From good reads, useful tools and even compost tumblers, gardeners can have a very merry Christmas.
Garden stool: The No. 1 favorite idea from both botanist Kim Hutton of the University of South Florida Botanical Gardens and Marina D'Abreau, horticulture agent at Hillsborough County Extension, is garden stools, either with wheels or without. For the latter, D'Abreau suggests bright, plastic kids chairs without armrests. The rolling type may be hard to find in stores this time of year, so look online. The Garden Hopper Mobile Garden Stool and Storage is $25.97 at Amazon. A sturdy, big-wheeled version, the AZM Rolling Work Seat, is $65.95 at Amazon.
Basket o' basics: Florida gardeners have special needs. D'Abreau suggests meeting them with a gift basket that includes sunblock, repellant, floppy hat, sport drink bottle and nail brush. And, oh yeah, for the day after: Ben-Gay and aspirin.
Florida Gardening magazine: A year's subscription gives 'em six issues of great tips, ideas, places to visit, calendars of state plant fairs and more. Hutton and and I are both big fans; $20 at www.floridagardening.com.
Nitrile-coated gloves: A nice little gift for your gardening pal. These knit gloves are all the rage because they're more like a second skin than most on the market, and yet they're tough and protective. "Those Nitrile gloves are my favorite ever," says Riverview gardener Susan Gillespie. (I agree.) Gillespie has also found the best price; $15.99 for a four-pack at www.palmflex.com. Search for Atlas 370 Garden Club Gloves.
Compost tea bags: This nifty little box of bags makes it easy to give houseplants the benefits of organic compost every time they get watered. Just drop a bag into a one-gallon watering can, allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes and you've got a natural fertilizer that provides healthy microorganisms and nutrients. A box of 12 Merrill's All Natural Compost Tea bags is $11.50 at www.composterconnection.com and www.planetnaturalizer.com.
Steampunk rain gauge: Utilitarian function meets artistic form in Conant Custom Brass's Jeffersonian Steampunk Rain Gauge. A float-and-lever system moves the arched dial for a read on rainfall, but this gauge looks great on sunny days, too. It's $189.99 at cleanairgardening.com.
Teeny tiny garden: If a gardener on your list has trouble indulging his or her passions in the traditional ways because of limited mobility or a move to a health-care facility, make it easy. A container, a small bag of potting soil and a packet of seeds makes ... a garden! (And spending time together getting it planted makes it that much more special.)
"What's Wrong With My Plant?": A new, heavily illustrated book (472 color photos, 600 drawings) by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth really helps root out problems and identify cures. "What's Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?): A Visual Guide to Easy Diagnosis and Organic Remedies" has trouble-shooting flow-charts and solutions aplenty. (Timber Press; $24.95, paperback.)
Plants: If you're not a gardener, do your homework before buying a gift plant. If it's going outdoors, find out whether the yard is sunny, shady or mixed and buy for those conditions. Do a little research and write up a care card, so the recipient has lots of information. (Those little plant tags aren't enough!) Herbs are a good choice. For sunny gardens, consider an unusual butterfly plant, and for shade, bromeliads.
Compost tumblers: Woo-hoo, this is top o' the list for both Kim Franke-Folstad, my Dirt garden blog partner, and me. Turning a compost pile is messy, hard work. Tumblers are tidy and so much less labor. Find a good selection at www.sears.com starting at $39.95. The one we love is the Lifetime Compost Tumbler for $199.99. Are you reading this, loved ones?