Is there a gardener on your gift list this Christmas? Finding and giving just the right gift does not have to be a challenge.

“Whether you’re looking for a gift for the beginning gardener or the experienced veteran, gift ideas are plentiful and can turn giving into a simple pleasure,” says Stephen Greer, horticulture agent with Forsyth County Cooperative Extension.

Shopping for gifts at your local hardware store or garden center is not always top-of-mind when the holiday season arrives. You may be amazed how much inventory full-service gardening supply centers stock for gift-giving purposes. Stop in and look around; keep an open mind! In December, many garden shops provide special coupons and showcase their wares during open houses, replete with complimentary goodies, hot cider, and door prizes.

“Look for garden-related gifts that are functional and beautiful,” Greer advises. “Gardeners and non-gardeners alike who spend time outside might enjoy a garden bench, comfortable outdoor furniture, wind chimes, or a small water fountain.” Turning a landscape into a useful outdoor space may be at the top of a gardeners to-do list in 2012.

Reading and reference

“Most gardeners have a thirst for knowledge, placing garden-related books and other reference material at the top of their wish list. Look for sources that are specific to the growing conditions in North Carolina or the region,” says Greer. “Seasoned gardeners may prefer more detailed reference materials about topics of personal interest like shade perennials, herbs, native or coastal plants.”

Some excellent choices for anyone are:

  • Month-by-Month Gardening in the Carolinas, by Bob Polomski, Cool Springs Press.
  • Best Garden Plants for North Carolina, by Pam Beck and Laura Peters.
  • The Successful Gardener: North Carolina, by Leah Chester-Davis and Toby Bost, Blair Publisher, 2011 (Available through independent book stores and Amazon.com)
  • The Carolinas Gardener’s Guide, by Bost and Wilson. (Available at Lowes and Home Depot building supply stores across North and South Carolina.)
  • Tough Plants for Southern Gardens, by Felder Rushing.

For those interested in the slow foods movement and sustainability, there are several gardening cookbooks that connect the garden to the table. Several recently-released cookbooks combine recipes with wonderful gardening pictures and delightful garden designs. Who wouldn’t enjoy an herb book with ideas for container gardening and recipes for homemade sauces, dips, and other preserves? Search for these online, at the public library, or at your local bookstore.

Tools of the trade

As those who garden know, you can never have too many tools. When giving tools as gifts, it is important to select high-quality equipment that is sturdy and easy to handle. Forged steel and reinforced fiberglass handles are durable selections. Some pruners come with longer, swivel handles designed to be ergonomically pleasing to use. An inexpensive kneeling pad or pair of gardening gloves make brilliant stocking stuffers.

“When purchasing hand tools, think about sturdy handles and how they will fit the hand of the person receiving your gift,” advises Greer. “Look for tools with cushioned grips.”

And don’t forget the green attire – a wide-brimmed hat, a garden apron, cotton shirts, comfortable jeans, or a belt to hold tools and cell phones all make great gifts.

Outside-the-box ideas

This time of year, local florists appreciate our business, too. Consider a gift card and wrapped poinsettia. Flowering bulbs, such as paper whites or amaryllis, need little gardening attention to bloom as long as they are placed in a room with bright, natural light and are watered.

Gardening jewelry, which comes in many floral designs and themes, is also a popular option. North Carolina has many amazing jewelry artisans who use our state’s natural beauty as inspiration for their work.

The winter months signal the onset of the birding season. Download a copy of the N.C. Birding Trail (a map showing vistas from the mountains to the coast) and couple it with a pair of binoculars or a regional bird identification book. Wildlife in the garden can also be the inspiration for other ideas – birdfeeders, a birdbath, or a year’s supply of birdseed.

“Weather-related equipment for a gardener with an interest in meteorology is another great idea,” says Greer. Weather gifts can range from inexpensive plastic rain gauges to digital gauges with wireless remotes that can be read from the comfort of a recliner. Many gauges also read the wind speed and phases of the moon.

Gifts that keep on giving

For the gardener who seems to have everything, consider giving a gift membership at a public garden or a donation in their honor to the Audubon society or another eco-friendly organization. For example, a tree lover in the Piedmont Triad region can make a tax-deductible donation to the “Urban Tree Endowment Fund” at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Foundation, NCSU, Box 7645, Raleigh, NC 27695. Donations will finance future tree planting grants.

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For more than 30 years, Toby Bost has been a resource to North Carolina gardeners and growers as an agricultural extension agent, a trainer for master gardeners, and an author. His books include The Successful Gardener Guide: North Carolina, North Carolina Gardener’s Guide, and The Carolina Gardener’s Guide. He can be reached through Our State magazine at gardening@ourstate.com

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Since 1933, Our State has shared stories about North Carolina with readers both in state and around the world. We celebrate the people and places that make this state great. From the mountains to the coast, we feature North Carolina travel, history, food, and beautiful scenic photography.

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