A Gardener's Christmas

What I would really like Santa to bring me this Christmas is a genuine kink free hose or two. We own lots of garden hoses here and all are meant to be kink-free. Over a period of time, none are… There is little more annoying than using the hose and finding the water stops suddenly because it kinks in the same spot every time. Then the water pressure either blows it off the tap which sprays water everywhere, or when I bend to straighten the offending kink, the end of the hose suddenly develops a life and will of its own and sprays me with water. Either way, I get wet. Maybe Santa knows a manufacturer of hosepipes which don’t ever go into kinks. I am told that using a hose reel keeps kinks at bay, but as I regularly use four different garden taps, unless I want to keep moving the entire shebang, I would need four hose reels and four brand new hoses which may be asking altogether too much from Santa.

I am hoping Santa may also go to the Boxing Day sales (I may need to accompany him) and buy me two ladders. One needs to be a stable but lightweight two or three step affair for pruning plants which are just above my reach and one needs to be taller for reaching higher. OSH would not like our ladders here at all. They are somewhat unstable and held together by baling twine, but at least they have their rungs.

Other gifts for gardeners that I would recommend include good secateurs. Decent secateurs last for many years (as long as they don’t end up in the compost heap) and will retain a sharp edge for clean cuts. It is false economy to buy cheap secateurs which are invariable nasty. Grape snips, however, are lightweight and cheap and much appreciated by women gardeners with smaller hands (and presumably by Asian gardeners according to the Lockwood Smith school of thought). They are so much easier to carry in a pocket and I prefer them to conventional secateurs for lightweight trimming. If you are feeling generous, give the recipient a couple of pairs. We own a smaller and lightweight pair of secateurs bearing the brand ARS which Mark and I both treasure as being easy to use and keeping a good sharp edge. We bought them years ago for taking cuttings and they have remained firm favourites for ease of use.. I did have a handy secateur sharpener given to me by friends, until I mislaid it (quite possibly with various secateurs and trowels in the compost heap). It doesn’t do anywhere near as good a job as a proper sharpening stone but for a quick-fix sharpen, it works well enough to get by. They are cheap enough and I need to buy another one but I am still waiting for my missing one to reappear.

Pruning saws are not cheap, at least not for a quality brand, but are worth their weight in gold. My preference is for a straight blade, not a curved one.

Every gardener needs more than one wheelbarrow and here, too, you really do get the quality you pay for. The last barrow I purchased was dirt cheap but alas something went wrong in its design and if you put anything in the tray at the handle end, it tips back. If you are going to go for a really cheap option, at least look at an assembled model and try putting a couple of unbreakable items in it before you buy, to check for stability. I recall inheriting a dreadful barrow from my mother with the same design flaw. The big chunky contractor’s barrows are sturdy, but most women will find them too heavy and the handles too thick to use comfortably. Plastic trays don’t rust out if you leave them out in the rain or filled with debris.

Trowels are another item which every gardener needs in multiples. Even with the best of intentions, they go missing on regular occasions, sometimes never to reappear. I am sure that trowels take themselves off to some secret gathering place, there to commune with other wayward trowels, forever safe from discovery. Either that, or they are imbued with some deluded desire to grow up and become spades and they are hiding out in the interim, awaiting their metamorphosis. Mark’s advice is that blue is the easiest colour to find in the garden so he prefers bright blue handles. But many of us can testify that even secateurs and trowels with high viz handles can disappear when your attention is momentarily distracted.

I really prefer not to be given garden ornaments or decorations. These are a matter of personal taste and being rather pernickety in the matter, I would rather chose my own (or have none).

If you are looking for books to give for Christmas, it is hard to go past The Artful Gardener (reviewed on this page last week), by Rose Thodey and Gil Hanly. It is a very good book and would be welcomed by most serious gardeners. In the classics, Hilliers Manual of Trees and Shrubs is a good standby for every bookcase. If you are feeling really generous, Audrey Eagles massive tome on New Zealand plants would be welcomed by most enthusiasts. Botanical art prints are also a safe option, well liked by most people who enjoy plants and gardening. You can often find these reproduced on quality greetings cards and picture frames are so cheap now that it could make a thoughtful gift within even a child’s budget. Botanical art, by the way, shows the botanical detail of the plant being painted – the stamens, petals, seedheads and other parts of the plant anatomy. They are not just chocolate box pictures of pretty flowers which may fall into the same category as garden ornaments and decorations.

Ours is a household which never gives gift vouchers or money in any shape or form. Second hand books are acceptable because they show thought, but gift vouchers are utility and take no thought at all and it is perfectly obvious to the recipient how high a dollar value you place on them. But, as a friend pointed out, others view vouchers differently and gardening vouchers are often well received when other inspiration is lacking.

Another friend suggested sun hat and sun block as a thoughtful gift. I would add that littlies who need help buying small gifts for gardening parents, relatives or grandies could do much worse than giving a new nail brush and hand cream!

The final suggestion over morning coffee for a welcome Christmas gift was a gardener. Although it is more likely that a willing garden labourer is what many of us would prefer. I am not sure that Santa himself fits the bill on this one. A younger, leaner and fitter model would be better to have at one’s beck and call. Preferably one that is amenable, obedient, has a little initiative but not too much and is easy on the eye. Thanks, Santa.