Tis the season of gift buying for many, so I thought I’d offer a few suggestions to you folks buying gifts for gardeners. In today’s installment, I’m focusing on gifts for experienced gardeners. We are the obsessed green-thumbed, dirty-fingernailed bunch you see puttering in our yards in all kinds of weather.
First, if you love us, please don’t buy us a plant — or even a package of seeds. We know you mean well, but odds are you have not been paying close enough attention to us to know which perfect plant we still want to squeeze into our landscapes. Exceptions do occur. A few years back, my mother-in-law caught me sighing over a catalog that featured a bearded iris called ‘Batik.’ She remembered the iris and the catalog, and ordered it for me for my birthday. I still think of her fondly every spring when it blooms.
Bulbs and their relatives (rhizomes, corms, tubers, etc.) are safe to buy if you know exactly which variety your Obsessed Gardener desires. For anything else, I suggest gift certificates. To hard-core gardeners like me, a gift certificate to one of my favorite nurseries is not an impersonal cop-out gift. To me, such a gift is permission to indulge in a fantasy I had not yet found room for in my budget. It is permission to splurge.
In my part of the Piedmont of North Carolina, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by many wonderful speciality nurseries. Whenever I can, I buy from one of these local sources, and if you know which local nurseries the gardener on your list favors, go forth and buy a gift certificate from one of those.
However, the nurseries I favor also operate mail-order services. So to help you southeastern Piedmonters who may not live near local speciality nurseries, here’s my short list of favorites with links to their sites in alphabetical order (so as not to play favorites).
- Camellia Forest Nursery — As you might guess, they specialize in the most spectacular camellia varieties you will ever lay eyes on. But their inventory goes far beyond camellias to many other exquisite plants. Peruse their site; you’ll see what I mean.
- Niche Gardens — This nursery emphasizes native perennials and woodies, but also features a number of choice non-native plants. Niche Gardens is the closest nursery to my house, and when they offer sales, I have great difficulty resisting temptation.
- Plant Delights Nursery — Tony Avent is the plant-obsessed genius behind this nursery. If a choice plant well-adapted to the southeastern Piedmont is out there — anywhere in the world — Tony will find it, test it in his garden, and propagate and sell it if it passes muster. If the gardener on your list loves hostas — or any of a gazillion other choice treasures — a gift certificate from this establishment will make you a hero.
- Woodlanders — This nursery is in South Carolina, but it is the best place I know of to buy small woody shrubs and trees that are hard to find elsewhere. Woodlanders sells most of our native trees and shrubs. They usually offer the straight species, and if they like some named cultivars of those species, they grow and offer those too. These folks ship small, bare-rooted plants, so I recommend this place only to seasoned gardeners. We know how to treat bare-rooted new arrivals, and how to nurture small plants into giants. I love this place because I can get small, less-expensive specimens that fit within my budget. I’m willing to be patient with them, knowing that magnificent trees and shrubs will adorn my yard after a few years. If you know a gardener like me who is willing to patiently nurture small special plants, consider giving a gift certificate from Woodlanders.
Seasoned gardeners are also usually obsessive readers of garden-related literature. However, most of us already subscribe to the magazines we prefer, so I don’t recommend subscriptions as gifts for experienced gardeners, unless they have explicitly told you this is what they want.
Likewise, buying equipment for us is problematic. We are picky. We know what we like and what works. But if you’ve seen us eyeing our favorite garden equipment catalogs, a gift certificate from one of those will always be appreciated.
Perhaps you have a seasoned gardener on your list who is cutting back on his gardening for health or time reasons. Trust me, such folks still love gardens, even if they can’t be active in their own personal Edens anymore. Most gardeners in this category enthusiastically support one or more public garden, usually one in their region. If you know which public garden your less-active seasoned gardener supports, consider giving a donation in his name to that organization.
Even those of us who still actively garden appreciate it when our friends and family donate to our favorite public garden in our names. Personally, I am always delighted when one of my friends or family members honors me with a donation to the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC.
That should be more than enough to help anyone seeking gift ideas for the serious gardeners on your list. Next time, I”ll offer gift suggestions for less-experienced gardeners.