santa, baby: gifts for good gardeners, 2012

DEAR SANTA: The list below is long, but as you can tell (in your great wisdom) it’s not all for me, but for us—for me and my very-well-behaved garden friends who hang out here all year, and always do their chores. Yes, there’s a thing or two with my name on it, and you know which those are (don’t you?).  The bulk, though, are things I love and rely upon, things I’m certain my friends would really enjoy–gifts for other gardeners.

happy feet!

I HAVE NEVER had a pair of boots that wasn’t hunter green or just plain black, but the madcap, cotton-lined, waterproof boots from Oregon-based Jessica Swift (top left of top photo) made me smile—and $5 from each pair sold will go to helping Charity: Water, a non-profit bringing clean drinking water to developing nations. The boots’ creator runs a new one-woman, crowd-funded business, and inside each boot is as brightly patterned as outside—plus Jessica has added a positive message like “this is the moment—your moment” to the lining, too.  Not sure what my dairy-farming neighbors will think if I show up in these babies at the Post Office or General Store, but maybe I’ll take a walk on the wild side and find out. Happy feet, anyone?

gold standard: hose of my dreams

EVERYONE WHO VISITS the garden on Open Days wants one: a super-lightweight, drinking-water-safe, beautifully colored hose (many hues to choose from, including olive and cranberry, shown above, and purple and more). No more dragging around heavy, kinked-up traditional hoses for me the last few years, since I found the made-in-America ones from Water Right Inc., an Oregon-based family business.

stocking-stuffer seeds

IT WOULDN’T be Christmas without a stocking, or a stocking without a seed pack or two stuffed inside. The most beautiful in the land are once again from Hudson Valley Seed Library—yet another neighbor!—and you can see the whole range of their origami-like art packets here, each coming filled with open-pollinated seed that was grown and harvested with love and care. That’s the unfolded packet for ‘Isis Candy Shop’ tomato, bottom right of collage above.

beautiful botanical roommates

I HAVE OFTEN given houseplants-by-mail from Logee’s, the popular family-run greenhouse operation in Connecticut founded in 1892.  My favorites to give: begonias (I love ‘Marmaduke’ and ‘Little Brother Montgomery’) and oddball little curiosities such as Bowiea (look what mine turned into over the years, starting from a single little mail-order baby). But there is everything from orchids to dwarf fruit trees, passion flowers to succulents. Your gift will be shipped on a day the weather allows, or order insulated express shipping for an extra charge.


tools for the tightest cracks, or spots beyond reach

TWO OF THE hardest maintenance jobs here: weeds that love to tuck themselves into cracks and crevices like the patio or driveway, and pruning that needs to be done beyond the reach of my arm. Favorite solutions: a hori-hori (above), or Japanese weeding knife (also good as a digger) and an ARS long-handled pruner (lightweight aluminum but a very serious workhorse). The ARS tools come in fixed or telescoping lengths; see them all here, then shop around for the best price on the one you want.

a serious food dehydrator

SPEAKING OF tools, a serious food dehydrator would certainly complete my harvest-saving toolkit.  The Excalibur series is made of BPA-free plastic and adjusts to temperatures between 95 and 145 degrees F. The model with built-in timer is the one of my dreams. (Hint, Santa, big hint!) It comes in white or black, shown above left.

for the weather-obsessed

I WISH I’D skipped the other $40 and $60 weather stations I’ve tried—none of which worked consistently–and saved for a Davis Vantage Vue years ago. Shop around; you can get it for well below the manufacturer list price. Records wind speed, precipitation, indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, high-low readings and more, all of which reads out on the indoor base station console.

2 favorite aprons

I’VE CONFESSED to my apron-obsession, and there are two I particularly love that make exceptional gifts: the ultimate handmade linen ones from my close-by neighbor at Boxwood Linen (available in various colors and with monogram or other embroidery to personalize it; top left above), and the ones from Utility Canvas (friends across the Hudson River), that I often wear in the garden, too. The latter comes in a wide range of colors, too, including orange (seen above).

best basic bird binoculars

MY IDEA of happiness: a pair of binoculars upstairs and another downstairs (since the latest bird is always gone before I run up and down!), and yet another in the car for taking on walks. Sounds expensive, right? But maybe not. Pete Dunne of Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory says there’s an under-$100 pair that’s really good, the Leupold Yosemite. Shop by starting from among all Pete’s recommendations here (and your purchases benefit the Observatory in the process).

one smart feeder

AS FOR squirrel-proof feeders, I have tried them all, and can’t say I’m impressed with any that promised to protect sunflower seed, in particular. The Brome Squirrel-Buster finch feeder (for thistle) seems to be a winner, though, one month into use in my yard. If a rat with a furry tail tries to get into this contraption, his weight pulls down the protective outer wire grid that birds perch on, so it’s out of alignment with the inner seed ports. Take that! I’m about to try the Brome version that holds sunflower and other seed (hear me, Santa?), the Classic.

(Disclaimers: Links to Amazon may yield a small commission if goods are purchased; I use my commissions to fund book giveaways on the website. Hudson Valley Seed Library and Peaceful Valley are currently advertising on A Way to Garden, but our relationship and my use of their products long precedes that arrangement. )

  1. Betsy says:

    I need another food dehydrator, but I have no room to store it. The weather station would be a lot of fun and I have just the place for it!

  2. Jason says:

    What a great selection of presents! I’m going to have to pick some for myself, though, because in our family these days we only buy a token present or two and take a trip together instead (to South Carolina this year).

  3. Heidi says:

    Do you use the hose that is featured? I am so frustrated with the last two hoses I have bought. Usually, if it is not kinking it is springing pin hole leaks when I use a sprayer. I fussy hose makes for a fussy gardener!

    1. margaret says:

      Yes, Heidi — as mentioned I gradually swapped out all my old hoses (many of them very high quality and not cheap, but heavy and prone to kinking etc) for these over the last 3 or 4 years gradually. I have them in the dark olive color in 75 and 100 foot lengths. I love them — they weigh nothing. IN fact, you have to get used to that after dragging around heavy ones for so long.

  4. Shery says:

    I also love the boots. My garden sloggers are super ugly but no body else has ever worn them, which is a plus. And I love that weather station. I got my son a very nice station for Christmas last year but it is not near as fabulous as this one. I’m gonna save for it because I always buy myself good Christmas presents.

  5. Ms. Tweetley says:

    I agree on the Water Right hoses. I particularly love the fun colors; my most recent one was cranberry, which makes me happy when I use it. They are not entirely kink-free, but so much better than other hoses I’ve used.

  6. Nadia Ameri says:

    Wow.. hoses that are light and easy to carry around. Seems unreal?! I like the plants from Logee’s. I’m going to have to check them out. Thanks for the info.

    1. margaret says:

      Good choice, Julia. I am so happy with them — and as I say everyone always asks about them during garden tours. Enjoy.

  7. Marion Kukula says:

    I did order aprons from Utility Canvas in NY. I am trying to buy stuff made in the USA. These are designed in Gardiner, NY, but nowhere does it say, Made in the US. Are they made in China?????

  8. Diane says:

    I found out about the Water Right hoses from your site, Margaret, and I love mine! It’s a 50 footer, so lightweight and easy to manage (a luscious purple too). I won’t buy any other type in the future. Thanks for the info Margaret.

  9. Gail says:

    The Squirrel Buster feeders are THE best. After a year of a Squirrel Buster finch feeder we purchased a Squirrel Buster peanut feeder. Now that we’re not spending so much time trying to figure out how to out smart the squirrels we can enjoy the birds!

  10. Sara says:

    The Brome bird feeders are great…I bought one and inherited two more from friends who were moving to Florida. I love them…and the squirrels hate them!!

  11. Eileen J says:

    I bought a Water Right hose last summer and I love it! The olive green is unobtrusive in the lawn, it is light and easy to handle, doesn’t kink easily, and it seems extremely durable. Next summer I’ll replace 100 feet of hose in my back yard also. I wish it came in a larger diameter.

  12. jules says:

    A Christmas gift for our family. a Christmas tree with rootball to help start replacing all those that came down in the storm. any suggestions – some of waytogarden’s recs, ie golden hinoki cypress no longer available in December. any other conifer suggestions? maybe a holly?

  13. Deborah B says:

    So many beautiful things! One note on bird feeders. We have a tall, cheaply made one which has a base of concrete, a long ugly pipe for a stand and a big wire circle that holds the seed. I like that it holds an enormous amount of seed, and it may live forever. We’ve replaced the base and lid of the wire hopper a few times (large plastic plant saucers work fine) and the concrete base had to be recast this year when it finally disintegrated. When the wire gets fragile I’m sure we can recreate that also. The big disadvantage of this feeder used to be its easy access for squirrels. But now we mix some cayenne pepper with the sunflower seeds. The vitamin A in cayenne is good for birds and the heat doesn’t bother them. And the squirrels don’t like it. I just have to be careful about which way the wind is blowing when I fill the feeder, and remember to wash my hands immediately after. It works for us.

  14. Joan Hannes says:

    I’m thinking about the feeder too, but I live in squirrel utopia in Northern NJ. I looked at it online but the optional cardinal perch is plastic and I’m pretty sure the squirrels will enjoy chewing on that even if it doesn’t net them any seeds. Any other suggestions?

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