GARDENING GURU: Last minute gardening gifts 

Published on December 19, 2015

Want to know something about gardeners? They may be the easiest people on your gift-giving list to find gifts for. 

For one thing, you do not need to leave home to acquire an appropriate and exciting gift. Secondly, gardeners love nature, which is all around us. All you need to do is use some imagination to come up with some wonderful one-of-a-kind gifts that will be memorable.

Once again, I am here to help.

1. Hands. Gardening is a hand craft. Few of us think of it this way. A pair of gloves (good gloves, with re-enforced finger tips and a flexible, breathable knuckle), hand pruners (a pair that will last until the gardener can’t garden any more), hand tools like a stainless steel trowel, cultivator or (my favourite) a large volume hand scoop or a hand-book that identifies local bugs (good and bad) and weeds.

2. Save my back. When it hurts to bend down to pull a weed or prune a rose, there are alternatives. Here are some ‘back saving’ devices that I have found useful. 

Speedy weeder — A long handled device for pulling weeds that is easy and immensely effective at the job. Each time you ‘pop’ a weed, you aureate the soil around the roots of grass plants.

Long handled digging tools. I wear out my long handled garden tools before I get my ‘D’ short handled tools dirty. Why? Cause they save me from stooping and bending. Look for the stainless steel versions of long handled tools when giving to someone really special.

Long handled loppers. Look for quality tools for cutting thick wood from trees and shrubs. Some provide extended handles that help you reach up to four feet further. Some are ratcheting, which means that, with a couple or three pulls on the handle, you can cut through thick, green wood one increment at a time.

3. Learn. Gardeners love to learn. Recently I read a great book called The Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf. It is a lesson on history, botany, horticulture and perhaps most useful of all, it helps us understand the critically important role of gardening in our recent past and therefore who we are (or, more accurately, who Americans are).

There are lots of great Canadian books out there too: look for Stephen Biggs’ book on figs and his latest for kids, that is co-written with his daughter Emma, called Grow Gardeners —  Kid-Tested Gardening with Children: A 4-step Approach.  

4. Experience. Gardeners love to experience plants and nature outside of their own environment. It is one of the most effective ways to learn and to meet like-minded people. Consider a membership in a local (or not so local) botanical garden or Conservation society. All of them can be accessed online for membership. If you think about it (or Google it) you will no doubt come up with some public gardens and green spaces that need your support and are worthy of it within driving distance of where you live.

Consider buying them a tree or a few, to help populate the Highway of Heroes through the ‘Living Tribute’ campaign. Go online to and donate $25 for a seedling, $170 for a six to eight foot tree whip, or $500 for a grand ‘calliper’ sized tree. The goal is plant one tree for each of Canada’s fallen in war since confederation. I know that your generosity would be appreciated.

5. What are friends for? Gardeners need help. Cultivating, planting, nurturing, growing and harvesting is hard work and it takes time. How about lending a helping hand? Make a gift of yourself by offering a few hours of weeding, bringing empty pots up from the basement or garage this spring and filling them with container mix, pruning an old apple tree or whatever.

That is hardly it. Photographs, bird seed and feeders, hand lotion and soap, a hat, gardening knee pads (which are different from the popular heavy-duty knee pads that people use for laying carpet) and gardening magazines can all fit the bill.

Merry Christmas!


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Mark Cullen is Canada’s best-known gardening broadcaster and writer. He is the spokesperson for Home Hardware Lawn and Garden. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at and watch him Wednesday mornings on Canada AM. His column, which focuses on our growing zone, appears in the Hants Journal every two weeks.