No more sodding hand cream, pretty please. Domestic glop doesn’t work on gardener’s battered mitts and makes the wearer smell like an elderly maiden aunt. China slips from it, soil sticks to it and although I have no hard evidence apart from my own empirical studies, the perfume appears to be a sexual stimulant for slugs and snails. Purchase an industrial strength formulation such as heel repair unguent and quietly put it in the bathroom cabinet. Upon discovery, if the recipient looks less than pleased, explain that it’s not for face or feet but that I said it would fix their mangled paws. Don’t give it to her for Xmas, birthday, Valentine’s Day or Mothering Sunday.
For a man, give him a JCB or a day’s rental on some other heavy equipment. He will be happy with a complete compost system or even better, a heap of bricks to build his own. If you present him with an electric pump for a ten thousand gallon water flow, he will probably dig you a suitable pond. Never, ever give a male of any age dynamite, TNT, C4 or other explosive material because they won’t read the instructions and will invariably exceed the recommended dose.
Lonicera x purpusii (winter flowering honeysuckle)
If your gardener is scared of growing seeds, don’t buy packets of Strelitzia (bird of paradise plant) or Tacca (bat plant). No-one can make these germinate and you will make the object of your affection feel inadequate. If they are the proud keeper of pots full of twisted brown corpses, resist the urge to spend your money on exotic orchids. Plant gifts should not be wrapped until December 23rd; until then, you will be required to water them occasionally. It is an immutable law that someone will pick up your parcel, turn it upside down and shake it thoroughly, before your best beloved gets their hands on it. By all means look for “easy care” on the labels but be aware that garden suppliers, as retailers everywhere, lie through their teeth.
Pond, fish and Equisetum hyemale (Dutch rush)
Sneak out and look in the potting shed, greenhouse or garage where sundries are stored. What do they use, that’s running out? Ten litre tubs of a favourite brand of fertiliser, moss treatment or weed killer will be welcome and look impressive when wrapped, be-ribboned and bulking large under the Xmas tree. I wouldn’t be without my late grandma’s daisy grubber and half moon hand hoe. I’ve rarely seen such useful tools newly manufactured but I have seen arcane implements in a nearby junk shop. Don’t acquire a full sized, horse drawn iron plough for a laugh; it’s not funny.
Books are often a fair bet. I would not wish to pick up a pair of secateurs without reference to the RHS volume Pruning & Training (Christopher Brickell & David Joyce, publisher Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978-1405363129). Unlike internet instructions, the hard copy can be taken outdoors where the action is and this tome takes the worry out of its subject. Indoor horticulturists may appreciate The Conservatory Gardener (Anne Swithinbank, publisher Frances Lincoln, ISBN 978-1577171959). Otherwise, go for mouth-watering pictures to inspire, just make sure that there isn’t a copy on the shelf already. If you purchase any volume of fiction by Alan Titchmarsh, you are guilty of a heinous crime against good taste, literature and humanity. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Wishing you a wonderful Xmas full of fun and a happy, peaceful New Year notable for gardening pleasure and success.