Friday, December 17, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho! Hints For Santa's Helpers

After today, there's only seven more shopping days till Christmas so  I thought I'd post a few of the items I own and use regularly in case you need a suggestion or two for the gardening enthusiasts on your shopping list.   
  • Atlas Gardening gloves are always a good bet and my favs at this time. They cost about $10.00 to $12.00 a pair retail and come in a lot of colors and sizes but the best thing about them is that they stretch so you can literally pick up a dime wearing them. This is important when you're transplanting seedlings. They have a light latex coating on the palm and fingers that makes them useful for wet work and keeps your hands dry. I love them so much, I often forget that I have them on. Another nice feature is that they are machine washable and dry able.
  • Florian and Felco Pruning Shears - Every gardener needs at least one pair of pruners, two is preferable--a lightweight pair for deadheading and snipping blooms and a anvil type for pruning thick branches.  A good quality pair of pruners, taken care of will outlast all of us.  I recommend either Florian or Felco, both make fine quality pruners from about $27 to $50.  Florian is made in the US, Felco is made in Switzerland.
  • Florian Pruning Saw - I bought mine (the smaller 7-inch blade) from a vendor at the Newport Flower Show in 2008 for $25.  It is the best hand-pruning saw I've ever used.  I routinely use it to prune my trees.  It gives an excellent clean cut and literally saws through hardwood like "budda".   I also like that the blade folds for safety and storage.
  • Garden edger or Trough - I'm not sure what the technical name is for this tool.   Its a long-handled tool with either a curved blade or a flat blade.  I've had mine for years, passed along from my Dad and I remember my grandfather had one too.  I use it to give a nice sharp edge to my flower beds.  It works by cutting the sod and creating a "moat" between the garden bed and the lawn, similar to what plastic edging does, but I think this is a more elegant look. I use mine every spring to create a neat curved edge along my beds.
  • Wheelbarrow or Hand Cart -  No gardener should be without a wheelbarrow or hand cart of some kind.  I won't go into all the differences but believe me this is a must have for anyone who lives on a lot bigger than a place mat.   I have two.  One is a wagon that tows behind my garden tractor and the other is a vintage cement wheelbarrow with an inflatable tire.  I have to say, I use the cement wheelbarrow the most because it's narrow and I can access a lot  more areas with it.  Whatever kind you get, they are invaluable for moving mulch compost, tools, hoses, plants, etc. 
  • Books - If you aren't sure what titles to buy, I recommend buying a region-specific book or a reference book.   Why?  Because region-specific books include information about your particular zone and the micro-climates within it,  along with information about the soil where you live.  They also recommend varieties of plants that will do well in your location.  Which is why I don't try to grow fancy French carrots in my rocky soil anymore. :)
  • Taylor's Perennials is a reference book that we use every year at our garden club's plant sale. It's a great reference because of it's small enough to tuck in a purse and has hundreds of colored pictures of perennial flowers in bloom.  Sections are arranged by color so it's easy to quickly look up a plant.  There is also a great cross-reference index with both the common and Latin names of plants, along with growing requirements and plant descriptions. 
  • Another favorite of mine is the New Hampshire Gardener's Companion, by Henry Homeyer.  I have seen other states in this series too.  My reasoning for selecting this book is that it gives some interesting information about the geological formation of the soils where I live.  I always knew "Granite State" wasn't a randomly picked nickname for NH but I did learn that I live in a glacial wash out zone. This particular book also has some good information about invasive species, organic gardening and new developments in biological pest control. 
  • My third pick is another regional book, titled New England Gardener's Almanac.  It's written by the former Boston Globe Garden Editor, Carol Stocker.  Almost like a planner, It lists weekly  chores for each month.  It's a pretty neat book, has great colored photos and I like that there are even  chores for the winter months.  I look at this book  a lot because it inspires me and I learn something new every time I read it. 
  • Garden clogs - sneakers just don't make it as garden footwear and if they're your only sneakers, you won't be wearing them to the gym after the first day digging in the garden.  I know some gardeners prefer Wellies or tall boots, but I own two pairs of garden clogs made by Smith and Hawken and Muck Boot Company.  I have no preference for one over the other.  Both  are roomy, comfortable, keep your feet amazingly dry (my daughter has worn them in lieu of snow boots) and give good traction when you need to push a shovel into the ground with your foot or when the grass is wet and slippery.  One drawback is that they usually only come in whole sizes.  Made of heavy neoprene rubber, they can be hosed down when needed and air dried.  Having a pair in the garden shed or garage prevents a lot of dirt from tracking into the house.
  • Soap & Hand Cream - This is definitely one of the last gifts most people would ever want to receive for Christmas but a serious gardener's hands (gloved or not) take a lot of abuse from exposure to sun, heat, cold, being wet, handling plant material, handling soil and mulch, rocks, debris, etc.  Regular hand creams just don't work as well as one designed specifically for gardeners.   I keep a pump bottle of Stonewall Kitchen's Garden Barrier Cream next to my kitchen sink.  It's lightweight, non-greasy, scented with Clary sage, lemon thyme and orange blossom so it smells good too.  Made from olive oil, cocoa butter, aloe vera and a little silicone it stays on your hands when they're wet.

    I love "Mrs. Meyer's" brand aromatherpeutic hand soaps.  Along with being cruelty free soaps (never tested on animals), they are gentle on the skin and biodegradable.  Packaged in 25% post-consumer plastic, Mrs Meyer's is easy to find these days.  I found mine at the big box store not long ago.  I love the lemon verbena and basil scents.  I keep a bottle next to my kitchen sink for washing up when I come in from the garden.       

Garden Clogs

Florian Pruning Saw

Stonewall Kitchen's Barrier Cream for Gardeners and Mrs. Meyer's Basil hand soap

Atlas gloves

Regional/Local Gardening Books

Garden edger or "trough"

1 comment:

  1. I have found some great gift ideas on this list, thank you for the recommendations and for this post! It's too late for this Christmas gift giving season but I have birthdays to buy for in 2011 and there's always next Christmas. I am originally from New England (MA) my parents and sister live in NH now. Got any snow?


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