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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Days before Christmas - gifts for gardeners

As I write this, looking out onto a white world, it really does feel wintry, and yes, so Christmassy. With only thirteen days to go until the big day though, I can assure you I'm not one of those who is already smiling smugly knowing that every single card has been written and every present chosen and wrapped.
Oh no, this year I'm one of the "Oh it can't be that time already, and what the hell am I going to buy for  x, y and z " gang. Before you start tut tutting though, I have bought the cards, and even written over half of them.
So if you're like me and a little  tardy shall we say, I thought I would suggest some perfect presents for anyone interested in gardening. ....items that I've already road tested by reviewing,and by buying.
Firstly, if anyone asks me what I would like for Christmas, books are usually top of my list. Cook books, gardening books, history books, novels by favourite authors, or book tokens make me a very appreciative person!
Here, I've chosen three gardening books which have made me smile, think and given me inspiration.
The first is "The Hidden Life of Trees" by Peter Wohlleben. I have loved reading this paperback which talks about trees not only communicating with each other through their roots, but supporting each other . In the author's eyes, trees in forests form a real society where older trees look after younger ones and other trees living close by.
Apparently they can definitely feel pain (and I now so dreadfully guilty about having my old ash tree chopped down after it was severely damaged by Storm Doris.) I'm not surprised at that statement but do they have  emotions? Peter Wohlleben says they have, and his book is so persuasive, I believe him.
This is a fascinating book about why trees growing in a forest grow stronger and can learn from each other. It may sound provocative, but I 'll be certainly looking at trees in a different way.
Published by William Collins Books and costing £9.99 , this will certainly get you talking over Christmas! 

A glossy, beautifully photographed and well written book is a joy, and this is one of my favourite gardening books this year. Ideal for a present, "The Secret Gardens of  East Anglia" by Barbara Segall and photographed by Marcus Harpur shortly before his death this summer, is packed with inspiration.

Although these gardens are described as secret, many of them open their gates for charity each year.
The photographs here are beguiling ,capturing the wonderful light in this part of the country, secret corners, lavish borders and grand vistas.

  Barbara takes you on a magical journey through such different landscapes with stories of how these gardens were designed or evolved. It's as if she's introducing you to the owners and you are there in the gardens with them having a private tour. You also get a feel of the challenges involved too....which I always relish, because then I don't feel so inadequate when things go wrong .

There's only one garden in this book that I've actually visited, and that's The Manor at Hemingford Grey in Cambridgeshire, so I was particularly interested to read Barbara's take on this. Her opening sentence is
"If only gardens could talk. Were it so, then the garden at the Manor, Hemingford Grey would have more stories to tell than most, for it surrounds the atmospheric home of the late Lucy Boston, an acclaimed writer of childrens novels."

That sets the tone for this garden  and house with the echoes of ghosts throughout the centuries, both real and imagined, but as well as dealing with the  historical and fanciful, there's practicality too with the names of striking plants.

A fair number of the gardens selected are quite large, some are rather grand and I'd love to see inside the houses too - but then I'm insatiably curious. However, there are so many ideas which could be scaled down successfully to smaller plots and there's lots of ideas to be inspired by.

Whether you are seduced by a parterre, a rose bower, a knot garden , a herb garden, terraces, kitchen gardens, or innovative planting, there's something for everyone in this book. Barbara's keen eyes have spotted everything...and I know because I've actually walked around a couple of other gardens with her. She immediately hones on little pockets of beauty or will stand and stare, taking in  the bigger picture.

I'm already planning to visit some of the gardens featured next spring and summer.
The Secret Gardens in East Anglia" by Barbara Segall and photographed by Marcus Harpur is published by Frances Lincoln and costs £20.00.

"Growing Self Sufficiency " by Sally Nex is an ideal present for anyone thinking about growing their own fruit and vegetables, and taking things one step further.

Written in a very straight forward, engaging style, this introductory guide gives immediate suggestions of what Sally calls "the easy hits" - the things you can grow on a window sill or an allotment and get immediate success.

This book then romps through how to sow, plant, make a hot box, grow your own drinks or medicine cabinet or even how take on a few animals for meat and eggs.

Broad brushstrokes may be, but Sally is enthusiastic and motivating through each chapter, and she knows what she's talking about, moving on from a tiny handkerchief London garden to keeping chickens and sheep and acres of land. An enjoyable read, and I've picked up some useful tips. This book could be the springboard for someone to dive into a life of self sufficiency!
Growing Self Sufficiency by Sally Nex is published by Green Books and costs £17.99

Onto a very practical present now for the gardener in your life - a pair of gardening gloves. Now don't go thinking these are the gardening equivalent of being given socks and pants for Christmas. These aren't just any garden gloves  - when I was given these back in September, it was like finding the Holy Grail.

I've got through so many pairs of gardening gloves in the cotton ones for the summer and when I say the summer, they last for exactly that long, one summer only.

I tried thicker gloves, always finding the right fit a problem and tried gloves  which made my hands sweat terribly. I've never found the right pair specifically for dealing with thistles, holly, brambles and my ever expanding collection of nettles on the allotment until now.

These though fit wonderfully well, I haven't had a single scratch on my hands (a miracle, they're warm enough in December, and they still look remarkably good considering how much I've been using them.

Tough Touch Ladies deerskin gardening gloves, from Gold Leaf Gloves cost around £25 depending on where you buy them. Men's  gloves in the same range are available too.

Onto some stocking filler presents now , and I love these seed tins full of seeds from Suttons for successional sowing. Try saying that on air....I did try , but made a real hash of it. I must have sounded as if I was drunk but obviously that wasn't the case darlings....

 There's six different varieties of veg seeds to sow- carrots, red and white spring onions, beetroots and spring onions and each tin costs £4.95 for 2,000 seeds divided into three different packets. Very practical. If you buy alll six though , the cost is £24.95.

I always think you're never too old or too young to get a kick out of watching something grow, and these packets of seeds would be lovely for children to sow. Brightly packaged, there's added value with a paper tape measure in with the sunflower seeds, and bug stickers to accompany the calendula seeds for example..
Obviously, there's lots of other seed collections from other seed companies which are available which would also make fabulous prezzies too!

So, Happy Christmas shopping....and whatever you buy for the gardeners in your life, remember to treat yourself at the end of your shopping expeditions too.  I find a glass of fizz always perks me up a right treat.....Cheers!


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