If you think it's too early to start holiday shopping, take a look around.
Stores have been putting out their holiday displays even before Halloween. If, in October, you were to stand at one of the department store endcaps and look down the length of the row, you likely would have seen Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas displays taking up individual sections of the same aisle. You may even have been one of those who complained the stores were pushing the holidays down our throats way too early, but at the same time, you couldn't help but take a peek while you mentally began your own shopping list.
Shopping for the gardener in your life can be difficult this time of year. In discount stores, garden centers are torn down to make room for holiday displays. Where we once shopped for seeds and fertilizers, we are now perusing tree lights and ornaments.
Fortunately, garden centers, although they also give up plant and seed space to holiday adornments, still carry items that would make perfect gifts for the gardener in your life. But be careful. Giving your seasoned gardener a plastic hand trowel and knit gloves would be like giving Pablo Picasso a paint-by-number set. Yet it doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, there are a lot of non-gardener-type gifts that would suit a gardener just as well, without being as blatant as, let's say, a rototiller or weasel weeder.
For the winter garden designer, for example, a good landscaping computer program might help get through the gardenless months with as little anxiety as possible. Veteran gardeners know the value of a working design before the actual work begins. (We might not always do it, but we know it's easier to work with a plan). Winter is the perfect time to make those plans, but no one wants to trudge through the snow to mark off boundaries for borders and paths. With many landscape computer programs, thousands of plants are included and more are downloadable from Internet sites. Some programs allow you to design your home and garden from the foundation up, or individual areas if your gardener is working in stages. These programs also offer three-dimensional looks at the landscape including how a plant might look over time as it matures. This is a great tool for those who tend to plant too close to the foundation or crowd too many small plants into one space without taking into consideration that perennials and shrubs tend to get taller and wider each subsequent year.
But what if your gardener isn't computer savvy? Not a problem because design tools have been around a lot longer than computers.
One of the best gifts I received came from my mother, and although it had nothing to do with gardening, it not only gave me much enjoyment, but influenced some of my own gift-giving over the years. While gardening took up much of my summer activity, winter was spent, usually with needlework in my lap. This particular Christmas, my mother gave me a box that contained a potpourri of items for nearly all of my needlework hobbies. The box contained several small skeins of embroidery thread, a few skeins of yarn, needles, pins, tape measure - you get the picture. She gave me this box before gift-baskets became popular, otherwise, she probably would have put all of these items in a big sewing basket and enclosed the entire thing in multi-colored shrink wrap.
If you are wondering what you would put into such a basket, use a little imagination.
It could contain rolled up sheets of graph and tracing paper. I'm not talking about those graph paper tablets you find in the school supplies aisle at the grocery store. I would expect big (think BIG), sheets of graph paper from the office supply store or the art department at the local hobby shop. These are roomy enough to design an entire back yard if needed. Tracing paper is important for adding overlays on the graph to add plants and structures to the design so make those sheets equally as big. In order to make designs, a garden artist also will need colored pencils, a compass for drawing circles and arches (there are no straight lines in nature), plenty of pencils, erasers, sharpeners and straight edge rulers (structures do have straight lines).
Don't forget the basket itself. Find a sturdy harvest basket with heavy handles that won't break the moment the basket is expected to carry five pounds of newly dug potatoes.
Baskets also can hold gift certificates for garden centers and if you must buy trowels look for the most excellent of products with metal shovels, sharp blades and sturdy hardwood handles. Gloves should be sized to fit the gardener. There is nothing worse than trying to pull weeds wearing gloves with floppy fingers that extend longer than the gardener's real fingers. Gloves also should be sturdy, preferably leather or at least heavy enough to withstand the sharp spines of some plants. If your gardener is into roses, consider elbow-length leather pruning gloves because thorns hurt.
What else? How about magazine subscriptions, a copy of a newly published book (check your bookstore for what's new) and a journal for logging garden successes and failures. And if you are really feeling generous, a digital pocket camera is an excellent gift for recording the ever-changing world that is the garden.