Gifted: Great Gifts for Gardeners this Season

Some people like diamonds, some people like furs, some people like Ferraris, Corvettes or 1968 Mustang convertibles. Others still like big power tools with engines, pull cords and gas tanks. Photo:A bright bowl of hand-made pomanders. These traditional holiday crafts date back hundreds of years to Europe and were used as scented treasures. Clove studded citrus fruits preserve themselves and offer a wonderful scent for sometimes more than a year in closets and cabinets, even out on the counter. Handmade gifts rank high for gardeners and other naturalists.

Thank you, but not for me. And not for many of the gardening and naturalist types I know – although I did have a friend who requested a small chain saw for her birthday last year. Photo:A winter-blooming camellia shown here is floated in an old silver bowl. Interesting and unique new, or vintage, vessels for showcasing our fruits/ flowers are always good bets for gardeners.

I am asked every year for recommendations of good gifts for gardeners/naturalists and so here are my top picks for this year.

Here’s the first thing – we are embarrassingly easy to please. In my experience beauty for this lot of people is directly related to function, and the simpler the better in many cases. Simple does not necessarily equate to inexpensive, but it rarely equates to the price tag of a Ferrari either.

So once you’ve got simple (but elegant) in mind, my second piece of advice is local. Gardener/naturalist types are fairly grounded where they live and to benefit their home region and derive pleasure directly from its many resources is a good bet.

Think local independent nurseries, feed stores, hardware stores, photography shops, book stores and kitchen shops. These will all have things that make life in the garden or on the trail more fun or will help to bring our passion inside to the home and table. Once you locate where you might want to look, you could always go for the gift certificate OR you could get more creative: Photo:Gloves are consumable items in the world of the gardener and I like one good lightweight synthetic pair and one more heavy-duty leather pair. These are both from Woman’s Work and in my experience you need not be a woman to wear them, they are well made and last a good long season or two.

Gardeners and naturalists always need the new clippers (Felco or Fanno for me), new gloves (Woman’s Work Gloves are my favorites) new hats (lightweight straw or water resistant felt), additional seeds (Redwood Seeds out of Manton or Synergy Seeds out of Weaverville) is where I would start on then move on to organic and independent but larger lines), and additional camera accessories (Crown Camera in Redding is a treat and carries good additional lenses, tri-pods, filters, cleaning doo-dads, and of course CAMERAS). Photo: A folding handsaw by Fanno Saw Works in Chico. Don’t forget that if you give someone a saw or knife of any kind, for good luck you should demand a penny in return. Thsi will keep the sharp implement from severing your friendship, I believe. Thank you Wolfgang Rougle for reminding me of this!

Gardener/naturalists will always enjoy excellent quality new tools or gardening gadgets like soil test kits (available at hardware or feed stores locally), thermometers or rain gauges, as well as interesting plant related home and garden décor items. They will also always enjoy a gardener/naturalist membership or subscription. Memberships might include one to a local arboretum or public garden, to a related society such as the California Native Plant Society, the Audubon Society, the American Rose Society, California Garden Clubs, Inc., the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club or your local chapter of any one of these; subscriptions might include one to Edible Shasta Butte or Pacific Horticulture.

And gardener/naturalists always want just one or two carefully chosen new garden, natural history or cook books. It is in this arena especially that artful form and utilitarian function meet up nicely. A good book rounds out any day in the garden or on the trail, and can provide hours of cold day/long night enjoyment and dreaming. Photo: A winter flowering or fruiting tree or shrub also makes a nice gift for the gardener in your life. Camellias, citrus, witch hazel (Hamamilis sp.) or winter sweet (Chimomanthes sp.) are all good choices in the North State, making sure to check for appropriate hardiness in your area.

In the category of good books for North State gardeners and naturalists this year, I have a few to recommend. These cover a wide range of interests, price ranges and publications dates.

For the arboreal, check out the photographically and botanically intriguing “Seeing Trees, on the pleasures of close observations of the life of trees” from the experience of one woman and man as they delve into a life of greater attention to the little but powerful changes in the trees around them through seasons and life changes – from germinating, to budding to leafing out to setting fruit and losing leaves, etc. It is a purposeful reminder of all we can learn and be amazed by that is right in front of our very eyes, every day. A great gift to go with this book or the next one might be a high quality hand lens or loupe on a string for your gardener or naturalist to wear on the trail or in the garden and be able to look at anything under close magnification anytime they want!

Also, “Woodcut” a uniquely lovely book of woodblock prints taken from whole tree cross-sections which is mesmerizing in the beauty of the patterns captured – both their symmetry and their uniqueness – like human fingerprints. Looking at each print it is hard not to run your own fingers across the images to try to feel the texture of them. While there is very little text, the satisfying introduction is by Verlyn Klinkenborg, author, professor and journalist for the New York Times among other publications

For the edible minded, I am fully enjoying the new expanded Second Edition of “Sacramento Valley Feast”, written by local plantswoman Wolfgang Rougle. Wolfgang will walk you through the forests and fields of the North State month by month, teaching you natural history as you go, and have you preparing a multi-course meal from what you gather while you’re there. She’ll teach you how to make roasted acorn stuffing, why roots are collected for medicinal use in the fall, and round out a dinner with purslane-sage sorbet. In Chico: Lyon Books at 121 W. 5th St., or lyonbooks.com. In Redding: Enjoy the Store (on Placer St. between California and Market) In Davis: (1) Davis Food Co-Op (2) UCD Bookstore
Anywhere else: Go to lyonbooks.com and search for it in the search field. They ship anywhere!

My second recommendation for the edible-minded, the 2012 Calendar “Gardening with Edibles” by the Butte and Glenn County Master Gardener groups is nicely photographed and informative regarding your edible garden and month by month tasks and tips. The calendar is available at local book stores and nurseries listed here, and all benefits go to these master gardener groups and they services they offer.

For any gardener cook that does not have it, the artful look feel and content of “The Art of Simple Food” by food activist and enthusiast Alice Waters is sure to be a favorite. I just like holding it.

Finally for the pure lush, love of flowers, I recommend the newly pressed “Bringing Nature Home: Floral Arrangements Inspired by Nature”, by Ngoc Minh Ngo. This is a flower arranger’s dream-book with photography that will both floor and inspire you, and with step-by-step instructions for decadent and naturalist arrangements through the seasons. This was recently sent to me for my birthday by a good friend and I carry it with me through the house – even the dust jacket makes me happy it is such pure floral art of nature.

Finally, one solid hard-to-put-down novel: “The Language of Flowers” by locally-raised author Vanessa Diffenbaugh. An intriguing and human story of love and life both difficult and heartening as seen through the life story of one young woman.

Reader nature-lover, Beth Wattenberg of Forest Ranch wrote in recently to add these books from her top picks lists:

“Insects and Gardens: In pursuit of a garden ecology” by Eric Grissell

“The Man Who Planted Trees by Tim Robbins, of which Beth writes: “This book is a fascinating and inspiring chronicle about a man who has and is cloning Champion Trees.”

And, three books by Diana Beresford-Kroeger who wrote the “truly elegant and uplifting”: “Arboretum America: The Philosophy of Trees”; “The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us”, and “A Garden for Life” a more personal book about her own garden (I am hoping Santa is bringing at least two of these three books to me this year; I have been pretty good.).

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In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.

Jennifer Jewell

In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.

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