Buying a gift for someone with a passionate hobby is tricky. That’s why I’m sharing three gifts for gardeners that you can’t go wrong with, and a list of garden gifts to avoid
I imagine that there are two types of people who are reading this. One, someone who is not a gardener and scrambling for ideas. You have no clue what to buy Aunt Jane, who is forever sharing photos of her garden on Facebook. You also quietly un-followed her during the height of dahlia season. Or it could be that you’re looking for something for that guy at work you got in this year’s secret Santa gift exchange. He brings mountains of summer squash to the staff room each year and has a potted plant on his desk. Garden gift…bingo.
The other type of person who’s reading this is an actual gardener. You’re here to see if there’s anything interesting you’re missing out on or to scoff at the silly rubbish you know you don’t need. You see, that’s the problem with trying to buy something for someone who gardens. We’re the kind of folks who make do and mend and so tend to have everything we need already.
“Gifts for gardeners”
Over the years I’ve received a lot of “Gifts for Gardeners.” Plastic baskets filled with cheap tools, cotton gloves, low-end hand cream, and pink kneeling pads. Most of that stuff ended up being given away. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I’d rather get a nice bottle of wine than mass-produced junk. I’m sure my beloved friends and family who gifted those items would want to buy something that I used and valued too.
Fortunately, there actually are some things that gardeners would like to receive as a gift. Practical and inspiring items that will delight and actually be used. But before we get to that I’d like to make you a nice list as to what NOT to buy. These are things that gardeners get all the time and discard because of personal taste, lack of functionality/durability, or because they have them already.
What not to buy Gardeners
- Anything with a gardening slogan or saying, no matter how clever you think it is. This includes mugs, t-shirts, garden signs, tool caddies, garden art, or anything. If it says “I’m so excited about gardening I wet my plants” please spare us.
- Girlie-gardening items. Anything printed with flowers, colored pink, or that smacks of frou-frou. Even if the recipient is a girlie-girl, these novelty products tend to be low quality.
- Badger-inspired gardening gloves. You know the kind that have plastic claws? I actually got a pair of these one year and was curious to see if they worked. Sadly, they were both flimsy and a left-handed pair so our relationship just didn’t work out.
- Seeds or plants. Unless you have access to said gardener’s wish list, don’t be tempted to buy them packets of seeds, house plants, wax coated bulbs to grow indoors, or (groan) a poinsettia. Buying seeds and plants for someone is like buying someone a puppy. Unless they truly want it and are committed to caring and raising it then it’s a bad idea.
- Gardening Journals. There are usually five or six of these donated to the raffle at our yearly Seed Swap. I don’t know anyone who actually uses these.
- Hand cream, unless you know that they use it and which brand they like. No one uses the hand cream that comes in gardening gift baskets.
- Kneeling pads. If we use them, we already have ten
- Tool sets. As a general rule, tools that come in sets are poor quality. We already have all those tools anyway.
- Indoor gardening sets. The kind of thing where you can see carrot roots as they grow or a start an indoor herb garden. After the aww thank you part, you immediately wonder how much you could get for it if you stick it up on Ebay. Then you’ll feel guilty about that thought and just give it away.
- Insect hotels, tiny bird houses, or other items meant to help nature in the garden. Almost all of this stuff, no matter how pretty, is either not used by said wildlife or can actually harm them.
- Anything made out of plastic. Plastic almost always means flimsy and we’re trying to do our best to avoid using it in the garden too.
Garden Centers aren’t a good bet either
I’m pretty sure that there’s a lot more that I’ve missed. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s labeled as a gift for gardeners or you found it that way through an internet search, give it a wide berth. You might think a garden center is the best place to shop but it’s probably the worst place to go. They’ll have stacks of tat waiting for you and will catch you in their web like a hungry spider. Garden centers are as much a commercial enterprise as any other shop.
How to find the perfect gift for the gardener
So now we come to the part on what you could get the gardener in your life. The first thing you need to do is your research. Find sneaky ways to work some questions in so that you can get them something that they actually want. Trust me, if you give a gardener the opportunity to talk about gardening they probably won’t think twice about your motivations. And if they do, they’ll appreciate the effort you made. Three simple methods of questioning:
- What do they like growing? Let them chat a bit. Then ask them if anything they grow, or the way they garden, is different from other gardeners.
- You’re interested in starting a garden (pretend if you’re not) and are looking for some inspiration. What are the latest gardening books or magazines that look good? Find out if they’ve read them already.
- Do they like wine?
Using the answers
In question one you found out that they like growing vegetables, they’ve converted to no-dig gardening thanks to Charles Dowding, and have started growing perennial edibles. You now have a clear idea of what to get them now. Really.
Gift vouchers. Yes, that’s what everyone wants including us gardeners. They may seem impersonal but when you tailor them to what a gardener wants then they suddenly become the BEST GIFT EVER. Get in touch with any gardeners or gardening brands mentioned and you’re sure to find vouchers. Do a search for ‘buy perennial vegetables’ and it’s the same story. Small companies can sometimes be a bit rubbish about offering vouchers on their websites. A simple email or message on Twitter will have you sorted. Still having issues? Amazon voucher. It could be used for the gift below too.
Question number two is self-explanatory. Get them a book they’re interested in reading or a subscription to their favorite magazine. We gardeners love our gardening books so you can be sure that it will be cherished.
The last question is your back-up in case you can’t remember or understand anything that was said. A bottle of something nice is as appreciated by a gardener as it is by any other human being.
What this gardener would like as a gift
If you’re looking for some more ideas, I’ll let you know what’s on my wish-list this year. This is also a way of making it easier for my partner to shop for my Christmas stocking (little blogger trick)
- This Hori-Hori soil knife
- Twool Garden Twine made from UK Wool and 100% natural fibres
- A good tool sharpener
- Any of the lettuce seeds from the Real Seed Company
- A voucher for a couple hours work from a local gardener. Just like a spa voucher this one can be a little tricky for some people. My thoughts: you might feel a little uncomfortable having someone in such a personal space, but what a wonderful treat it is to not have to trim your own hedge for once.
And new books that will keep the gardener inspired, informed, and entertained throughout the long dark winter:
- Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix
- Wild about Weeds, Jack Wallington
- Veg in One Bed, Huw Richards
- A Modern Herbal, Alys Fowler
- The Almanac, a Seasonal Guide to 2020, Lia Leendertz