Giftees For Gardeners

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This week, a few suggestions for holiday gifts for your favorite gardener.But first, some bad news.

Scrooge has been messing with our Christmas trees. As a result, we’re bound to see prices rise, quality fall and maybe even some shortages in years to come.

You may know a bit about this from other print or broadcast media but for those who haven’t heard yet, there’s a disease affecting the most favored Christmas trees—the firs. That includes the Douglas, Noble and the magnificent Fraser fir.

Scrooge in this instance is taking the form of root rot caused by the pathogen phytophthora, a soil-borne disease that’s become prevalent in this country’s two major Christmas-tree-growing areas, Oregon and North Carolina. In both states, it’s killing up to a quarter of the crop in some nurseries.

The problem is not as severe in New York and surrounding states but there are also much fewer cut trees grown in these states. The same is true up in Canada, and that’s where many of our cut Christmas trees come from. But the losses in the south and west will put pressure on the prices from up north, and the pressure won’t be downward.

But, in the spirit of the season, there is good news. The phytophthora issue has been around for nearly 10 years, and, while it’s been getting worse every year, nurserymen and plant scientists looking for a cure have also found two new firs that seem to be resistant or immune to the disease. One is the Turkish fir and the other is the Nordmann fir.

Of course, there’s a caveat. Both have been for sale outside our area for a few years but one grower I know remarked that deer will walk right by a Fraser but will stop to snack on a Turkish in a blink. So, beware.

Now on to the annual dilemma of what gifts to get your favorite gardener.

Rumor has it that Santa will finally be bringing the Hampton Gardener his long wished for quadcopter drone. What’s that got to do with gardening? Check back this spring and I think you’ll see when we run still pictures that it’ll be taking of some local gardens, from 100 feet above.

I’m always a big booster for giving live plants as gifts and giving them as Christmas presents is no exception. If you know a gardener who just has to keep growing through the winter months, there are all kinds of possibilities. Not all will box or wrap well but they will be gifts that keep giving and growing.

Though not traditionally associated with the season, a small collection of African violets can make a great gift. At less than $10 each, you can get one or a dozen either budded or in bloom.

They’ll bloom on and off during the year, you can learn how to propagate them and they can take an incredible amount of neglect. The two things that will do them in though are full sun and too much water.

If you’re gifting them, keep them out of the cold until you can present them. You’ll find them at garden centers, big box stores and even supermarkets but you’ll find the most reliable varieties and selection at local garden centers and plant shops.

Then there are the amaryllis. These large and easy-to-handle bulbs can cost from $10 to $30 and they can be gifted as bulbs, growing plants or in full bloom. I prefer to gift them as bulbs so the recipient can have the joy of seeing the plant emerge, flower and continue through its entire yearly cycle when it will flower again next year.

You can buy potted bulbs, started bulbs and you can also add a nice pot and some soil to go along with the gift. Local garden centers still have some in stock and you can also order from the White Flower Farm online. They have the largest selection, with more than 60 varieties, collections and sets.

Another plant to consider that we’re seeing lots of are the orchids. Purchased in bloom, they often last for months before the blooms fade.

A step above the amaryllis in the challenge to rebloom, many of the newer varieties will rebloom at least once and with some patience and understanding. Most should rebloom for years and years.

Watch out, though, once your recipient gets the knack of orchid growing they’ll become addicted. Then again, that could make future Christmas presents easy to figure out.

Like the African violets and amaryllis, you’ll find orchids in big box stores, supermarkets and green grocers. However, orchids aren’t a plant to skimp on unless you’re buying for yourself and can handle failure. Buy these plants at local garden centers and plant shops who get them directly from local growers—not growers hundreds of miles away.

Keep in mind that orchids span the gamut from easy to difficult so don’t be shy about asking for help if you need it. These elegant plants don’t box well or wrap well but for the budding or accomplished gardener they are wonderful gifts.

Last but by no means least there are gift certificates. These take the onus of being right completely out of the equation. They allow you to give a great gardening gift but leave the choices and decisions up to the recipient.

From seeds, to plants, books and tools, you really can’t go wrong with this idea. Shop local whenever you can, but if it’s a Meyer lemon or a tropical begonia that you’re thinking about, Logee’s Greenhouses in Connecticut is a wonderful place for online gift certificates. It has probably the best tropical offerings on the East Coast and offers a vast selection of house, greenhouse and conservatory plants.

From Westhampton to Amagansett there are plant shops and nurseries with selection and seasonal plant material unlike any you’ll find in the rest of the lower 48. I’ve said over and over again, we are truly fortunate to have these wonderful retail outlets and each one of them will sell you a gift certificate that you can offer to your intended recipient.

I don’t think there’s anything quite like the gift of seeds but picking them out is kind of pointless unless you’re clairvoyant. A gift certificate from Renee’s Garden Seeds can solve that problem.

For many years, Renee’s has been my first choice for seeds. It has the most informative and helpful packet information on growing the particular seeds and a great range of vegetable and ornamental seeds.

If it’s unusual perennials or tender perennials you think your intended might enjoy, then there’s Plant Delights Nursery. With an absolutely outrageous catalog and plant offerings not found anywhere else, this nursery is tops for the new and unusual.

For the more common perennials, but lots of them, at great prices and terrific shipping, there’s Bluestone Perennials. When I need a large number of one type of perennial, Bluestone is always my go-to source because its plants are consistently large, healthy and ready for garden planting. Bluestone also has incredible end-of-season sales, but keep that a secret.

For the highest quality perennials, hostas, peonies, small trees and shrubs there’s none better than Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery. Like Bluestone, Klehm’s also has one of the best shipping and packing methods I’ve seen, so plants arrive in great shape.

Locally or online, spend a lot so your intendeds can plant and grow a lot. And of course, as always, keep growing.

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