AS shops reopened last week and Christmas preparations began in earnest, thoughts of what to get the gardener in your life may have arose. There are so many different items to choose from!
Books are always a great option at this time of the year, when there is lots of gardening done from the armchair.
Jane Powers’ book An Irish Nature Year (inset below) documents a year observing nature with an entry for each day, giving an account of what might be encountered in the realms of birds, insects, animal and plant life.
It is a book that can be picked up and read for five minutes or for hours. It is widely available in bookshops and costs €16.99 and gives wonderful insights into the natural world throughout the year.
The daily entries are useful as they act as reminders of what to look out for in the garden at different times of the year.
Perhaps a gift of yearly membership for Birdwatch Ireland would be the ideal gift for a budding gardener with an interest in the wider environment.
It will provide the recipient with quarterly magazine throughout the year as well as regular updates about events and talks happening during the year, and costs €30.
There are also some great gift ideas in their online store with plenty of bird boxes, feeders, Christmas cards, calendars and much more at reasonable prices — check out www.birdwatchireland.ie for more information.
For the environmentally conscious gardener that likes gadgets, maybe a battery-powered hedge trimmer would be in order. Husquvarna have a range of garden tools that operate on rechargeable batteries, making hedge cutting and other garden tasks a whole lot easier. They will need to be stored in a dry area as the battery is sensitive to any moisture in the environment. They are a lighter weight than petrol-powered machines and more convenient than electric ones as there are no cables to contend with when working throughout the garden. There are a number of stockists locally and they cost from €280 upwards.
Plants always make great gifts and looking good and smelling good at this time of the year is the Christmas box or Sarcococca hookeriana with its dark green glossy foliage and tiny white scented flowers.
It is a hardy shrub that will grow and establish well in shaded areas of the garden.
Camellia japonica are just beginning to flower now and are suited to woodland areas of the garden.
Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is very aptly named and is one of the first ‘rhodos’ to flower in early spring, although it may not be in flower for the festive season.
Our local garden centres have a great range of plants that look good right now so take the time to peruse the plant section and you never know what you might find.
Waterproof clothing is always useful to make working in the garden feasible in all weathers. Berghaus leggings are breathable and work well to keep a gardener warm and dry no matter what the weather. The side zips on the trouser legs are particularly useful for changing when muddy boots are involved. Prices start from €50 upwards, check out www.int.berghaus.com for more product details.
Niwaki are Japanese manufactured secateurs with a simple and robust design which are ideal for everyday use in the garden. Howbert and Mays are a Dublin-based lifestyle and garden shop and they stock a range of Niwaki garden tools that can be ordered online as well as purchased in store.
A pot of layered bulbs will be a welcome addition to any garden once spring arrives and layering ensures that there is a longer period of interest. Iris, snowdrop and crocus are some of the first bulbs to flower, followed by narcissus and tulips later in the spring.
There may even be some bulbs being sold off at this time of the year in garden centres to make way for Christmas decorations.
There are some great horticultural events being planned online for 2021. The Garden and Landscape Designers Association are holding their annual seminar ‘Designing in Challenging Times — A Shift in Perspective’ on February 27 and prices start at €75 for members and €90 for non-members.
With the hopes of returning to travel in 2021, Garden Masterclass has an extensive timetable planned for the year. Check out www.gardenmasterclass.org for details of some of the events, many of which are taking place in the UK and some of which are planned in Ireland.
There are also hour-long zoom talks by different inspiring gardeners throughout the world and tickets can be purchased for a reasonable £24 online through the website also.
Hester Forde is delivering a talk entitled ‘Snowdrops ‘White Gold’ on January 27, escaping into a world of snowdrops for an hour — the perfect spring inspiration.
It has been a year of becoming accustomed to no large gatherings and these zoom groups, while they do take a little getting used to, provide some opportunity to exchange information, and the slides and advice are equally as inspiring from the comfort of your own home (provided the internet connection is good!).
Whatever the present chosen for the gardener in your life, the enjoyment and inspiration that it will bring will be worth the deliberation.
It has been a year like no other and we are full of hope for the growing year ahead, that is for sure. Happy shopping!