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Garden Edition: November 2002
Gifts for Gardeners

by Linda Coyner

Halloween signals that gift-giving holidays are coming up fast. It used to be that Thanksgiving provided that starting point but now department stores display Christmas decorations alongside the pumpkins and costumes.

The early notice is not a bad thing as it has another advantage: it often coincides with end-of-season sales (although here in Florida is more a shift of season sale). To make room for holiday merchandise summer goods, including yard and patio items, get marked down. At Lowes for instance, I came across yard ornaments in bug and vegetable shapes with small, brightly colored balls embedded (reminiscent of gazing globes). At Target, I snatched up a handy potting tray from the clearance shelf.

Web sites and catalogs have the advantage of offering garden products year-round. The big retailers like Home Depot, Lowes and Wal-Mart have a good selection of garden tools on hand even when its snowing outside. Tools and books are my favorite categories but I'll outline ideas that are more in keeping with the winter season.

Tools for the Gardener

Felco and Fiskars are excellent brands in garden tools. In fact, the Felco pruner is the standard by which all pruners are measured. Most catalogs and Web sites carry the original for about $40. Other styles, including an ergonomic design, run a bit more.

Fiskars makes a wide selection of garden tools. Last year I recommended the Fiskars PowerGear Loppers 9625. I stand by that recommendation. Any gardener would be delighted to have one. Its priced about $30. (For more information, see Garden Edition December 2001.)

Among Fiskars new offerings, I recommend the Extended Reach Power-Lever Grass & Hedge Shears. This odd-looking tool is one that I gladly made room for in my tool rack after testing it. My back is especially grateful and my arms didnt mind the gentle workout. I found it great for trimming up close to beds where overlapping plants make it tricky to edge with the mower or a string trimmer. Normally Id use hand pruners or shears and have to bend. Coming back from vacation, I used it for trimming grass that had crept under my caladium foliage and under a bayonet yucca with mean thorns. The 10 blades neatly slipped under the foliage to cut grass. The cutting head rotates 270 degrees, which allows for convenient angling.

Fiskars also recommends the tool for high hedges. I keep my hedges shoulder height to avoid over-the-head pruning but it worked fine on my neighbors hedges, cutting branches up to thick. It has a reach of 38 inches, which lets you trim without the use of a ladder but holding it above my head proved awkward. Price: $70. www.charleysgreenhouse. com;

Also new from Fiskars is the Power-Lever Bypass and Anvil Pruners. Its a compact pair of pruners that is perfect for deadheading or any pruning that required precision cutting and maneuvering. The contour of the handles snuggles comfortable against the hand, and positions the hand close to the blade, which gives the user the control needed for careful pruning. Theyd probably be great for bonsai or small topiaries. With your hand in such close proximity to the plant, you wouldnt want to these pruners on anything with thorns.

These pruners come in both anvil and bypass blade styles. Anvil pruners are best for dry or hard-to-cut growth. Anvil pruners distribute the cutting force equally preventing blades from twisting. Bypass blades are best for green and growing wood. Bypass pruners allow for precise, clean cuts as the hook contacts only one side of the cut, causing less plant damage. Price for both: $21.;

Oxo is a new brand in the garden-tool category, probably better known for its ergonomic kitchen tools. For gift-giving, consider hand tools like the Plow and the Transplanting Trowel. I especially liked the Plow. The head comes to a point, making it great for clearing ground and digging. The serrated edges helps cut through roots and can also be used to open a bag or cut string. The handle has two positions. Choke up on it for strength, or grab the back for added reach.

Both tools have Oxos Good Grips handle and are stainless steel. Theyre well made and tough enough to handle just about an abuse a gardener or Mother Nature can dish out. Price: $11 for the plow; $9 for the trowel.

Coiled hoses became popular this year. The Anaconda Hose appears to be more durable than most of whats out there. The -in. diameter hose extends to 50 feet, retracts on its own to 38 inches, and makes up quickly and easily into neat coils. Each end has standard-size leak-free hose fixture that is solid brass. A heavy-duty spray gun with an adjustable brass tip is also included. Guaranteed for 5 years. Price: $60.

Books for the Gardener

Books are a perennial favorite with gardeners but getting the one thats certain to please can be tricky as some gardeners are readers while others want practical information and great ID photographs.

Christopher Lloyds Garden Flowers (Timber Press, $40, hardcover) offers his personal assessment of plants from Acanthus to Zigadenus. Lloyd, known to be opinionated, distills his 80-some years of gardening in this personal encyclopedia. Without wasting words, he uses his refreshing dry humor to sum up his experience with each genus. The books design is crisp and clean. The photographs are generous and offer lovely glimpses into the master gardeners garden. White Flower Farms Web site indicates that its copies are autographed, a special touch that would impress any gardener.

The City Gardeners Handbook by Linda Yang (Storey Books, $20, paperback) impressed me with its usefulness. Its newly updated, packed with good information for both city and country gardens, and very readable.

For a gardener who enjoys reading, consider Legends in the Gardens: Who in the World Is Nellie Stevens? by Linda L. Copeland and Allan M. Armitage (Wings Publishers, 2001, $24.95, hardcover). Its is an irresistible invitation to readers to turn to favorite plants to find out how they were named.

Making More Plants (Clarkson Potter Publisher/Crown, $45, hardcover) is another good choice. Its exquisitely photographed and designed, and contains information the author learned first hand about plant propagation. (For more information, see Garden Edition, November 2001.)

Other Gardening Stuff

Garden gloves. Im a big fan of a garden glove called Fox Gloves and have mentioned it before in Garden Edition. Personally, Im not one to take time to put on gloves but Im always glad when I remember to put Fox Gloves on. The gloves allow for excellent dexterity and, being supplex nylon (the miracle fabric swimwear is made of), breathe and feel comfortably supportive. Since they're not waterproof, I use them for my dry gardening jobs—planting, repotting, deadheading, excavating deep weed roots, and spreading mulch. When they get dirty, throw them in the washer and they come out like new. Available in small, medium, large and in lots of great colors. Price: $25. www.

Tree ornaments. Dont overlook Smith & Hawken for gifts for gardeners. I was taken by their limited edition greenhouse ornament, which comes complete with a hothouse citrus tree. Price: $35. www.smithandhawken. com

Bat house. Theyre not as cute and adorable as other backyard wildlife but bats earn their keep by eating thousands of mosquitoes. The roof gives this particular abode more character than most. For best results, place the house on a tree in a large open area. Price: $95.

Happy shopping!

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