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annual gardening, annual garden design
LITTLE GIFTS

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Elisabeth Ginsburg
You need this in your perennial border.

Every year at this time, gardeners and non-gardeners alike wonder what they should buy for the gardeners in their lives. If you are wealthy enough, this is very easy. Perhaps your favorite gardener can really use a backhoe, complete with a charming and handsome operator who will be on call at all times. If a backhoe seems too vulgar, try a vanity rose. For about $10,000 or so, one of the major rose breeders will breed a rose just for your gardening friend or relative, and name it after him or her. This gift also includes a specific number of the named bushes, so your favorite gardener can have a complete vanity flower bed.

It is a sad fact in these economic times that some of us can’t afford even a modest posthole digger, let alone a backhoe with a handsome operator. Fortunately there are a whole host of small gifts that will delight gardeners. These can be used individually as “stocking stuffers” or hostess presents, or batched together in an attractive basket or large plant pot.

Almost every gardener I know can use a new nailbrush. Even if you wear gloves, there are times when you have to take them off and actually get dirt under your fingernails. This means that you will also have to resort to using a nailbrush before going out in polite society. There are lots of brightly colored nailbrushes available for unbelievably modest prices. When you give a gardening friend a nailbrush, that person will probably be able to throw out an old one. You have done your friend an additional service by preventiing evil bacteria from flourishing in the niche by the sink where all nailbrushes live.

There is absolutely nothing worse than a flopped over peony or a Regale lily sagging slowly towards the breaking-off point, and every gardener has a least one plant that needs tying and staking during the course of the growing season. Packages of bamboo stakes make great cheap gifts, as do rolls of green plastic plant tying tape. If your particular gardening friend doesn’t like plastic, there is plain old twine, which has a multitude of garden uses, and comes in natural shades or blendable garden green. There are also various kinds of metal supports that come in a variety of heights. None of them cost very much, and no gardener can ever have too many at hand.

With catalog season upon us, small notepads with self-adhesive strips on the backs of the pages make perfect stocking stuffers. I like the kinds that come in four colors, because it helps me organize my garden wish list. When I thumb through a catalog I use one color for “must have” items, another for “maybes”, and still another for things that I want to remember to recommend to other people. By spring my catalogs are usually bulging with these self-sticking notes, and they really do keep me from becoming lost in the mail order thicket.

I went to a wonderful party recently where the hostess, an avid gardener, sent guests home with great party favors--small envelopes filled with seeds she had collected at the end of the growing season. The envelopes were labeled with her name, the seed variety and the color of the flower. If you are a seed collector, share your bounty with those on your gift list. You can get the envelopes and labels at the local office-supply megastore, and put together quite a few little packages in a relatively short time. Your friends will think of you when their plants come up next summer.

Of course, life is filled with problematic people, especially if you travel in elevated company. You may well have a friend who is so fussy that he or she will only uses nailbrushes that cost $400 each because the bristles were hand collected from a rare type of wild boar indigenous to only one small region in Mongolia. This same individual undoubtedly would never sully his soil with a plant support that was less than one hundred years old, preferably one imported from an English manor house’s garden or the potager of a decaying French chateau. The only way to deal with such a gift-giving predicament, short of jettisoning the friend, is to use nefarious means to find out which Internet or mail order suppliers he or she likes. Get the individual a modest gift certificate and pop it into his or her stocking. Even a token amount will help defray the cost of that backhoe.

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