From garden tools and terracotta pots and secatuers, keen gardeners are spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas present ideas, says Ursula Buchan
‘Tis the season to spend money and ’tis no good pushing back against the fact. Nor, I imagine, do we really want to, since we don’t want to be thought a pinchpenny at Christmas. Blame Charles Dickens for that. The trouble is that as our friends and relations get older it’s harder and harder to find something to buy them that is either attractive or useful or, preferably, both. Thank goodness for the keen gardeners among them, since there is never much difficulty in finding gifts for gardeners.
On the whole, large garden tools are highly personal things and probably best bought by the user, but secateurs are quite another matter because there is such a range in quality available. In this case, you most assuredly get what you pay for. And presents should, ideally, be of a price and standard that the recipient would hesitate to shell out for themselves. The Swiss-made Felco range has been the ne plus ultra of secateurs for nearly 50 years, but recently it has acquired a doughty competitor in the English/Japanese company Niwaki. Both Felco and Niwaki have left-handed versions of their pruners, which pleases me a lot, since my gardening daughter is left-handed and secateurs must have the blades the right way round to work properly.
Gardeners’ gifts: garden tools have the capacity to change your life
And, wonder of wonders, Niwaki also sells sturdy left- and right-handed weeding hoes for £18. Since these hoes have the capacity to change your life for the better, that seems cheap at the price. If you know a flower arranger, there are a range of specially designed coloured-handled scissors (£42), as well as ‘kenzans’, those useful small, heavy metal plates with masses of spikes, that hold flower stems upright and secure in flower vases (from £9 to £27).
Good-quality, attractive terracotta pots that can be left outside all winter will cheer up any gardener; we simply never have enough of them. I have recently stumbled upon the Rowen & Wren range; these are hand-thrown in this country and reliably frost-resistant. The Eden pots, with rather charming scalloped rims, come in more than one diameter and height, and start £18. They would be perfect for spring-flowering bulbs or a treasured scented pelargonium on a sunny windowsill. As for stocking presents for grown-ups, I cannot think of many things more appealing than the Nutscene Mini Twine gift set (£11) of eight brightly coloured garden twine spools, which are smart enough for wrapping presents. And Burgon & Ball can always be relied upon to sell gifts that will liven up the dreariest shed; safe bets are a decorated indoor watering can (£22.49) or a Sophie Conran harvesting basket (£26.49).
Gardening gifts don’t make the best presents for children
I always think it’s not much use buying gardening presents for children at Christmas; it seems to me best left for a spring or summer birthday. Delayed gratification is not an easy concept for little ones, so I prefer to give them something safe, such as a houseplant or an activity book. However, a brightly-coloured, reusable steel tin of seedballs which are made of clay and compost, incorporating wildflower seed, and with added chilli powder to deter slugs, looks attractive enough to put on the mantelpiece and be taken outside in spring to scatter the contents on a spare piece of ground.
I imagine that many of us try to set aside something at Christmas to give to a good cause. If that is the case with you, may I put in a gentle plea for Perennial, the professional gardeners’ charity? This venerable organisation, originally called the Gardeners’ Benevolent Institution when founded in 1839, gained the Royal imprimatur in 1851 and was fashionable enough to attract both Dickens and Sir Robert Peel to speak at its fundraising dinners. The support given to professional horticulturists, especially those with health or money problems, is impressive and valued highly.
Spare a thought for every gardener at Christmas
Having been a professional gardener, I know that there is usually a disjunction between the substantial range of skills that properly trained gardeners possess and how much they get paid; this can leave them vulnerable if they become ill or lose their job. What is more, the majority of employed gardeners, perforce, are single-handed, even in many large gardens, and the sense of isolation can be demoralising. So please spare a thought for every gardener at Christmas, not just the ones you know and love.
If you enjoyed this feature, be sure to take a look at more garden articles in The Field, such as Ursula Buchan on garden roses and narcissi. If you’re on the hunt for Christmas present ideas, be sure to take a look at Christmas gifts for the home, Christmas gifts for under £50, Christmas gifts for men and Christmas gifts for women.