Published on 12/09/96

Christmas Gifts for Gardeners Are Easy

What man could get away with giving his wife a truckload of topsoil for her Christmas gift? I did and survived! That's when you know you're married to a real gardener.

What do you give a gardener? Just about anything having to do with plants and soil. And you don't have to search the malls to find them.

Garden tools are always a favorite. However, quality is a must. Be sure handles are well-attached and metal parts can stand up to rocky or hard clay soil.

There are special tools for children, left-handed gardeners and people with arthritis or other disabilities. There are long-handled tools for people who can't kneel. And all gardeners appreciate kneeling pads and garden scooters.

A good garden cart makes a super gift. This large box on wheels, a hybrid of the wheelbarrow, may be less maneuverable in tight spaces but doesn't require a balancing act to handle.

Larger models with pneumatic tires make moving massive loads over rough terrain a breeze. Angled front edges or removable front panels allow easy unloading.

A bag of special fertilizer could make someone happy. A friend gives five-gallon buckets of homemade compost to fellow gardeners. And there's always that truckload of topsoil or pine bark.

Can't decide among the pretty plastic pool, a power pruner or a pink pachyderm pourspout? A gift certificate from a garden center or nursery is always welcomed. Maybe the gardener has wanted a Japanese maple, prize-winning day lily or special rhododendron. Let the gardener decide. You just provide the wherewithal.

If you give a plant, pick something unusual. Don't just add to the houseplant collection. You may jump-start a lifelong interest in orchids or heirloom roses.

Most serious gardeners are annoyed by unnecessary accessories. They don't want a $4 ceramic marker for a $2 rosemary plant. They'd rather have two plants.

I was given one of the ZooDoo (made from zoo fertilizer) pets. I just put it in the garden and it melted away, adding fertilizer -- not a bad gift idea if you're a special friend.

Pots for inside and outside are always welcome. And don't forget vases -- most gardeners want to bring cut flowers inside.

One useful idea is to give a beautifully painted mailbox for the garden, for storing tools and gloves.

For those with bigger gardens and budgets, choose from a zoo full of animal statuary. How about a playful giraffe to greet visitors at the garden's entrance? Or a host of jolly hippos spritzing water into the pool?

For smaller yards, a nice beehive or a half-barrel water garden makes the ordinary extraordinary.

What about garden lights to enhance the evening? Or stepping stones to keep feet dry or guide little footsteps?

Perhaps the gardener would like a garden bench. Gardens are for relaxing, and there should always be a resting place for meditation.

If you're handy with carpentry, build a potting workbench, a bench with storage for tools, shoes and gloves. Or build a trellis for a climbing rose or an arbor for a wisteria or grape vine.

Clothing and shoes are always welcome and can include aprons, "wellies" (rubber boots) and the ever-useful clogs. No gardener has too many gloves -- a dozen plain jersey gloves are comfortable and washable.

There are many bird and now butterfly houses, too, as well as feeders, waterers and special plants.

And when the gardener isn't playing in the dirt, he or she is reading about it. Delight your favorite gardener with garden books. You can now find any type, including combinations with cooking, canning, drying, flower arranging and traveling.

Gardeners are easy to buy for. As long as it's for the garden, you can't go wrong with the gift.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.