by Dave Waltzer
Let me warn you, decorative gift buying for the gardener can be a very tricky business. Most gardeners have a very set idea about what belongs in their garden and if you give them the wrong thing, chances are that your gift will end up on the table at their next garage sale.
Decorative gifts would be plants, ceramic frogs, electric frogs, all kinds of kitschy statuary, "mystic gazing balls" or even a "celestial orb." Do we really need another garden gnome?
One way to go is with practicality, such as tools, gloves, gardening books, racks to store muddy shoes English Boot Trays, a tool-sharpening kit, or even a garden bench.
Tools are a great gift to give to the gardener. Every gardener can use another set of pruning shears since they are often misplaced. There are other, more exotic tools available for the serious gardener. One such tool, called a Hori Hori, is a combination knife and spade and is very useful for many gardening tasks.
Pottery is another useful gift. If your friend lives in a condominium or a townhouse with little or no flower bed space, a nice ceramic pot will be most welcome.
If your gardening friend is a bird lover, you might want to check out The Bird Feeder, located in Santa Cruz. I went in there just to look around and ask a few questions and left full of gift ideas and enthusiasm.
Sheri Howe, the owner of The Bird Feeder, is especially helpful and knowledgeable. After listening to her I was ready to turn all my friends' houses into aviaries. Howe showed me bird houses, bird feeders, bird baths and even bat houses!
Being a bat lover, I was particularly intrigued by this item. Bat houses come in several shapes and floor plans and provide a welcome habitat for mosquito-eating bats. Howe explained to me that many species of bats are endangered, so if your gardener friend is also an environmentalist, a bat house might make an exciting gift.
However, if your intuition tells you that your friend might not be overjoyed upon receiving a bat house, there are plenty of bird houses available that are designed to accommodate the needs of both birds and their hosts.
The Bird Feeder also sells very attractive holiday wreaths made from bird seed. You might want to advise your friend not to mount this gift on their front door, as it could lead to unspeakable messes on their doorstep.
My own recommendation for a great holiday garden gift is a bonsai starter kit. Bonsai make great gifts because they fit in any garden, big or small, or even on a deck or a porch. Bonsai starter kits can be found online and usually include written instructions, a pot, a plant, soil and wire. All these components, plus special bonsai pruners and a definitive book on bonsai can also be found at San Lorenzo Lumber Garden Center. Bonsai can turn into a lifelong hobby to be passed down through the generations.
Most gardeners enjoy starting things from seed now and then. The folks at Hidden Garden Nursery in Aptos informed me that they are selling special holiday gift packages containing various assorted collections of seeds. These seed assortments are categorized by their appeal; there are seeds for bird lovers, people who like cut flowers, fragrant flowers, or butterflies.