For The Answer
Express News Weekly Article
Saturday, December 13, 2003
By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director, SAWS, and Horticulturist
Christmas Gifts for the Gardener
The good news is that there are many excellent gifts to buy for the gardener on your Holiday list.
One of the easiest gifts to purchase is a gift certificate at your gardener’s favorite nursery. The gardener may get as much pleasure surveying the available merchandise as he/she does in receiving the gift certificate. With such a gift there is no danger in selecting an inappropriate plant or other item. They are fast and easy.
If you want to encourage someone that needs a hobby to garden consider buying all the fixings for a raised bed garden. For a 4 x 8 foot garden you need nine landscape timbers (have three cut in half for the ends). Purchase 12, six-inch nails and one cubic yard of landscape light mix. The total cost if you have the soil delivered is about $100. The landscape timbers and nails are available at any lumberyard or home improvement store. Purchase the soil at Fertile Garden Supply, Keller Material, or Garden-Ville.
Bird feeding is closely related to gardening. Extra birds in the garden make it a more pleasant place. If your gardener has squirrels, he/she probably moans and groans about them all the time. They will eat all the seed and chew up the feeders. The Absolute steel feeder with a weight-sensitive perch will prevent the squirrels from eating the seed. The perch can also be set at a weight sensitivity to exclude white wing doves. The steel feeders cost in the $50—$60 range. For a stocking stuffer buy a selection of suet blocks. Include the pepper flavored. Suet blocks are approximately $2.
A high quality hand pruner also makes a good gift. Look at the Corona and Fiskar brands. There are a whole series of light, but sturdy, loppers (two-handed pruning shears) made of a hardened plastic material that are wonderful, affordable tools. They allow the gardener to cut branches to two inches in diameter and last forever. One of my favorite tools is a folding pruning saw. It also makes a wonderful gift. Most pruning equipment manufacturers offer a saw. Felco 60 is a good model; it can cut up to 2.5-inch branches and folds to fit safely and easily into the pocket.
If your gardener is new to the San Antonio area or has not taken advantage of the opportunity to spend time at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, buy them a membership. A family membership at $35 will allow the entire family to visit the Garden as many times as they want year-round. You can buy the membership by calling 207-3255 or, better yet, visit the Garden Gate Gift Shop on the grounds of the Garden in addition to the membership; there are hundreds of gift choices available at the shop. The Garden offers planting ideas, blooms 12 months out of the year, and a great place to get some exercise.
Rain barrels capture rainwater for use to irrigate container plants. They can be elaborate or simple. Milbergers Nursery offers a $299 version that holds 70 gallons of water, is flat so it fits discretely against the house, and has all the bells and whistles. For a less expensive version visit Dave the Barrel Man’s shop at 811 Roosevelt (534-5416). At a price under $50 the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas (522-9220) or the Great Northwest Neighborhood Association (Bill McDonough, 680-8157) will sell you a 55-gallon homemade collection system. You may select metal or plastic and from several colors.
Cyclamen are beautiful indoor plants that are also the best shade blooming winter plant for a South Texas landscape. Purchase the plant as a gift to decorate the house until after the holidays and then encourage the recipient to plant the cyclamen outside. Cyclamen are available with blooms that are intensely red, pure white, beautiful pink, or several shades of lavender until April. A sheared rosemary makes a similar gift. Use it as a small holiday tree inside until January and then transplant the fragrant drought-loving plant outside in full sun.