My wife asked me as we drove with our four kids from Maine to North Carolina, what I would like for Christmas. You know the feeling of not really wanting anything other than warmth, good company, good food, and a healthy, happy family. Well, I am having those feelings this holiday season but there are some things that I would not be upset at all if they showed up under the Christmas tree. Here is a totally random list, categorized as best as I can, for you to use as a guide for yourself and others you know that are gardeners.
First, let’s start with the most important category, PLANTS:
There is no better way to become more involved with gardening than to grow your own plants from seed. Hudson Valley Seed Library has a really good selection of heirloom vegetable and flower seeds. Besides being able to grow some tried and true favorites, the seed packs are beautiful works of art themselves.
Johnny’s Selected Seed is a great go-to seed supplier for fruits and vegetables. Since they are based in Maine, many of their plants grow well in the shorter summers of New England although many of their seeds will do well in various parts of the country.
Based in Hamden, Connecticut, Broken Arrow Nursery has become a great place for us to look for the rare and unusual plants in New England. Known for their founder, Dick Jaynes’, breeding work with Kalmia, they also carry a large assortment of fun woody plants. The team who work there are passionate about plants and are super nice people to boot. If you have questions about almost any plant or butterflies, their nursery manager, Andrew Brand, is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge.
If you are really looking for plants to stump your friends, then check out Opus Nursery, coming straight out of Little Compton, Rhode Island. Nursery owner, Ed Bowen, is a fantastic plantsman and erudite philosopher. Opus is a self-described “nano-nursery,” so be sure to get your order in early.
Who doesn’t like Helleborus? I mean, here is a tough, carefree family of plants that is somewhat evergreen in most climates and flowers in the winter and early spring when little else is in flower. For the hellebore lover in your life, I recommend you check out Pine Knot Farms in Clarksville, Virginia. Dick and Judith Tyler have built up a fantastic nursery on an old, family tobacco farm. Again, they are two of the nicest people that you will meet so give them a call or email with questions. By the way, notice a trend that most people who grow plants are really nice?
The one tool that all of the horticulturists at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens agree upon using are Tub Trugs. Every morning, before heading out into the gardens, everyone grabs a tub or two. They are great for collecting weeds, spent flowers, seeds, leaves, and branches. They are tough, light, and inexpensive.
I rarely walk into the garden without my Felco number 2 pruners. You never know when you’ll see a broken branch or a perennial in need of some deadheading. Sure, there are less-expensive bypass pruners but I ask, why? There is nothing like the feel of a pair of Felco pruners in your hand.
For branches that are too large for my Felco’s, I reach for a Silky saw. These Japanese saws are perfect for nice, clean cuts on woody branches. I carry a Silky Zubat 330 for large cuts and a Silky Pocketboy 130 with medium teeth for smaller, fine cuts, especially in tight angles. Be sure to get a thick pair of gloves for wearing when using Silky saws as they are wicked sharp. Once you use a Silky, you’ll wonder why you had not used one before.
You may have to search a bit to find one for sale in the United States, but a Sneeboer trowel just might be the last trowel you will ever own. These hand-forged, stainless gardening tools just might be the toughest and perfectly weighted tools ever made. The gardeners at Longwood Gardens would covet their own Sneeboer trowels. Some would gladly loan most of their tools, except for these trowels. This is definitely something I have been wanting for years.
When planting large numbers of trees, shrubs, and perennials, nothing beats the feel of a Clarington Rabbiting Spade. They are tough but lightweight so they can stand up to hours of intensive work without wearing you down due to being too heavy. Again, this is one of the most used tools in our quiver.
BOOKS and MAGAZINES:
Before you read another word, subscribe to Pith and Vigor. Rochelle’s new gardening quarterly has some fun and informative content planned for 2015 so do not miss out.
The two gardening magazines that I cannot live without are Fine Gardening and Gardens Illustrated. What I enjoy about Fine Gardening is that it gives horticultural advice to gardeners at all levels to primarily, a US readership. Gardens Illustrated is a gorgeous magazine coming from England. The European size pages are filled with lovely photographs, desirable plants, and some of the top designs in the world.
All of the reviews that I have read about Rochelle’s book: Cultivating Garden Style, have been fantastic so I hope to receive this one from Santa. I remember when Rochelle was pulling this together so I look forward to digging in and learning from her first book.
If you do not have Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s book: The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, get it. As a matter of fact, get two and give the other to a friend. Tracy’s experience from years of gardening is perfectly laid out in this book that has quickly become a gardening classic. Our garden team utilizes quite a few of the techniques she advises including chopping some perennials in half early on to prevent flopping late in the summer.
Having the right clothing makes gardening so much more pleasurable in all kinds of weather. Horticulturists have largely been overlooked when it comes to clothing designers but with the sudden popularity of vegetable gardening, I think we will see more gardening focused clothing over the coming years.
Carrier Company from the UK is one of the few companies that I have found with clothing designed for working outside in the garden. I would gladly like one of each from their men’s line of clothing.
My father used to have a pair of nylon covered brush pants designed for bird hunting. As I grew older, I would wear these when trekking through areas with thorny shrubs to prevent from being impaled. I had forgotten all about this style of pants until a few years ago when working with a crew from England. They were artists working on an installation and they wore brush pants (also called field or hunting pants) to prevent the knees from being stained and worn out. Mountain Khakis makes a fabulous pair of field pants that I hope to have under the tree as I have a drawer full of pants with holes in and stains on the knees.
Everyone should own a pair of Bean boots. They are tough as nails and if they ever need to be repaired or resoled, just send them back to LL Bean. I really like this pair with the waxed cotton uppers. There are few shoes that can be worn in rain, mud, snow, and in New England, to church. As a bonus, they are still handmade in Brunswick, Maine. The ladies’ version can be found here.
I am firm believer that a great rain coat can change your entire outlook on life. I have worn a Mountain Hardwear rain coat for almost 3 years and it is tough as nails yet light and breathable. When other rain coats leak at the seams, this one is as dry as burnt toast. I also wear mine as an outer layer during windy days and snow storms. The chest pocket is waterproof as well and is the perfect spot to store an iPhone when not checking Facebook or taking pictures. Here is a similar ladies’ model.
Do you own a pair of Darn Tough socks, yet? My wife has a couple of pairs and I am hoping that she will tell Santa to bring me some as well. Everyone that I have talked to who wears Darn Tough socks, swears by them. They are made in Vermont and if you ever wear them out, send them back and they will ship you a replacement pair.
Professional gardening is a physically and mentally demanding occupation requiring a good diet, exercise, and sound mind to keep up with the yearly list of tasks. The following are miscellaneous items that I hope are under the tree to make the job of gardener easier.
A Moleskine journal is my favorite external hard drive for storing information. Everyone has their favorite way of storing information but I have found that the Large hard notebook with square grid pages is perfect for making lists, taking notes, and making a quick garden sketch. I keep mine in a Rickshaw sailcloth folio to keep it dry during Maine rainstorms.
Speaking of keeping things dry, the best waterproof protector is a Ziploc bag. One of the best gifts for a horticulturist is a large box of gallon-size Ziploc bags. They can keep an iPhone dry, food protected from scavenging squirrels, and used to collect ripe seeds.
During the cold, winter months, gardeners tend to spend more time inside designing and poring over plant catalogs. So much time spent sitting around causes most gardeners to gain a few pounds over the winter. What I really want Santa to bring to help ensure that my pants continue to fit loosely in the spring is a Fitbit. Maybe he will bring one for both my wife and me so we can compete against each other as to who gets the most steps in for the day.
Are any of the above items on your Christmas wish list? Did I miss something that you really think should be on the list for every gardener?