Sunday Opinion: Great Gifts For Gardeners

Though I own a shop devoted to everything garden, I would not advise a gift for the garden tended by that passionate gardener on your list. Though you may already be rolling your eyes skyward,  I have ample evidence and experience in this regard-on both sides of the aisle.  Just yesterday an older gentleman came in the shop looking for a stand for his 14 inch stainless steel gazing globe/sphere.  He felt my first suggestion was too small.  My second suggestion would not be sturdy enough to withstand the wind off the lake.  My third suggestion would rust, and might impact the surface of the steel.  My fourth suggestion, a round hollow limestone pillar, was not tall enough.  A tall stoneware column was not a good color with stainless steel.  By no means did I give up after  number five.  We looked at many possibilities, none of which were quite right.  He finally decided he should come back, his sphere in tow.  Can you imagine if his wife, or children attempted to make a Christmas gift of a stand they thought would be perfectly lovely? 

I carry Pollina garden gloves, and Ball and Burgeon garden tools.  Passionate gardeners are especially particular about their tools.  There are those gardeners that make no moves without gloves, and those gardeners who have no use for them.  If you have a big love for a passionately committed glove type gardener, what size would you buy?  Would you choose short gloves, or long sleeved gloves good for dealing with roses? The Pollina gloves I stock are mint green leather.  What if your beloved gardener dislikes leather?  What if there is only one kind of leather they like? What if your gardener prefers olive green?  Or chartreuse?  Or black?  What if their ancient leather gloves are their favorite tool?  What if they have no use for gloves at all?  You see the problem.

My favorite tools are most likely inexplicable to anyone but me.  I love my Mom’s Smith and Hawkins garden trowel, even though my small digging tool of choice is my hands.  I love the memories that come with that tool.  I do not use it-I look at it.  It has dirt on it from her garden-I would not dream of disturbing that.  My second favorite tool is a Niwashi right handed weeder from New Zealand.  I will admit it was a gift from a good friend-a gift that miraculously hit the mark.  My Felco pruners at work have my initials on them-and a “do not touch these” warning.  At home, I have a pair of Arno pruners from France, with leather handles.  I do not need a pair-I like having the pair.  My scissors at work say “not DGW” on the handles.  Anyone who borrows a tool, and does not return it, clean, is pushing it.  My stainless steel spade and fork bought years ago from Smith and Hawkens, are just the right size for me.  The polypropylene handles never splinter, and are easy to keep clean.  A recycled drywall bucket is perfect for weeds; turned up side down, I can stand or sit on it.  A pair of Niwaki loppers with magnolia wood handles have never been used.  They are a sculpture I never tire of looking at.  My collection of tools is eccentric-like every other gardener’s tools. A passionate gardener is opinionated about every aspect of their gardening.  Be sure you want to wade into that.  We stock singing shears for topiary and boxwood at the shop that I think are great.  I would think a gardener will need to decide about them for themselves.

I am a collector, like most people.  My collection of garden books is fairly extensive.  I read my books over and over again.  I have a fairly decent idea of what volumes are there-unlike most everyone else.  It would be very hard to select a garden book as a gift for me. There are few plants that I do not like, but the plants that I would collect are not so many.  I have a dear friend that buys me succulents every year.  I don’t really like them.  I pot them up, put them on my window sill at work, and never water them.  I spent a winter painting auricula primroses; Steve bought me a collection of them for Valentine’s Day.  It was so irritating that I could not get the culture down.  They looked terrible from the day he gave them to me, until the day they died.  This was not a good gift.  I love peonies, roses, and hellebores.  But I want to choose which I would plant in my own garden.  Another person’s idea of a great collection of peonies is another person’s idea.  Don’t pick plants.  Don’t pick a gardening coat, a hat, or muck boots.  Don’t pick a collection of dahlia tubers, or a collection of African violets.  Stay away from trying to gift a passionate gardener in the area of their expertise, or passion.  Gardeners take everything about the garden very personally.  This is not to say you should opt for a vacuum cleaner or mixer-do not do this either.         

So what would be a great gift for a passionate gardener?   Number one on my list-cut flowers.  A bouquet of flowers that a gardener does not have to plant, stake, feed, and fuss over is a beautiful gift. A simple and gorgeous glass, or vintage McCoy vase to hold those flowers is taking that gift of flowers to a loving conclusion.  Any gardener would be grateful for a hand cream that really works-I favor herbacin Kamille with glycerine-Amazon stocks it for 6.95 a tube.  This is a treasure for garden weary hands.  For those gardeners whose fingers split, a pair of thick cotton gloves, and a jar of petroleum jelly is a treatment of choice-warm that petroleum jelly in the microwave, slather it on each hand, put on the gloves, and go to bed.  Those gardening hands will be remarkably better, the next morning.  A 

The video of Audrey Hepburn’s “Gardens of the World” is delightful-16.95 from Amazon.  A subscription to a garden or design magazine is a good choice.  Most gardeners are card carrying fans of the natural world.  What gardener would not want to settle in, rest and read  Fine Gardening, Horticulture, Garden Design, the British Country Living, Southern Living, or  National Geographic?  A magazine that comes every month, with its invitation to sit someplace comfortable a read a little something, is welcome.  A gift completely unrelated to gardening would be great too-it never hurts to remind a gardener that there are other things in this world to do besides dig holes.

Best of all-a gift certificate.  For a tree, or a book.  To a nursery.  To Sneeboer or Niwaki tools.  We do lots of gift certificates this time of year.  How so?  A passionate gardener is a a person with a mission that means a lot to them.  Choose to gently encourage them, or go for broke, distracting them.  We gardeners-we are a bloody nuisance to buy for.


  1. Silvia Weber says

    You bet! We gardeners are difficult to buy for – however a DGW Gift Certificate for $20,000 under the tree would be lovely! I hope my husband, family and friends read this.

  2. Rhonda Angeroth says

    This so absolutely to the point, honest and true to the core. Unfortunately, who reads this but us passionate gardeners!

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