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Holiday Gifts for Gardeners

Shopping for the gardener on your list is easy: gardeners love simple pleasures, and a package of seeds, a new gardening tool, or a cool Christmas-tree ornament that looks like a bright red pepper or a bunch of cherry tomatoes is sure to please, even when the weather outside is frightful.

Gardeners may not be able to plant those seeds right away, but the promise of a new season in a package of seeds takes the chill off the short, dark winter days. A pot of Amaryllis bulbs about to burst into glorious bloom, a windowsill herb-gardening kit, or a Christmas cactus covered with buds give gardeners a chance to exercise their green thumbs without pulling their boots on.

Many gardeners are also enthusiastic birdwatchers, so a durable bird feeder or an outdoor ornament made of birdseed, pressed into the shape of a wreath or a snowman and designed to hang from the branches of a deciduous tree, would also be a welcome gift. Although the birds seem to be the real beneficiaries of such a present, it may actually be the gardener, snug inside at the window, who enjoys it most, as cardinals, chickadees, and goldfinches devour the seeds and enliven the winter landscape.

Some gardening gifts have a dual purpose. A seedling heat mat, used to aid germination in the spring, will keep a gardener’s feet toasty warm under her desk until it’s time to plant seeds. A handsome garden basket will hold gardening books and magazines beside a chair by the fireplace until it is able to serve its intended purpose in the spring.

When you’re shopping, it is important to remember that gardeners have enormous curiosity, vast ambitions, and limited time. A hard-working hose nozzle, a sturdy garden tote, or a handy kitchen compost bucket will be a pleasure to use, and make the work a little lighter. A cold frame or rain barrel will give gardeners a chance to experiment with new plants and ideas. A pair of pruning shears or sharp nippers help a gardener you love keep her plot tidy, and will remind her of your thoughtfulness every day all summer.

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • There’s nothing like going into the garden in the middle of December to pull large, luscious parsnips for your holiday dinner. Wash and gently scrub the roots, then briefly steam them to make paring easier. With larger roots, remove the woody core and use only the tender outer flesh.

    To retain the parsnip's delightful, sweet flavor, don’t boil them as the sugar in the roots dissolves in water. Many people ruin the taste of parsnips by cooking them until they’re mushy and bland. The best way to prepare parsnips is to brown the slices in butter or sauté them in a little oil, keeping the heat low to lock in the flavors and avoid scorching the sugar in the flesh. Or simply bake them. If you want a simple side dish for Christmas dinner, steam parsnip slices with fresh peas until tender and serve drenched in melted butter. It’s so delicious, it’s almost decadent!