Photo by Erica Grivas: Columnist Erica Grivas recommends buying a hori-hori knife as a gift for an avid gardener.
Photo by Erica Grivas: Columnist Erica Grivas recommends buying a hori-hori knife as a gift for an avid gardener.

Do you have a gardener on your gift list? Here is a curated collection of some of my favorite ideas from personal experience and recommendations of passionate and professional gardeners. I’m going to focus on outdoor gardening.

For a new gardener, the Japanese hori-hori knife is a marvel of a multi-purpose tool, combining knife, weeder and trowel. It’s my favorite tool — it means I don’t have to carry an apron or bag full of tools around.

Developed by bonsai hunters, it resembles a knife more than a garden tool and usually comes with a holster that can snap onto a belt loop. One side is widely serrated for cutting roots, the tip is pointed for digging out weeds, and the blade’s convex curve offers the scoop action for digging. There are plastic-handled versions that may be easier on the wrist for regular use, but mine is made of wood and purchased from Ravenna Gardens.

The next must-have item for me is an unassuming but indispensable rubber tub with handles. You can get them in any color. Tubtrugs and Gorilla Tubs are popular brands. They can hold water to soak plants in, trimmings, harvests and tools. Because they are soft and bendy, I can hold them comfortably in one hand, which I find easier than, say, a paint bucket.

When the handle finally broke on my blue one, I planted some herbs in it (cutting holes for drainage). Their only fault for an urban gardener is that they don’t fold away when not in use. For that, I’d try some of the pop-up bags, called leaf or garden bags, available at hardware stores. My neighbor likes hers by Fiskars. These will not hold water of course.

A classic gift bag or stocking for a gardener could be a combination of some choice seeds, gloves, gardener’s soap or salve, a journal — preferably one with waterproof pages, an inspirational book, mini-snips (tiny scissoring pruners) for shearing herbs or bouquets and a gift card to a favorite nursery or seed company.

An informal poll of fellow garden communicators on a recent Zoom meeting turned up a lot of new tools and goodies to try, including a rice sickle (picked by University of Washington instructor Christina Pfeiffer and available from Territorialseeds.com), and the deliciously named root slayer shovel (https://www.gardeners.com) favored by designer Vanessa Gardner Nagel. Favorite rough-weather gloves included Mud Gloves for wet (my recommendation), Gold Leaf Winter Touch gloves for cold and wet and chance of thorns (https://www.gardeners.com; author Mary-Kate Mackey’s pick).

Blogger Anne Held Reeves (https://anadesigns.blogspot.com/) recommended a bird nest kit — a hanging ball wound of vines filled with cotton. Her hummingbirds enjoy the one she found on Amazon by Gute; uncommongoods.com offers a sculptural metal one that you can fill with seed balls, wool or cotton scraps, or your pet’s fur.

During my two seasons as a professional gardener, I longed for a coverall-type tool-holding garment without buckles or apron strings. A sailcloth smock from Great Dixter garden in England (https://www.greatdixtershop.co.uk/PBSCProduct.asp?ItmID=18433246) could be my answer.

I will wear it with nearly sophisticated recycled hemp plastic clogs from France, https://salter.house/gardana-clog/.

Want to give something someone can enjoy this time of year? Consider some of these:

For armchair inspiration and down time

Seattle Tilth Garden Guide — the booklet to answer your “what to do when?” questions in the Seattle veggie garden, http://www.tilthalliance.org/get-involved/aboutmngg.

The Whole Seed catalog — Swap out Netflix for a few nights in a cozy chair with the encyclopedia of seed catalogs by Baker Seed Company: 500 pages of luscious pictures, history and recipes, https://www.rareseeds.com/store/whole-seed-catalog/international-2021-whole-seed-catalog.

“Twenty Reasons not to Garden — and why I Ignore Them All,” and its follow-up “Plants are Terrible People” by Seattle horticulturist Luke Ruggenberg — “garden absurdities” — everything funny about gardening and especially gardeners (Ravenna Gardens, Amazon).

For new coffee-table books, “Adventures in Eden” by Carolyn Mullet reveals private gardens across Europe, while “Windcliff” by Dan Hinkley chronicles local legend/plant explorer Hinkley’s creation of his latest home garden in Indianola.

 

To uplevel their skills with an online class

The basics:

UW offers a host of classes from basics to botanical crafts (https://botanicgardens.uw.edu/education/adults/classes-workshops/), and Oregon State University offers classes including Basic Botany and Online Urban Agriculture, https://workspace.oregonstate.edu/course/master-gardener-series-basic-botany?hsLang=en.

Ron Finley’s Garden Masterclass — California’s Gangsta Gardener on overall gardening skills (masterclass.com,) which was the Spruce blog’s top pick for gardening classes this yearhttps://www.masterclass.com/classes/ron-finley-teaches-gardening.

Design:

Masterclass webinars — many from renowned gardeners in Holland and England, as well as one by Piet Oudolf, designer of the High Line in New York.

Local garden designer Karen Chapman offers several online courses, with a special focus on container design, https://lejardinetdesigns.com/design-course/.

I will recommend one indoor project: Foodies will love growing their own mushrooms on an inoculated log. Growing shagalicious Lion’s Mane mushrooms from a kit by Cascadia Mushrooms (https://cascadiamushrooms.com/product/lions-mane-grow-kit/ ) was great fun and made some tasty omelets that supposedly boosted my brain power.

Finally, please forego the ubiquitous seed bombs and wildflower seed mixes, unless you vetted the contents for success and non-invasiveness here in Washington. I’ve been seeing seeds mixed into everything, from plantable cards to lollipops (the seeds are in the sticks)! I’d suggest sticking with buying seeds in boring packets from reliable sources. Reviews for the lollipops I saw were rife with people saying they waited for three months, watered religiously and ... nada.

Now a bath bomb, made with herbs and spices to relax and renew garden-sore muscles, is a great idea.

Annie’sAnnuals.com offers sets of bath oil and fizzy cubes in stress-busting scents of lavender or cucumber, https://www.anniesannuals.com/plants/view/?id=4947. Because every gardener deserves a delicious hot bath that makes everything work again.

— Erica Browne Grivas is a freelance writer and gardening enthusiast who lives in Seattle.