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Gardening: Gifts for the gardeners on your list

Star Phoenix logo Star Phoenix 2020-11-26 Erl Svendsen
a close up of a sign: The 2020 edition of The Prairie Gardener, Western Canada's only gardening annual. © Provided by Star Phoenix The 2020 edition of The Prairie Gardener, Western Canada's only gardening annual.

This year, I’m coming up with my list of potential gifts for my gardening friends a bit early in hopes that I’m not panicking at the last moment.

Unless someone has specifically told me they want a specific garden ornament, I usually stay away from that category as it involves personal taste, which may not be the same as mine. That leaves three other broad categories to choose from: tools/personal protective equipment, books and plants.

When I’m making my list, I start with what has worked well for me or my friends in the past. In the tool category, the tool must meet my ‘tool-for-life’ standard: solidly made, functional, comfortable to use and long-lasting. My top choice this year is gloves.

I used to pooh-pooh cloth gloves in favour of leather. You know the ones I mean: ill-fitting cotton gloves with poor grip. But I’ve discovered a new category that mechanics, plumbers, electricians and construction workers have probably known about for years: snug-fitting cotton/polyester (with a bit of lycra for stretch) gloves with foam latex (or rubber) coated palms and fingers for a great grip.

The back of the gloves is uncoated to allow for breathing. They are also cut-resistant to protect from errant pruners and sharp thorns. Not only that, they are washable, available in several manly and womanly colours, usually less than $10/pair and available at most hardware stores and perhaps garden centres. My pair is now two years old and they may last a third. This spring, my hands emerged unscathed and unblemished after pruning the candles on my mugo pines.

Books are a great resource, even in the Internet Age, when seemingly everything is available online. But can you always trust the information? Especially if you can’t be sure which part of the world the information is coming from? Or not knowing how much experience the author has? It’s better to get information from someone who gardens virtually in your own backyard.

One option is the perennial favourite, The Prairie Gardener (Western Canada’s only gardening annual). This year’s edition features ‘Flowering shrubs with a special feature on Roses.’ It is filled with several short articles by local, experienced gardeners from across the Prairie region.

text © Provided by Star Phoenix

I also asked my friend Sara Williams (herself a noted Prairie garden author) for book suggestions. If you enjoy learning about the history of plants and the people who discovered them, she recommends The John Tradescants, by Prudence Leith Ross, a biography of John Tradescant the elder and his son John the younger.

The two Tradescants were instrumental in introducing many New World plants to England during the 1600s, among them spiderwort ( Tradescantia virginiana ), which was named to honour them. Sara also recommends two absorbing novels of historical fiction about the same father and son by Philippa Gregory: Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth. Great winter reading!

Plants are another tricky category to buy for someone else. And plant-wise, nurseries and garden centres are only selling tropical and seasonal plants (poinsettia, amaryllis, etc) at this time of year. But I have found that a generous gift card, along with your personal promise to help the recipient pick out plants in the spring, is always appreciated. As well, you’re supporting local businesses. Wrap it up early!

Erl gardens in Saskatoon and occasionally tweets about it (@ErlSv).

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS; saskperennial@hotmail.com). Check our website, saskperennial.ca, or Facebook page (facebook.com/saskperennial). All Saskatchewan Perennial Society events are on hold until further notice.

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