Published on 12/03/99

Gardeners Don't Want Neckties

Now that the initial rush of gift buying is over, hopefully you have saved the receipts for the returns you are going to take back after the holidays. You forgot, didn't you -- gardeners don't wear neckties.

When in Doubt, Ask

As a general rule, real gardeners prefer plants, tools, topsoil or other items over a necktie or a salad shooter. If you don't know what to buy the gardener on your list, use the old time tested method. Just ask! Or, if you want to be the recipient of the gift, use the method my daughters use; cut out pictures and tape them on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror.

What do gardeners want for Christmas?

The choices are as varied as the gardening public, but watch out for the scrim shaded, pastel gardener's catalogs; much of that merchandise is not meant for "real" gardeners.

Gloves or a Hat?

Gloves might do if they are the really tough goat skins. They'll last for years and are extremely comfortable. And real gardeners don't wear $80 gardeners pants. Just take those old jeans and put some real neat patches on them. They're "broken in," they're comfortable and they have plenty of wear left.

Also, every gardener needs a really big gardening hat the bigger the better for keeping the sun off. A hat with string ties is best as it stays on better through all of the bending.

Most gardeners have more equipment than they need, but they can always use the right stuff. How do you get the right stuff? Ask!

Tools Top the List

Do they need a new power hedge trimmer or just a new spring toothed yard rake? A really sturdy English turning fork is always a favorite. My wife's fork is 13 years old and has had one new handle. Remember, most tools come in ladies' sizes and are just as sturdy, only smaller.

There are a host of other possible choices: A garden cart, a new plastic wheelbarrow, a compost bin or a swing or bench to enjoy the results of their gardening work.

There are also many "dirty" gifts for the gardeners such as soil mixes, topsoil, compost, mulch, stepping stones, even flagstones for a patio.

Don't shy away from dirty gifts. They are sometimes the most appreciated.

What about a book? Southern garden books are relevant and useful. Southern gardeners have finally started to share their knowledge and believe me, it's vast. Or a maybe a coffee table book with exquisite pictures of English roses or panoramas of Italian estates would suit your gardener.

Herb Items are 'Hot'

The hottest gardening items are anything to do with herbs herb pots, also known as strawberry jars, both herb cookbooks and regular books, and herb plants.

Speaking of plants, they can be the perfect gift. Some of us garden for the sense of greenery, others for the show of colors, while others are drawn to the garden for that certain fragrance, but all efforts revolve around plants?

What better gift? Has any gardener got "enough" plants? And, if plants aren't ready at Christmas, do the next best thing give them a picture and a promise. For plants, a real gardener will wait. Even better, make it special and put the picture in a card and place it under that first Christmas morning cup of coffee.

Whatever you decide on, the thought of the gift is the most important thing. Well, they can always use the necktie for the scarecrow.

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