Gardening Miscellany

These are a few of my favorite things

The following article is one that I wrote for the members’ newsletter of the Ottawa Horticultural Society. May it inspire your gift-giving for the gardener on your list this festive season!

We gardeners can be a prickly, self-sufficient lot, so non-gardeners may be challenged to know what gifts will be welcomed. Here, just in time for your Christmas shopping, are some suggestions from among my favorite things.

A trio of colourful trugs or a terrific trowel might please the gardener in your life. Photo by R. Last.


Every gardener has their favorite tools, usually tried and true items that see years of wear. Gift givers are advised to avoid trendy gadgets and select well-made classics instead. For example, I’m always in need of new snippers and secateurs and it’s hard to find quality light-weight by-pass pruners. This relatively inexpensive stocking-stuffer is sure to please.

In my small garden, I use a lot of hand tools. A well-balanced trowel with a comfortable handle is indispensable. The hand-held, three-pronged cultivator (AKA “the Claw”) is another classic. If the gardener on your gifting list already has both these items, consider the hori knife – a nifty Asian invention that combines the qualities of both a trowel and a cultivator.

I always bring a bucket or trug when I go into the garden for the weeds that I know I will inevitably pull out. A colourful trug is so much more appealing than the 5-gallon food buckets I used to use. And because I do so much gardening on my hands and knees, a kneeling pad is another essential in my arsenal of garden tools.

Great gardening gloves and nifty nippers are potential stocking-stuffers for the gardener on your gift list. Photo by R. Last.


To me, gardening is a “full contact sport” so having the right clothing is important. A long-sleeved cotton shirt protects my skin from the sun, and from scratches. A sun hat with a wide brim and a chin strap to keep it in place on windy days is another necessity for my fair skin. However, I’m still looking for a hat that is crushable and washable. My current hat is neither and is now beyond disreputable from years of sweat and hard wear.

I used to love plunging my hands into warm soil, but a bad case of hand eczema means I now need to wear gloves. Even without this nasty skin condition, some garden jobs require going gloved. Tough, elbow-length leather gloves are pricey but will be a welcome gift for the rose-grower on your list. Also elbow-length but softer, more flexible and much less costly, Foxglove brand gardening gloves have a deservedly good reputation. For my money, I like the grip I get from a glove with a woven back and latex or Nitrile palms.


Great gifts from a good friend include a table-top tarp and a perforated trug that doubles as a colander. Photo by R. Last.

My friend Josie has a knack for giving me things that I didn’t know I needed or wanted but then wonder how I ever lived without. Two of these are a table-top tarp which is incredibly useful for my late winter seed starting, or any time I’m potting up something indoors; and a trug that doubles as a colander, allowing me to wash produce I’ve just pulled out of the ground.

Garden Art

For some reason, my family has always had a fascination with garden gnomes. In the early years, we received many of them, some appearing anonymously out of nowhere. We were at risk of being overrun by garden gnomes and had to declare a moratorium!

A visitor surrounded by too many garden gnomes. Photo by R. Last.

Art is so personal that a gift of garden art is a potential minefield. However, a tasteful, well-made durable piece may well be welcomed. Stay away from brightly coloured and tacky plastic items. A nice compromise is a something both practical and decorative, such as a garden stake that has an ornamental element or a solar-power garden light.


Finding the right plant for “plant-aholic” gardeners can be challenging, especially in winter. However, cut flowers and a nice vase to put them in will always be welcomed. Bulbs such as Amaryllis, which can be counted on to bloom in mid-winter, are another good choice, as are seeds of the latest annual cultivars. One of the nicest stocking-stuffers I got last Christmas also came from my good friend Josie. It was several packages of sprouting seeds that I was able to grow in a glass jar. Thanks to this thoughtful gift, I was able to satisfy my growing impulses in mid-winter and add freshly grown sprouts to salads and omelettes. While gift certificates may seem like the last resort of the unimaginative, a gift coupon from one of the local speciality nurseries is a great idea. It keeps money in the local community and could include an offer to accompany the recipient or drive them for a special outing to one of the farther-flung local nurseries.

Cut flowers and a nice vase to put them in will always be welcomed. Photo by R. Last.

Reading and Reference Materials

It seems almost every month there is a new gardening book in the top ten most popular reads and chances are the gardener in your life already has all the gardening books they will ever need. However, a digital subscription to a gardening magazine might be welcomed. Another option is a specialized gardening calendar such as the locally produced Earth Haven Celestial Planting Calendar, or the phenology calendar from McGill Univerity’s Morgan Arboretum. This being Canada’s Year of the Garden, you also have the opportunity to buy Gardens Canada: Living the Garden Life, a gorgeously illustrated 18-month calendar, sales of which support horticultural societies across Canada.

Gifting a gardening journal might evoke guilt, but I’ve sometimes used these as to document family gatherings, many of which took place in the garden. More serious gardeners might appreciate one of those multi-year gardening journals, which are great tools for the gardener cum citizen-scientist.

These are a few of my favourite things. I hope they help inspire your gift-giving for the gardener in your life.

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