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Garden Edition: December Holidays
Last-minute gifts for gardeners: Winners & Losers

by Linda Coyner

The holidays are an opportunity, albeit frantic, to give fellow gardening friends something special. Sometimes, the best of intentions goes awry and money is wasted. Shopping at upscale nurseries and websites that cater to gardeners is no guarantee of a successful pick. Sure bets, you might think, would be a recent garden book at nearby bookstore. Not always so, I find, when I delved deeper into some tempting titles that you might consider likely candidates.

First, my picks. Some like Fox Gloves come from previous Garden Editions, but most are new discoveries. Books are easy gifts so I'll start with them:

  • Making More Plants" by Ken Druse (Clarkson Potter Publisher/Crown, $45). This might be hard to find as the first print run sold out; you can bet, though, that the publisher is rushing to get copies out there for holiday gift-giving. This book is the subject of last month's column and a book any gardener would love to have.

  • Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire, A Plant's-Eye View of the World (Random House, $24.95) would be my second-choice in the book department. It's more philosophical and an enlightening, witty read.

  • Gardener's Tool Belt, $29.95 in green, $34.95 in floral print. Being in the market for a tool belt myself, I scoured the marketplace looking for one that was practical and attractive. This one wins hands down. The belt comes in two parts that ride on your hips like a cowboy's gun holster. That way when you bend, the deep pockets keep tools in place so they don't fall out or jab your ribs when kneeling and bending. If you prefer, separate the two parts and wear only one side. Durable leather loops and straps hold tools. The floral print is especially lovely:

  • Lightweight bags that stand upright by themselves and fold flat for storage. These are a recent phenomenon showing up for fall clean-up in home improvement centers and on-line. Fiskars makes several with its Kangaroo pop-up design: 94046974, $16.79, 10-gallon; 30 gal $26.99. Rittenhouse offers 3 sizes: veggie harvester, garden tote, and garden barrel, 13.04; 15.07; 22.76. I bought The Pop-up Container by Master Craft,14-gallon bag, for $14.99 at a Linens and Things store. Any of these bags are ideal for dragging around while you garden to collect weeds and clippings. When you're finished it folds almost flat for storage. Clean by hosing or wiping out and hang to dry.;

  • Fiskars 7936 PowerGear Bypass Pruner, $31.99. This relatively new hand pruner cuts up to 3/4 inches with minimal effort. Its secret is a lower handle that rolls with your hand as you cut, greatly relieving hand fatigue. The handle opening adjusts to different size hands but only so much. At its smallest setting, it's a bit of a stretch for small hands like mine but it's a small trade-off for the easy cutting action.

  • The Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper 7972, $31.99, is not so new but one of my favorite tools. It cuts branches up to 2 inches. The lopper is lightweight and the gear-action minimizes strain on wrists, forearms and shoulders.

  • Fox Gloves, $25. These gloves allow great 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 jobsplanting, repotting, deadheading, excavating deep weed roots, and spreading mulch. When they get dirty, throw them in the washer and they come out like new. They're longer in length than most gloves so they protect the wrists. Available in small, medium, large and in seven lovely colors: fuchsia, delphinium, tulip, periwinkle, iris, compost, moss.

  • Mission Sphere Fountain from Campania, suggested retail $188 for the natural finish; with patina, $198. The moment I saw this fountain I loved it. It's simple and very beautiful. The fountain consists of a round, shallow saucer perched on feet. In the center of the saucer rests a central ball out of which comes the water. Dimensions are 26.5 inches wide and 14 inches high.

    Here are gadgets on my not-to-buy list:

  • A tool belt for your bucket. This product is sold under several names, including Fiskars Bucket Caddy and A.M. Leonard's Garden Boss Pro Bucket Kit, so someone must think it has some appeal. A tool belt for the gardener and the lightweight, upright bags mentioned above make more sense to me.
  • Table fountains for indoors. You'll be tempted by their marked-down prices but it's one of the gadgets that have fallen out of favor for a reason. Most are guilty of splashing water on their surroundings, ruining the finish. If that doesn't disenchant the user, then it'll happen when the fountain runs dry and burns out its motor.
  • Gazing globes are now passé—if the fact that they're on clearance at Wal-Mart is any indication. I personally still like and use them but I've always been slightly out of step with what's 'in.' Other garden ornaments are still very popular—copper animals and bugs on top of garden stakes, especially those intertwined with colorful tiny glass balls, or whimsical bird or butterfly houses.
  • Copper garden sprinklers/sculptures. These artsy sprinklers/sculptures come in various shapes—birds, butterflies, etc.—and put on a water show as they rotate and shower your garden. They don't water your evenly and, if you can watch them, are a waste of water since evaporation is the main reason watering isn't recommended during daylight hours.

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