New, green and great for the holidays

The ‘Man in Red’ has come to town, so it’s OK to start planning – or doing – for the upcoming holidays. If you have gardeners on your gift list, they’re easy to buy for. I’ve called around locally and found some new things that might interest you.

O, Christmas tree!

There’s nothing like the fresh, crisp scent of live evergreens in the house. A fun alternative to a cut tree is a tree in a container, roots and all. They’re great for smaller homes or for people who don’t want to cope with a big cut tree (and they smell divine, dahling).

Locally, you can find a nice selection at East of Eliza’s on Gerrard Street East and at East End Garden Centre on Queen Street East. Besides cold-hardy pines and spruces, East End offers unique Norfolk Island Pines that you can decorate for the holidays and then keep indoors as a houseplant.

Eliza’s has potted trees in sizes from tabletop to a metre tall. Firs, native hemlocks and blue cypress are some of the ones you can plant outdoors after the holidays, depending on winter conditions.

Alternatively, pretty tender evergreen plants are available to brighten your home. Wintergreen, English boxwood and standard myrtles (clipped to look like little trees) make charming indoor decorations. You can trim them if you want, with tiny ornaments and bits of costume jewellery. (Remember those single earrings you have hanging around?)

Shop owner and designer-extraordinaire Reed Russell also suggests a wonderfully scented lemon cypress (not winter-hardy) as an indoor holiday tree. You can do one-stop shopping at Eliza’s for trees and ornaments – natural or glittery. Call about the wreath-making workshop at the end of November, and drop by for the Christmas Open House Dec. 1 and 2. “Cider and sweets,” Reed promises.

Easy-peasy cut tree

If you’re time-stressed and longing for a real cut tree, Canadian wholesaler Sommerville Nurseries has put together a package just for you. Called the Fraser Fir Mini-Kringle, this little beauty is a long-lasting Fraser fir set into a bright red tree stand that holds water. Keep the stand filled, and your tree should hold its needles for weeks. Sheridan Nurseries in Scarborough expects to have those in stock for the season.

A different kind of bulb

Right about this time of year, many folks wonder where to find paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis bulbs to give as gifts or for their own homes. Fear not: they’re right down the street at East End Garden Centre.

They have paperwhites and amaryllis (in several colours) already potted and ready to go – nice hostess gifts and perfect for people who don’t, or can’t, garden. Just keep them watered, and they’ll reward you with blooms to brighten the winter. (Stay away from narcissus, if you or the giftee have allergies.)

Tiny rosemary trees and aloe veras (famous for healing burns and scrapes) are other small plant gifts that East End staff suggest.

For your reading pleasure

Just space to mention some new super-cool Canadian garden books: Toronto Star gardening columnist Sonia Day goes wild in her award-winning book, The Untamed Garden, filled with stories of love, lust and passion. Inspiring in another way is The Year-Round Vegetable Garden, by Nova Scotia’s Nikki Jabbour, with four-season how-to’s and profiles of 53 veggies and herbs.

History fans will enjoy Sheridan Nurseries: One Hundred Years of People, Plans and Plants, filled with old-time photos and anecdotes. For the adventurous, there’s Grow Figs Where You Think You Can’t, by Toronto ‘fig pig’ Steven Bigg ( And there’s the fun, reliable, larger-than-ever Toronto Gardener’s Journal & Source Book, by Margaret Bennet-Alder (, Book City, Sheridan Nurseries and the Toronto Botanical Garden).

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