Ideas for the green thumbs on your list

Christmas can be frustrating for gardeners and those who love them. If you give gardeners a gardening gift, they will (sigh) have to wait for months to use it. But if you wait until spring, what are you supposed to do? Put a spade in their Easter basket?

So go ahead, indulge your favourite gardeners with a present that feeds their passion for plants.

  • It’s generally an iffy time for houseplants, which can get lost in the holiday shuffle. But a fat amaryllis bulb in a pot is dead easy to grow. They’re easy to find, too; just check any florist or garden shop and pick one in a colour to please – red, white, pink, candy-cane or even chic green.
  • Who wouldn’t enjoy a gift subscription to Gardenmaking, Canada’s internationally award-winning magazine? Articles range from how to grow it, to garden design, to individual plant profiles, to garden travel. It’s a year-long gift for a bargain price. (Order online.)
  • Books for a long, cold winter: Heart and Soul: The Revolutionary Good of Gardens, by B.C.’s Des Kennedy, is both funny and philosophical; Groundbreaking Food Gardens, by Nova Scotia’s Nikki Jabour, looks at 73 very different garden plots; and The Glory of the Tree, by Noel Kingsbury, mixes eye candy with info on forest greats.
  • A favourite place of mine is the Toronto Botanical Garden. Maybe it’s because they’re always coming up with a fun new event, like the free Harvest Festival and the Getting the Jump on Spring show. The members-only library is a researcher’s paradise, and their kids’ and family programs bring nature up close and personal. I always enjoy a night out at one of their lectures, where world-famous garden experts share their passion. A TBG gift membership makes a great present (order online.)
  • A local goodie, especially for newbie gardeners, is the Toronto Gardener’s Journal and Sourcebook 2015. Toronto gardener Margaret Bennet-Alder produces this two-page-a-week wire-bound diary. There’s space for daily and general notes, plans, photos, and a giant listing of all things garden in Ontario. If you’ve ever wondered when to sow lettuce or fertilize your Christmas cactus, her daily tips will tell you that and more (available at Book City on Queen Street East.)
  • Eco-purists will go ga-ga over beeswax candles. Unlike conventional ones, beeswax candles don’t use petroleum derivatives or artificial scents – just the heavenly odour of honey. They’re usually available in pretty shapes at the Evergreen Brickworks and the Toronto Botanical Garden. For something super-unique, contact Brampton-based for their garlic-shaped (but honey-scented) candles.
  • For the balcony gardener or crazed container grower, it’s worth tracking down a clever item called Waterdots. They’re 2-cm square bits of water-absorbent felt-y material that you soak and mix in your planting soil. They release water as the soil dries out, and recharge themselves each time you water. In my own garden, I found Waterdotted pots stayed moist in hot sun for days longer than other containers. Made in Carlisle, ON, the little gizmos are a byproduct of the green roof industry – trimmed scraps from the water-retaining mats used for irrigation. Brand-new on the market, get them from
  • Gardening is a three-season sport – your fingers get cold, wet and stiff in spring and fall. Gardening friends and family will love a pair of cold-weather garden gloves from Lee Valley Tools. They’re tough on the outside, cozy on the inside and have a waterproof membrane between the two layers. PLUS: They come in men’s and women’s sizes. (Online or in store.)
  • Last on the list: Packets of hot chocolate and a bag of marshmallows. Sometimes it’s good to be a kid again. (Ed’s Real Scoop has hot choc kits.)

Happy holidays and warm wishes for a new gardening year!


Mary Fran McQuade is a hobby gardener and freelance writer

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