Practical Christmas present ideas for gardeners

Practical Christmas present ideas for gardeners. Gardening, Garden, Garden blog, Gardeners, Present, Presents, Christmas, Christmas Present, Christmas Presents, Christmas present ideas, Christmas gifts, allotment, allotments, growing, grow your own,

Whilst garden centres will have you believe that the ideal Christmas present for your gardening loved on comes in the form of a themed meercat statue wearing a Santa hat, those of us in the real world know better. Here are my practical Christmas present ideas for gardeners.

I was reading this month’s edition of Gardens Illustrated when I couldn’t help but laugh at the Christmas gifts section. I know the magazine is supposed to be aspirational but the recommended presents for the gardener in your life were a mixture of over-priced tat and impractical tools. Here’s my list of real present ideas that will be received warmly and genuinely.

10 Christmas Gifts for Gardeners

Plant labels

You can truly never have too many plant labels. I know there’s a move to remove plastic from our gardens (it really is everywhere) but I’ve yet to find an alternative that is reusable and actually lasts one growing season. If I don’t label every pot then I have no idea what’s supposed to be in it. For the allotment, I like the extra large labels so I can write in large letters and be able to read it from standing.

Practical Christmas present ideas for gardeners. Gardening, Garden, Garden blog, Gardeners, Present, Presents, Christmas, Christmas Present, Christmas Presents, Christmas present ideas, Christmas gifts, allotment, allotments, growing, grow your own,

Fine-tipped permanent marker

I tend to write my plant labels in pencil (partly because I can use a rubber to remove the writing and re-use them) but for things that need to be labelled for more than a few months, I prefer a pen. They need to have a fine tip as I write the whole latin name, variety, and date of sowing on the label. The felt-tip types just end up an inky mess.
Practical Christmas present ideas for gardeners. Gardening, Garden, Garden blog, Gardeners, Present, Presents, Christmas, Christmas Present, Christmas Presents, Christmas present ideas, Christmas gifts, allotment, allotments, growing, grow your own,

Hazel poles

Is it me or does everything need staking on an allotment? Next year I’ll have 2 types of climbing french beans, runner beans, tomatoes, peas, and maybe some sweet peas. Not to mention the netting. Why is it so difficult to source them? Nowhere does home delivery, I have a Citroen C4 which is not conducive to transporting 7-foot poles, and I cannot find a local supplier. This is the closest my online research has found;

http://www.coppice-products.co.uk/product-type/beanpoles-pea-sticks

Cloches

In order to extend the season, you could either cover the plot with fleece or see-through plastic or invest in some re-usable cloches. I would prefer the latter but I’ve yet to get my hands on some of these beauties;

http://www.lavenderandleeks.co.uk/shop/grow/clocheborder-hoops

Trays

I like to keep the greenhouse organised and part of that is having plants, seedlings, or pots of cuttings all gathered together for convenience. I use the odd plastic produce tray that I’ve managed to get from plant nurseries when buying plants. It makes moving plants, potting up, and reorganising the benches much easier.
Practical Christmas present ideas for gardeners. Gardening, Garden, Garden blog, Gardeners, Present, Presents, Christmas, Christmas Present, Christmas Presents, Christmas present ideas, Christmas gifts, allotment, allotments, growing, grow your own,

Outdoor speaker

I tend to listen to podcasts on my phone when I’m out in the greenhouse. I do find that my earphone wires get caught all the time and it’s only a matter of time before I snip through it with the secateurs. Having a Bluetooth speaker would be a little luxury.
Practical Christmas present ideas for gardeners. Gardening, Garden, Garden blog, Gardeners, Present, Presents, Christmas, Christmas Present, Christmas Presents, Christmas present ideas, Christmas gifts, allotment, allotments, growing, grow your own,

Gardening books for Christmas gifts 2017

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Here are 5 gardening books on my Christmas List this year

I always put gardening books on my Christmas list. They’re the perfect gift for me, and for all gardeners. At this time of year, when the sun hasn’t come up when I go to work and has long since set before I leave for home, the opportunities for gardening become squeezed. With a book, you can visit other gardens, learn new techniques, and improve your own skills whilst the winter garden rests untended outside.

As the proud owner of a gardening bookshelf that dwarfs our local bookshop’s offerings, you’d think I wouldn’t have space for any more titles. You’d be wrong. We’re building a new bookcase next year and there are so many books I’ve come across this year that I’ve made a gardening books Christmas List.

Previous Christmas gardening books wishlists

Gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016

8 Books for my gardening bookshelf Christmas 2015

Epic Tomatoes

by Craig LeHoullier

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I’ve learnt about my namesake Craig LeHoullier from Jennifer Ebeling‘s (6ft mama) podcast – Still Growing. I’ve been listening and interacting with Jennifer for over a year now and I really like her interviews with interesting people. Craig has a wealth of experience growing tomatoes and is particularly involved in finding and breeding heirloom varieties that are in danger of being lost. Most importantly he’s clear on the merits of a tomato for different uses in the kitchen as well as ease of growing. I’m hoping to find a robust outdoor bush tomato to use the space on my allotment.

The Garden Photography Workshop

by Andrea Jones 
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I heard about this book listening to Andrea on Peter Donegan’s Sod Show Podcast this year. I really like photography and I occasionally take to my garden with SLR in hand. It would be great to improve my amateur skills.

The Thoughtful Gardener

by Jinny Blom

This book on garden design has had some strong reviews so I’m keen to see what it’s like. I’m a big fan of Jinny Blom’s planting and it would be good to see how she plans, and implements, her designs.

RHS Genealogy for Gardeners

by Simon Maughan and Ross Bayton

I have the two other books in this RHS series of plant geekery. Latin for Gardeners was released in 2012, with Botany for Gardeners following in 2013. These small, beautifully illustrated, handbooks are the perfect thing for plant nerds to get a better understanding of the science and history of gardening. I’m hoping that Genealogy for Gardeners will be just as good.

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Tender – Volumes I & II

by Nigel Slater

Now I know that, technically, this isn’t a gardening book. I’d say it’s gardening adjacent. I’ve had my allotment since April and I’m hoping for big things next year. The whole point of the allotment was to provide some fresh, seasonal food for us to cook and eat. I’ve mastered my sauteed Cavelo Nero with garlic and it’s become a staple in the weekly meal plan. I’d like to do more with what I grow and I’ve read some amazing reviews of these two books.
allotment, amazon, andrea jones, Book, books, books for gardeners, bookshelf, bookshop, Christmas, Christmas gifts, Christmas list, Christmas presents, Cooking, Craig leHoullier, Garden Design, garden photography, gardeners, gardening, gardening books, genealogy, gift ideas, gifts for gardeners, harvest, heirloom, heritage, Jinny Blom, Nigel Slater, Produce, reading, RHS, tomato, tomato growing, tomatoes, Waterstonesallotment, amazon, andrea jones, Book, books, books for gardeners, bookshelf, bookshop, Christmas, Christmas gifts, Christmas list, Christmas presents, Cooking, Craig leHoullier, Garden Design, garden photography, gardeners, gardening, gardening books, genealogy, gift ideas, gifts for gardeners, harvest, heirloom, heritage, Jinny Blom, Nigel Slater, Produce, reading, RHS, tomato, tomato growing, tomatoes, Waterstones

The surprising places to find horticulture: Singapore Airport Floral Displays 

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Singapore leads the Green Cities of the world. I transferred through the airport on my way to a family Christmas in Thailand (more posts to follow) and was struck by the presence of a lot of horticulture on show before you even leave the airport.  A lot of this may have been due to it being 3 days before Christmas but I get the sense that there’s a lot on display for most of the year.

The Christmas Displays

The traditional pine trees of the northern hemisphere were well represented but mixed with a tropical display of Orchids and Poinsettias. I have since found out that the orchids on display were mainly the official flower of Singapore. This is Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’. More on that to come in future posts.

The surprising places to find horticulture: Singapore Airport Floral Displays 
Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’, Pointsettia and decorated pines
The surprising places to find horticulture: Singapore Airport Floral Displays 
Orchids, Christmas Tree and tropical planting
The surprising places to find horticulture: Singapore Airport Floral Displays 
Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis) combined with pine Christmas Tree and tropical foliage

Airport Gardens

I was very excited to see signs to a Waterlily Garden and a desert garden. My excitement soon evaporated when I realised that these were simply outdoor spaces designated as smoking areas. Huge disappointment as I wasn’t able to explore them in any detail.

The surprising places to find horticulture: Singapore Airport Floral Displays 
The waterlily garden in Singapore airport.

The Green Wall

I had to go and give the plants a rummage to convince myself that this was in fact a collection of real plants on display and not simply some fakes lined up for show. What an example of what can be achieved in a low light environment! Very impressive.

The surprising places to find horticulture: Singapore Airport Floral Displays 

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016

gardening books for christmas gifts 2016

At this time of year it can be hard to come up with ideas for Christmas gifts for your loved ones. That can be especially true for gardening gifts as we’re a very particular lot. I know myself that most of the tat I see in garden centres – I’m looking at you novelty mugs and neon plastic hand tools – would require a very large effort on xmas morning in the ‘look like you’re pleased face’ department. You’d think that just buying someone a plant would be an easy win but at this time of year a garden centre or nursery can look a bit dismal to the untrained eye and if it’s not on the planting plan it doesn’t go in my garden.

One safe option should be a good gardening book. You’ll now know the obsession I have with gardening books. It’s dark and cold outside and curling up with a good gardening book seems perfect. Only if it’s a good book mind you. ‘101 fake houseplants’ or ‘dummies guide to plant care’ would be re-gifted without hesitation. What I’m looking for is not so much the ‘How to’ style of publication but books about gardening. Gardening has a wide variety of sub-genres to mine for book ideas (history, plantspeople and finders, historical gardens, species specific, instruction guides, travel, and many more) but the ones that have caught my eye this year look to be opinion, historical and ecological. A suitably vintage / illustrated cover also seems to be a requirement.

The Apple Orchard

I heard Pete Brown on a recent BBC podcast with Mark Diacono (of Otter Farm and River Cottage fame) and made a note to look up his most recent book. The poor chap has an allergy to the apples he was researching! The apple merges the horticulture, food, and history of gardening perfectly and I’m excited to delve in and learn more.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
The Apple Orchard

Nigel

Okay, hands up, I know this isn’t technically about gardening but this list is for gardeners and who doesn’t love a bit of Monty?

It’s too soon since the loss of our beloved chocolate labrador to be diving in to this book just yet. I’m not making a Marley and Me mistake again. Monty has shown time and again through his published books and articles that he’s a master of words and I’m looking forward to learning more about him and his beautiful retrievers.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
Nigel


Rhapsody in Green

The ‘look inside’ option on amazon is a really useful tool if you’re like me and can be easily annoyed by the voice of an author. There’s nothing worse than finding a good book ruined by irritating prose. My top peeves include overly tortuous metaphors and asinine turn of phrase. None of that with this writer. I chuckled in the first paragraph I read and I am very looking forward to getting my hands on this book.

The blurb suggests it’s content is a gardeners experiences managing a cramped urban garden and other thoughts.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
Rhapsody in Green

The Running Hare

I’ve not come across the author John Lewis-Stempel before. Looking into his bio I’m not sure why that is as his past catalogue looks to be right up my street. This book details the plight of the native hare in England as an example of the changes in the countryside due to modern agriculture.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
The Running Hare

Hedgerow

John Wright will be familiar to some from his appearances on River Cottage over the years. He has spent a year foraging for his food in earlier works. In this book he takes you through the history of the hedgerow, and variations on alternative field boundaries.

Hedgerow

The Sceptical Gardener

I’m always a little apprehensive when a collection of newspaper articles makes it into book format. There’s always a feeling of ‘bubble and squeak’ trickery in reusing material. However the reviews of this book look great. I love a different viewpoint approach and more than that I like the being more informed than the Average Joe so I can feel superior in my knowledge.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
The Sceptical Gardener

Explorers’ Botanical Notebook

I’m currently reading The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf and this new book immediately caught my eye. Having a peek at the inside pages provided by the publisher reveals images of the actual herbarium specimens and notes made by the explorers covered. It looks like a beautifully constructed book covering one of my favourite gardening topics.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
Explorers’ Botanical Notebook

 

We’ll see is Santa is being generous this year and with any luck I’ll be able to post a book review of one or more of these titles. Fingers (sticky with mince pies) crossed. What’s on your Christmas book list?

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

 

So we woke up to find the cottage had flooded (a little – mostly small puddles and damp carpet). Although the cat stranded on the coffee table didn’t agree it was only a little. The worst bit was finding the barn had flooded and our winter logs are sodden. However everything cleaned up okay and we’re back on track for Xmas. Could’ve been much worse.

Now settling in with the fire roaring and sleeping dogs at our feet it’s starting to feel like Christmas. Must mean it’s time to open the sloe gin we made back in Autumn and relax.

I hope everyone has a warm, dry, safe and happy Christmas.

8 Books for my gardening bookshelf this Christmas

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The confession

I love gardening books. It’s true to say I probably have too many gardening books (but don’t tell the other half). Yesterday I was in a well-known national book shop and realised I had more books than their gardening section offered! Shame on them.

When the weather changes to wet and dreary, the garden has been tidied for winter and the seed shopping is done, what’s better than curling up in front of the fire and losing yourself in indulgent fantasy.

I’ve included links to amazon pages. Also have a look in your local independent bookshop, or online book recycling websites.

Christmas Book Wishlist

1. Carol Klein – Wild Flowers

Carol Klein WIld Flowers

I love Carol Klein and have all her books and I can happily watch re-runs of her tv series. I even had an embarrassing fainting episode at RHS Tatton Park show a couple of years ago during her demonstration on propagation. To this day I still maintain that it was a combination of the hot sunny day and a lovely pint of cider but my fiancée is convinced it was a teenage-TakeThat-fan-like reaction to seeing Carol.

2. Jennifer Potter – The Rose

This book has received great reviews and would sit well alongside my Anna Pavord titles. I had a look at the beautiful hardback in the bookshop yesterday.

3. Jennifer Potter – Seven flowers and how they shaped our world

I love the meeting of plants and history. I have Andrea Wulf’s offerings in pride of place on my bookshelf. In Jennifer Potter’s second book on this list she covers seven plants and explores their impact on the world.

4. Sue Stickland – Back garden seed saving

The first of two books on this list I’ve learnt about via the Real Seeds website. Reviewed as being invaluable for anyone looking to save their own seeds and interestingly looks to be achievable at home.

5. Kate Collyns – Gardening for profit

I learnt about this book via Grow Green @ Hartley Farm and I have also found great reviews elsewhere. This fits the daydreaming requirement of gardening books for me. It’s unlikely I’ll be running my own well-respected, viable, specialist nursery any time soon. What this book offers is practical and experience-based information on the business of gardening.

6. Carol Deppe – Breed your own vegetable varieties

With my love affair with all things heritage, see here, I was intrigued by this book on the Real Seeds website. I shall be saving the seeds of my recent purchases and hopefully this book could come in handy.

7. Geoff Hodge – Botany for gardeners

Last year I bought the RHS Latin for Gardeners. I was really excited to see this new title appear. I had a quick, indulgent look yesterday in the book shop. It’s so tactile with its textured hardback. The inside looks like a series of paintings. I know it’s wrong to covet but ….

8. Chris Beardshaw – 100 plants that almost changed the world

I’m a huge fan of Chris Beardshaw. His explanations on gardeners question time and Beechgrove are always interesting and imbued with his vast knowledge. I also like the humour he brings to things.

Thanks to a kindly donated sideboard from a relative we’ve been able to clear one of the shelves in the gardening bookshelf.

So Santa, if you’re reading……

Real seeds

Real Seeds

 

Time to get real with seeds

The greenhouse isn’t even built yet but I’m already getting carried away with what I could use it for. Without having had anywhere to get a successful crop I haven’t grown chillies, tomatoes or peppers for a number of years now. However, with 2014 bringing good changes in the garden I am going to make the most of it. (I was going to throw in a pun about being given a “green(house) light” but we’re both better than that).

More posts about seeds:

Springing Up

Beans

Chinese Lanterns

RHS Seeds 2014

Totnes Seed Swap 2014

Chilli Challenge

Looking wider for seed suppliers

I have been living vicariously through the internet and books – imagining what I could grow if only I had the space (not an activity that achieves much other than envy but harmless fantasising nonetheless). So I had a pretty good idea of where to go to get my seeds. I’ve always loved the ethos of The Real Seed Catalogue; heritage varieties, home seed-saving, local provenance, and developing your own lineages that over short years can become adapted to local growing conditions or even selected for qualities important to the grower.

Real Seeds
The seed packets from Real Seeds.

It makes so much sense that natural variation means plants crop at slightly different times so your harvest is staggered rather than too much of a glut. I also don’t need perfectly blemish-free and uniform crops in order to enjoy them. Any variety that needs controlled commercial conditions from growers on the continent are not going to be as happy in my ramshackle and unheated greenhouse with my sporadic attentions. So why make life hard? Additionally, where along the line did we forget about taste? It’s time for a change.

So my modest collection of Real Seeds arrived 2 days after ordering in a nice neat envelope in beautiful packaging and so much written information to help me get success. I’d love to have ordered oodles more varieties in order to do trials of my own – but I need to be realistic. I don’t have the time or space to undertake such an endeavour so I’ll trust in the work of Ben and Kate and the team at Real Seeds who have done the hard work for me.

Time for a revolution?

I’ve also been intrigued by James Wong and his homegrown revolution. Why not try the lesser-known edibles that are enjoyed around the world? And if they’re as easy to grow as he claims we’d all be stupid not to try. His seed collection is available through Suttons Seeds.

But I’ve hit a snag – space. So I’ve hatched a cunning plan. I have two friends who I have pulled in 2 Secret Santa rings who are also into gardening. They both have more space than me so I’ve decided to give them some James Wong seeds. This is not entirely altruistic as they are both generous friends and it’s only a matter of time before I’m invited to try the crops. (It’s tough being an evil green-fingered and greedy mastermind)

Some more unusual plants to try
Some more unusual plants to try

10 Christmas gifts for gardeners

www.mypottingbenchblog.com/10-christmas-gifts-for-gardeners

10 Christmas gifts for gardeners (that we really want)

Every year I’m asked to produce a Christmas list to be distributed around the family. Now you would think this was a nice easy task. Unfortunately, when I’m done listing all the things I’d like to get I’m left feeling a little sad as I know I’ll never get any of these things. It’s not that I don’t have a lovely and generous family, I do, but that my ideas for wonderful and useful gifts not match their’s. I’m constantly being told “that’s not a real present!”. So here is my top 10 Christmas gifts for gardeners (that we really want)

Please don’t spoil me

I really would appreciate some good, warm socks! Practical is no longer considered enough. I’d rather have a new ball of string over a novelty gnome any day. As a breed, us gardeners are a blend of thrift and practicality. So, for all those practical, sensible and disappointed gardeners out there, here’s my list of truly wonderful festive gifts.

Here’s the top 10 most useful and wanted gifts for the gardener in your life

1. String
2. Topiary shears
3. Reclamation windows to make into a cold frame
4. Labels
5. Bulk bags of compost / topsoil / horse manure / grit
6. Fingerless gloves
7. Chop sticks (the only pricking out tool worth having)
8. Brown paper bags (for seed collecting)
9. Little “wage-slip” envelopes (for seed storage)
10. An outdoor radio (I know this doesn’t fit with the thrift approach but it is Christmas)

Happy shopping!