This is the season all gardeners look forward to - stockings overflowing with new tools, bulbs, seeds, gloves, gift certificates, watering cans, creative design ideas, books about everything horticultural - you get the picture.
We gardeners are a pretty easy-to-please group as long as your gift is thoughtful of our earth.
Victory gardens abounded this past year; in fact, some seed distributors completely sold out of many products as everyone seemed to jump on the gardening bandwagon. So help your gardening friend get a fresh batch of seeds for the upcoming planting season.
Seeds of Change offers organic seeds featuring gourmet greens, herbs, veggies and intriguing collections, including one designed for children's gardens and one to "feed your immune system." Find them at Fairfax Lumber and O'Donnells Fairfax Nursery or online at www.seedsofchange.com.
Renee's Garden Seeds, based in Felton, are available at many of our local garden centers and offer a number of collections designed for gift-giving, including one just for beginning veggie gardeners. You can research their collections online at www.reneesgarden.com. Wherever you shop for seeds, just remember to check the date on the package. While seeds may remain viable for years, you will want to choose a package marked for the current growing season.
Every gardener appreciates a great coffee-table book, and a local connection makes the book even more desirable. Marin garden and horticulture photographer Saxon Holt teamed up with nurseryman and designer John Greenlee to create a gorgeous landscape book that explores "beautiful, sustainable, well-designed" alternatives to the traditional labor-intensive, water-guzzling lawn. "The American Meadow Garden" is available locally at Book Passage or online atwww.saxonholt.com/american_meadow.php.
An entertaining, engaging and downright fun read for the gardener - or most anyone - is the New York Times best-selling "Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities" by Northern California resident Amy Stewart. What are wicked plants? Says Stewart, they include "plants that have been used as murder weapons, plants that are illegal or immoral, plants that have started wars, plants that inflict pain, and plants that are badly behaved - they explode, they burst into flames, they smell terrible or destroy other plants in particularly diabolical ways." What better than an agricultural murder mystery for rainy-day reading?
As I've suggested before, a much-appreciated gift is the Marin Rose Society's at-home rose pruning. I gifted myself with this professional pruning last winter, and I highly recommend the service as a fabulous holiday gift for your rose-loving friend who may be pruning challenged or simply unable (or unwilling) to tackle this task. Contact Florence Taylor at 454-3870 or email@example.com to purchase a gift certificate (or schedule your own pruning - trust me, I'm already on the calendar).
Sloat Garden Center, based in Marin, offers a wonderful bird feeder to attract finches to your garden. The Finch Sock Feeder is an ingenious, refillable sock that deters squirrels and larger birds while providing a perfect spot for finches to perch and feed on thistle seed. And it's a true recession buster at $5.99.
I'm particularly fond of shopping at local botanical gardens and museums that offer not only treasure-filled gift shops, but also membership opportunities to continue the holiday spirit throughout the new year. Shopping at nonprofits is a gift for the recipient and the nonprofit in need of your support - what could be better? Gift shops at the Conservatory of Flowers and the San Francisco Botanical Garden are filled with treasures for the gardener.
The Botanical Garden bookstore offers an amazing variety of beautifully illustrated Cavallini calendars in addition to an extensive book collection. The Conservatory gift shop is bursting with gifts and stocking-stuffers for the accomplished gardener as well as beginners. You'll find unique hostess gifts such as a Chocolate Garden or an Herbal Tea Garden, all cleverly packaged and ready to present. There are also some great tools and kits for the budding horticulturist as well as grass seed to keep Spot and Muffy healthy and happy.
Memberships for these historic venues, as well as the Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org), offer opportunities to share the holiday spirit. Also, go online for membership information about the Garden Conservancy (www.gardenconservancy.org), which recently received an award for the "Historic Gardens of Alcatraz Project," and the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy, www.parksconservancy.org.
Don't overlook the treasured gift of your time to assist your gardening friends - we can all use a helping hand at times. A gift of a few hours of raking, weeding and mulching can bring a smile to many faces. Best wishes for a happy holiday growing season.
The University of California Marin Master Gardeners are sponsored by UC Cooperative Extension. For questions about gardening, plant pests or diseases, call 499-4204 from 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays, or bring in samples or pictures to 1682 Novato Blvd., Suite 150B, Novato.