Dorset Weather Vanes have really whimsical designs; and I think that Gold Leaf gardening gloves are a good choice – particularly for a gardener than has to grapple with Brambles or Nettles, although the other gloves in their range have specific uses and work well. Doesn’t matter if the gardener already has some, they do last well … but not forever.

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