CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This time of year, most people's minds are on celebrating the holidays and gift giving. If you are still stumped as to what to get your gardening friend or family member, I'll share a few ideas for some last-minute gift ideas. And if you are a gardener, you might have some great gifts at your fingertips that you didn't even think about.
Simple, last-minute gifts for gardeners
Gifts do not need to be elaborate or expensive to be meaningful. Often it is simple gestures that can mean the most when it comes to gift giving. Here are a few things I think will make good last-minute gifts for gardeners and nature lovers.
A garden journal. It is good gardening practice to keep notes on what you do from year to year so you don't repeat mistakes and remember what you planted or how you took care of pests effectively. If the person already keeps a journal, the spare will be appreciated. If they aren't already journaling, this would be a great way to introduce them to it. You can purchase many nice garden journals at bookstores or online (though at this point you have to get very speedy delivery) in a price range of $15 on up. I like the Moleskine Passions Gardening Journal, which is available for about $20. If you would like to go the homemade route, search online for templates that you can print and put in a binder or bind with ribbon. I would suggest creating a personalized cover page.
Potted amaryllis or paperwhites. These bulbs are a sure sign of the season, and can give enjoyment well past the celebration of Christmas. I would suggest finding high-quality bulbs or pre-planted ones at a nursery or florist. These can also make a great host or hostess gift.
A good set of pruners. Some gardeners are serious about their pruners. You can treat your favorite gardener to a new set of good pruners. Good models like Fiskars start at about the $20 level, but great pruners like those made by Felco can be $50-plus. A nice pruning saw or garden knife or pocketknife would be a good option as well. My favorite knife is by the French company Opinel; I gave out a bunch of them last year for Christmas. They are simple and inexpensive, but if you want one in time for Christmas, you'll have to order from Amazon with rush shipping.
Compost bin or rain barrel. If you are looking for a bigger gift for a sustainability-minded gardener, a compost bin or rain barrel could be a great option. They are available at garden shops and box stores alike. A smaller, less-expensive option would be a kitchen compost container, used to hold kitchen scraps on the counter until you can take them out to the compost bin or pile.
Birdfeeders. Many gardeners also enjoy attracting wildlife to their gardens. A nice birdfeeder could be a quick gift find, especially if it is a unique or pretty design. Don't forget to look ahead to summer and be on the lookout for some nice hummingbird feeders.
Nursery/catalog gift certificate. While I don't typically go in for gift certificates and cards, picking one up from a favorite garden store or catalog company can be a great gift option. This will allow the recipient to pick out plants and other things in the right season in the upcoming year.
The gift of charity. Sometimes the best gift is given to others in honor of the recipient. There are several options for meaningful giving in honor of your gardening friend. Heifer International is an organization that helps families in developing countries become self-sufficient through agriculture. You can give garden seeds, beehives, chickens and other livestock in the name of your recipient at www.heifer.org. On a local level, Manna Meal grows produce in a garden in Charleston to feed 400-plus people each day. You could honor your friend with a donation of money or time to the soup kitchen or the garden. You can find their information at mannameal.com or call 304-345-7121.
Garden classes. Has your loved one always wanted to be a Master Gardener or learn how to garden? Give them a voucher for the Master Gardener course (details below) or an online gardening course.
Gardening books. If you know what kind of gardening the recipient does (vegetable, perennial, flower, sustainable, etc.), a book could be a good choice. If you have no idea, steer clear.
Quick, last-minute gifts from the garden
Oftentimes homemade and homegrown gifts are those that are remembered the longest. Not only do they represent your thoughtfulness toward the recipient, but also your time in growing or making the item. These gifts could even be hiding right under your nose in your kitchen or garden shed. Here are some ideas:
Homemade jams and jellies or other canned goods. This is a common one, and who could be blamed? I often make some extras through the season and grab them as quick gifts this time of year. This year, my gift of choice was hot pepper jelly -- which turned out to be the most popular white elephant gift at a party I went to last weekend. Adding a nice label or ribbon will dress it up even further.
Seed collection. Passing on a selection of the seeds you saved from your garden can make a nice gift that will have an impact for years to come. Giving your favorite heirloom vegetable or flower seeds also helps spread the plant and preserve local plant genetics. Put the seeds in nice envelopes or small containers and label them well. One of the most interesting favors I ever received at a wedding was a packet full of seeds from the bride's garden -- pretty neat.
Gift certificate for gardening help. If you are an avid gardener and you have friends always asking for help, give them a gift certificate good for a day of help in the garden or a few sessions of sharing your garden knowledge. It's free but also very meaningful!
Spring 2014 Extension Master Gardener Course
My Master Gardening course for the spring has been scheduled for Feb. 8 through April 5. The 10-week course will be offered on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore Community Education room (across the street from Green's Feed and Seed) in Charleston. The course has a materials fee of $100, and is intended as a training for volunteers wishing to work on garden projects with WVU Extension. Applications are available at http://kanawha.ext.wvu.edu/mastergardener/course or by calling 304-720-9573.
2014 WVU Extension Garden Calendar is here!
Perhaps the only arrival that is more anticipated that Santa Claus' is the arrival of the WVU garden calendar. People start calling my office months in advance wanting a copy. Well, they are finally here! The 2014 calendar celebrates WVU Extension's land-grant contributions to the agriculture of West Virginia, all while giving suggested planting and gardening dates. You can pick up your free copy at my office, 4700 MacCorkle Ave. S.E., Suite 101, in Kanawha City, or at any branch of the Kanawha County Public Library.
John Porter is the WVU Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Kanawha County. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-720-9573. Twitter: @WVgardenguru.