Christmas 2020 has two strong themes. One is online shopping and the other is supporting local businesses.
And this is also a year when many people have taken up gardening.
Above all, I think we want to give people something they really want or really need for Christmas 2020. Amusing gadgets and joky presents are all very well, but not this year.
So I asked keen gardeners I know – online and in real life – what they really wanted or didn’t want. I had an approximate and unofficial price point of £30 or under. Here are the lists and I’ll go into more detail on each one.
Disclosures: Links to Amazon are affiliate which means I may get a small fee if you buy but it won’t affect the price you pay. Some products have been sent to me for review, some were given to me by friends or family and I bought others. I can’t remember which is which, but I’ve only featured products I know and use.
Top Christmas 2020 gifts for garden lovers:
- Plants – but only if carefully chosen
- Seeds – as above
- A garden tool – but it must be top quality or chosen for a reason
- Good gardening gloves and gauntlets – no gift shop tat
- Gardening books (I’ll recommend some further down)
- Garden visit tickets, especially season tickets (though usually more expensive)
- Gift vouchers
- Really good hand cream
What gardeners DON’T want for Christmas 2020
- Not very good hand cream
- Garden-themed calendars
- Miscellaneous home items with garden and flower themes on them
- Garden ornaments
So are plants a good present?
In theory, garden lovers like being given plants.
When I went round Gravetye Manor Hotel gardens with head gardener, Tom Coward, to talk about the best shrubs for autumn colour, he said ‘you always remember who has given you a plant.’
We were looking at a rose, Mrs Oakley Fisher, in the veg garden at Gravetye. It was a cutting from a rose at Great Dixter. Its parent rose had originally been given to Christopher Lloyd’s mother by Vita Sackville-West. The memory of the present has lasted for nearly 100 years. It’s a wonderful rose, by the way, and it flowers all summer and is very fragrant.
And in my garden this year, I’ve particularly loved both pink cosmos and coleus, both given to me by friends.
But when I did a poll on how many people wanted plants, about 40% said they either didn’t want plants or only wanted plants that had been chosen for a specific reason. You have to know the taste of your friend and where there are gaps, especially if they have a small garden.
And not everyone can cope with house plants. If someone doesn’t already have indoor plants, then that is a clue. They may not want an orchid from Marks & Spencer. Although orchids are quite extraordinarily trouble free.
Last Christmas, a friend was delighted by the gift of a Gabriel Oak rose, because it has been developed to grow in particularly demanding conditions. She has very poor quality sandy soil.
So if you do your research, a plant can work well. Peter Beales Roses start at around £13.50. Gabriel Oak from David Austin would be £20 bare rooted and £27 in a container, so plants are a good choice for the budget.
Seeds for Christmas 2020
There are some beautiful gift packs of seeds available, but when I checked the various companies, most had ‘out of stock’ notices on them. That changes from day to day. For example, Sow Seeds has a lovely gift pack of ‘Sow Heritage Vegetable Seed Collection Box (£19.95) which was in stock when I checked.
The alternative is to make up your own seed gift sets, based on your experience of growing the plants and what your recipient needs.
For example, your pick of the most reliable and easy-to-grow veg seeds would be an excellent present, in my view. Or unusual seeds for flowers.
Hand tools get lost or even broken. So a good hand tool makes an excellent present. But no one wants a fork that bends at the slightest pressure. Avoid the prettily packaged pair of tools from nowhere you’ve ever heard of.
Bronze and copper tools are getting increasingly popular and they are certainly beautiful. They don’t rust and are hard-wearing.
Good gardening gloves and gauntlets
Deborah of Deb’s Dust Bunny blog (gardening and cookery blog) says ‘I always need good gardening gloves.’ She particularly liked a pair of rose gauntlets from her husband.
We bought these gauntlets two years ago. They are still going strong and are comfortable to use.
Once again, a good brand is vitally important. I’ve found Showa gloves very good. They’re also a good price, although they’re not very glamorous. I’ve had several pairs which have lasted for years and washed well. Other brands I’ve personally found good include Fiskars
While I’d usually recommend avoiding gloves with pretty patterns, I generally trust any brand with an RHS endorsement. Everything I’ve tried from them has been good. So although I haven’t used RHS Flora & Fauna Gardening Gloves in particular, I believe they would make a good present.
Good gardening books
Deborah of Debs Dust Bunny blog makes the point that you need to consider the gardener’s personal style when choosing a gardening book as a gift.
Grow Food for Free by Huw Richards has lots of good growing advice and would be brilliant for anyone starting out veg growing, especially the younger generation. The RHS Step by Step Veg Patch by Lucy Chamberlain is also an excellent starter book. Both are short-listed for the Garden Media Guild Practical Book of the Year. How to Garden When You’re New to Gardening is another good RHS book, ideal for anyone who has just taken up gardening this year.
You can also get all the RHS books directly from the RHS website.
Diary of a Modern Country Gardener by Tamsin Westhorpe and Wild About Weeds by Jack Wallington, also short-listed for the GMG Awards, are both good reads for established gardeners. They have a good mix of useful information and inspiration. Find out more about Jack’s ‘rebel plants’ philosophy here. And there is an interview with Tamsin here.
For those interested in history as well as gardens, I can warmly recommend both Monty Don’s American Gardens and Mark Lane’s Royal Gardens of the World. The cover price is above the £30 but there are lots of discounts, so do shop around. I’ve written more about both these books here.
And for those interested in an environmentally-friendly or wildlife-friendly way of gardening, I can recommend Jean Vernon’s The Secret Lives of Garden Bees and Planting for Butterflies by Jane Moore. There is more about Jane and her approach here.
A season ticket to a favourite garden
Alison Moore of the Rennaissance Garden design says that ‘a season ticket to a favourite garden’ would be top of her list for a good present for Christmas 2020. Season tickets are usually a little above £50, but they would be an excellent present, so worth it if you want to spend a bit more. If not, two day tickets usually comes in at under £30.
Sarah Pajwani of St Timothee Garden, a 2 acre garden in Berkshire which open for the NGS, has a lovely gardening Christmas wish list: ‘The Wild Garden by William Robinson, a treat day out garden visiting and lunching with a friend and some Thunders Love socks.’ Thunders Love is a small company in North West Spain, which makes socks in small family workshops staffed by traditional hosiers.
Really good hand cream
There’s always some debate as to whether enthusiastic gardeners really want another hand cream. But this year has been tough on our hands (all that washing and hand sanitiser). So I think hand cream, provided it’s good, is on the list.
I was given a tube of Crabtree & Evelyn Gardener’s Hand Cream and used every drop. I even squeezed the tube out. So I think that’s a yes, please, from me.
If you don’t need a pretty pack, then I have used Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream for over thirty years. I used to be a beauty editor and was sent all kinds of creams, but Norwegian Formula quickly established itself as a must-have on my bathroom shelf. It is really effective and is also good value for money.
Supporting small local businesses for Christmas 2020
The last year has taught us how easy it is for long supply chains to be broken. Things grown or made locally to you are less likely to get stuck in a warehouse in China in a lockdown or other international disaster. So it’s really worth supporting these businesses for Christmas 2020, especially as so many made such a big effort to do home deliveries or mail order when shops were shut.
Denys & Fielding are a Kent-based company who make eco-friendly candles, soap etc I particularly like their Citronella candle which comes in an enamel, refillable or re-usable container. They also have a refilling service and all packaging is eco-friendly.
Award-winning garden designer Claudia de Yong has an online shop as well as her garden design business. Her Farmer’s Hand Cream is made in the Welsh valleys of locally grown lavender. I also liked her House Plant Tool set, with small tools for small pots and house plants, plus a small bag of crushed whelk shells from Newquay for top dressing house plants.
What about mugs, tea towels etc?
People have said they don’t want miscellaneous stuff just because it has a trowel design on it.
But there is one source of really good quality garden-inspired homewares. This is the RHS homeware and gifts. I have a bone china RHS mug which is one of my favourites because it is such good quality. And I’m very fussy about the quality of china in mugs. I’ve had a number of RHS products given to me over the years, and they have all been excellent.
Shopping at the RHS also supports their work and that’s important in a year when so much has been cancelled.
An environmentally-friendly zero waste Christmas 2020
If you use clippings from your garden to make Christmas decorations, then you can recycle it all into the compost heap after January 6th instead of sending it to landfill. There are several ideas in this post on Zero Waste Christmas Decorations.
And if you want a fashionably huge giant wreath without the unfashionably large bill, then see Jane Beedle’s brilliant ideas for making a giant wreath based on a hula hoop and garden prunings here.
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