Am I the first to remind you of Christmas? I doubt it since when I last popped into the garden centre the trees were up and decorations for sale. While it might seem early to be thinking presents, if there's a flower gardener on your list and you'd like to give something a little out of the ordinary, it's actually a good time to consider what might be a hit on Christmas day. Some of the best gifts will need to be ordered. Avoid the usual suspects - another set of secateurs, gardening gloves, hand cream, mug for Head Gardener. And if you're thinking of a t-shirt with a 'witty' gardening slogan, or a garden ornament, think long and carefully about how appreciative the recipient will be when that garden gnome is unwrapped. Garden sculptures, fountains and the like are probably best left alone unless you really feel you know the recipient's taste - or if heavy-handed hints have been dropped. Here's some suggestions, including, at the end, a couple of possible presents for those just getting interested in growing flowers for the garden and for cutting. The suggestions are driven by my own preferences, of course, and the focus is on flowers. (I should also mention that I get paid nothing for anything I recommend by the way.) I'd love to hear in the comments what other gardeners are hoping to find under the tree this year.
No, not one of those plastic or metal objects, useful though they may be, but the real thing, a Sussex trug. For the flower gardener who doesn't have one, this might be a real treat. I just love mine and while I admit I don't often use it when cutting flowers, since I prefer to put them immediately in water, I find a million other uses for it. And it is just such a beautiful object: there's nothing like having a Sussex trug on your arm to make you feel there's a small chance that, someday, you'll be gardening in your Laura Ashley floral print dress and big floppy sun hat with that lovely trug full of flowers over your arm.
Thomas Smith, UK makers of the original Royal Sussex trug, will send anywhere in the world except, at the moment, Europe (Brexit strikes again). But it can take a while to get one, so it's definitely a good idea to order now. And if you're outside the UK you'll have to pay both postage and a bit extra for customs - but it's well worth it.
There's lots of information on their website about the history of this craft. I suggest going for the traditional kind made of Sweet Chestnut and Cricket Bat Willow.
I have a flower trug, which is quite shallow, but others might prefer the deeper garden or oval trug. (There are many other options and shapes, though, even a one designed for cucumbers ... or a wine bottle.)
Price range: 110 - 200 GBP
For someone who is really into growing from seed, proper seed packet storage is important. There are no serious grow-from-seed gardeners who will thank you for one of those fancy wooden or tin seed storage boxes; they are very pretty but not so good for your seeds. To retain their viability as long as possible you want to keep them in the fridge in an airtight box where it is cool and dark. The solution is one of those plastic photo/crafts storage boxes. I probably have a few hundred packets of flower seeds and I use a large Recollections box (14x 11") from Amazon Canada that has 16 individual plastic boxes inside it.
This means I can categorise my seeds quite precisely by sowing date. Mine might be too large for many, but there are different sizes available and different makes. There's a compact one, for example, on Amazon UK that has only six insert cases.
Price range: 30- 50 CAD
These Japanese knives, sharp on one side, serrated on the other, have had a lot of press over the past few years, and I can't believe I still haven't bought one as they sound so useful. You can dig, transplant, saw and cut with them. From what I've read, it's best to go for the Japanese brand Nisaku. It has a stainless steel blade, very sharp, 7.25 inches long, and a comfortable and durable wooden handle.
I particularly like the look of the Yamataga version, made with higher quality steel which holds its edge and doesn't need sharpening. More importantly for me, it looks safer: it has a better handle that will help stop my hands sliding down on the blade if I'm pushing hard on it.
Price range: 30 - 80 CAD
Someone who likes flower arranging can never have too many vases, but make it something special. Most of us really don't need yet another ordinary glass vase. Maybe a vintage mantle vase, Constance Spry style. There's a wonderful selection on Etsy, and personally I'd be happy to receive any of these lovelies from Moonwater Treasures for Christmas.
Or perhaps a series of bud vases? I wouldn't say no to any of these gorgeous and collectable gems in Frances Farmer's handcast white Creamware bud vase collection, (around 200 USD each). They are simply the most elegant bud vases you will find and the company will ship outside the US.
If that's too aspirational and you are going to buy glass, at least make it something a bit quirky. I would grow fritillaria just to see them in this vase from Sarah Raven (57 GBP). Available only in the UK unfortunately, so I suspect I won't be seeing one this year.
If you want a gift for someone who is just getting interested in growing flowers for the garden and for cutting, I highly recommend Clare Nolan's In Bloom (Kyle Books, 2019).
Everything you need to know about growing and cutting and arranging flowers all year round is in this handbook. So many books I see on this topic nowadays seem to come from some social media star and are full of waffle about the author's wonderful life in the country and setting tables for feasts for friends and photo-shopped pictures of the author with her various animals or the author in a field with the setting sun holding huge armfuls of just cut flowers. Ugh. Nothing like that here. It's an engaging book, and the author's voice comes through clearly, but no influencer waffle. It is just the best book on the topic around, packed full of useful information and gorgeous inspiring photos of plants and arrangements and every gardener should own it. It would be my desert island book. I love it. Price: around 45 CAD, 17 GBP hardcover.
And if you're looking for a piece of equipment instead, I'd suggest a small grow light. The very first one I got was from Root Farm and it is on a stand with adjustable legs and so useful.
While it is advertised for hydrophonics, it is brilliant just as an all purpose grow light for starting seedlings. I still use it every year and keep this one in my office while the bigger lights are in the garden room. You can put a full size seed tray under it, and more around it. It works very well, and is a good starter. Price: 209 CAD, half that in the US, and seemingly unavailable at the moment in the UK.
Anything here you fancy for Christmas? Or, is there anything you'd add to my list?