Tools hit the spot in garden gifts

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2001

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. (AP) -- In choosing Yule gifts for a gardener, think practical.

Trowels, spades, forks, pruning shears, gloves, watering cans are always welcome.

While cheerful and pretty, cut or artificial greenery really plays as holiday decor having little or nothing to do with gardening. Plants do, but before sending any it's wise to know the tastes of the recipient lest your gift land on the compost heap.

Also, if you're sending a book, does your designated reader want strictly instructional stuff or does he or she have a literary bent that would cherish style and imagination?

Basic as you can get, a trowel and a scratch with forged heads and ash handles are offered by a Canadian firm, Rittenhouse & Sons of St. Catherines, Ont., (877-488-1914, www.rittenhouse.ca) at $17.93 for the pair.

The trowel is stamped with inches and half-inches to measure planting depth. A scratch is useful for cleaning debris from around plants.

Ergonomic hand tools exist to help in gardening chores, a boon to the elderly or indeed anyone needing an assist. A firm called Earth Bud-Eze of Forest Lake, Minn., (877-504-9800, www.earthbudeze.com) offers a trowel, V-hoe and cultivator designed to isolate the wrist and allow upper arm and shoulders to do the work. Cost: $12.95 to $14.95 per tool.

While most garden centers carry individual tools, you'll probably have to do catalog shopping to find assortments. Brookstone (800-926-7000, www.brookstone.com) offers a garden seat with a compartment holding a dozen key gardening tools, at $99.

A person who delights in spring flowers blooming indoors while snow and ice rule outdoors would likely appreciate a gift of potted crocuses, hyacinths, scilla, daffodils, or tulips singly or in a collection. These need little care. Plants like camellias requiring attention might not be so suitable, unless you know they are going to caring and skillful hands.

Gardener's Supply Company of Burlington, Vt., (888-833-1412, www.gardeners.com) is featuring a four-month assortment. In December, you get 19 varied bulbs, rooted and ready to bloom, plus a willow basket to use for all four months. In January, blue hyacinths will arrive; in February, cherry red tulips and in March five jonquil varieties. The whole will cost $125 and must be ordered by Dec. 16 for Christmas delivery.

For those who might be a little tired of the traditional poinsettia, Logees Greenhouses of Danielson, Conn., (888-330-8038, www.logees.com) is featuring potted scarlet ''twining firecracker'' flowers and two passion flowers, red and lavender. They are trained into sculptured topiary wreaths, each at $39.95, with terra cotta pot and saucer. A variety of other indoor plants, like citrus limon, jasmine and begonias are also available.

The tomato fancier who grows from seed might appreciate a diversified sampler from W. Atlee Burpee & Co., of Warminster, Pa. (800-888-1447, www.burpee.com).

The collection includes pink Brandywine; yellow Sweet Tangerine; Green Zebra (green when ripe); nutrient-rich Healthkick; early-ripening Fourth of July; cherry-sized Little Girl; and Roma, the sauce favorite. The package comes for $12.95.

Burpee, incidentally, is offering a seed starters' collection comprising a heavy-duty apron with seven outside pockets; 10 growing trays; a bag of soil-less mix; a tote bag; and a 256-page gardening manual, all for $59.95.

If you live in or near cities with botanical gardens, check out the lecture courses. The New York Botanical Garden, for instance, offers more than 150 courses, any one of which might make a fine gift for a friend.

Take pruning -- for $52, attend a slide lecture and then a hands-on practice session. Or for growing orchids on a windowsill or under fluorescents -- $62 gets a potting demonstration and a workshop. And each student gets an orchid to take home.

On books, much expertise is contained in Lee Reich's 200-page ''Weedless Gardening'' (Workman Publishing, 2001, $8.95 paperback.) Reich has the latest savvy on mulching the soil, enriching it from the top down and eliminating the donkey work of yearly tilling. He provides crisp profiles and how-to's for individual vegetables and other plants. There are fine points on bamboo and on creating a meadow.

Is there a plant's view of the world? In ''The Botany of Desire,'' Michael Pollan explores the intriguing concept that plants may be using us just as we're using them in an evolutionary give and take. (Random House, 2001, hardcover, $24.95 list price.)

In a captivating melange, ''The Literary Garden'' (Berkley Books, 2001, hardcover, $30.99, list) features Nature passages by 38 famous authors, from Conrad Aiken to Emile Zola, placed alongside practical pieces on gardening and cooking.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: George Bria retired from the AP in 1981 after 40 years that included coverage of World War II from Italy.

End advance for Thursday, Nov. 29, and thereafter



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