"Wow, that looks good, Mom/Sis/hon/daughter/son, but I'll bet you'd rather be outside in the garden, digging in the dirt, ... what DO you use to dig out there, anyway? A trowel, huh? Where do you get trowels? Do you have a favorite kind? No, no special reason for asking, I'm just wondering ..."
"Hey, what's the name of that nursery you like so much? My friend Pierpont needs to get a present for his mom and she's a gardener, like you ..."
"Your hands look dry ... wonder if you need some of that bee lotion, the kind they make for gardeners? What's the name of that guy? Ben? Bob? Bill?"
In the spirit of the season, the Head Gardener and I offer three suggestions to help you steer the conversation towards gifts that will elicit a real smile when you open them:
- Sending the giftgiver to a nursery is tricky business unless you've given them specific instructions on items that you want. Trust us on this one, it's how we ended up with a statue of 3 cardinals, a plaster duck and a pair of bunnies that can only be described as twee. Step away from the cutting board or the stove for a few minutes, make a cup of tea or hot chocolate, and tell them about some of the items you've seen at your local nursery and would love to have. Don't give them the names of more than one nursery, if you're fortunate enough to have several faves in your area. It will only confuse them.
- Most of us who are gardeners, even in areas like mine where winters are mild, have days when weather won't allow us outside to work in the garden. Good books are boon companions on such days. You doubtless have several "how-to" gardening books on your wish list but since gardening is so much a spiritual endeavor, perhaps you could consider asking for a volume of Mary Oliver's poetry. A gardener herself, her words will make your heart sing and your soul soar. Or if you want to be well and truly indulged, mention Anna Pavord's book, BULB: although I have yet to see it, it has received rave reviews from every gardener who has.
- If there are no nurseries or bookstores within a reasonable distance, never underestimate the riches to be found at a hardware store. Be it a big box store like Lowe's or Home Depot, or a smaller local retailer, there's always something a gardener will find useful. Finch socks, prefilled with thistle seed, will provide much-needed sustenance to the goldfinches and house finches overwintering in your garden; in return, you'll have the joy of watching them as they flit and skirmish. Always wanted a chipper shredder? Go for it! And as odd as the giftgiver may find the suggestion, remind them that you can never go wrong with compost! Many bags of compost make merry the gardener!