Gardening gift guide
Gardeners are special people with special sensibilities. While not everyone on your list will appreciate high-end pruners or thorn-resistant gloves, friends and family who dig in the dirt certainly will. This year, I'm going beyond the obvious and including items that will appeal to a gardener's soul, as well. After all, there are only so many gardening hats one can appreciate. To that end, I've personalized my recommendations more than ever. Here are a some special gifts that I, myself, would like to receive for the holidays. I have a feeling your gardening loved ones will, too.. -- Jessica Damiano
It's hip to be square
I love quirky and different things so instead of the same-old, same-old, tried-and-true, I'm hanging Burpee's square wreath on my door this year. It's handcrafted of fresh cut Douglas fir and boxwood branches, and decorated with a classic gold bow, though it's also available in plaid. Order now so your gift can be appreciated before the holidays. $39.95 at Burpee.com.
If you think you know what gardening magazines are all about, think again: The new Wilder Quarterly is turning the tried-and-true garden format on its head, and (finally!) giving gardeners what they really want.
Truth be told, it's practically a misnomer to call Wilder a magazine. It's more like a book. Well, not quite a book, but more like something you'd keep out on your coffee table. Words can't describe it. And I'm a writer.
The first thing to catch my eye was the gorgeous, vibrant photography on the cover of its inaugural issue. Next was the quality of the cover: thick, textured, shiny. And finally, the size: an unusual 9 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches, multiplied by 164 pages.
Cracking the cover made me feel, well, giddy. The photos are close-up and beautiful, and the content more urban-hippy than farmer. There are plant profiles, which are cleverly referred to as "biographies," and pieces on birds, pests, chores, national events and even recipes. It's thick and heavy and, most importantly, really interesting. And it's no wonder it's only a quarterly. A production like this surely takes awhile to pull together.
At $18.95 for a single issue, it's priced more like a book, too. A full-year subscription of 4 quarterly issues costs $59.95. And although that price exceeds what up until now has been my most extravagant publication splurge -- my New Yorker subscription -- I think Wilder will give me my money's worth. Plus, a portion of the subscription proceeds are donated to The Fresh Air Fund, which gives disadvantaged city kids the opportunity to attend summer camp in the country. Win-win.
Wilder is the single most exciting thing to happen to gardening coverage. Ever.
See for yourself at wilderquarterly.com.
Preserve the harvester
If you're a regular reader of my column, I don't have to tell you how I feel about tomatoes. And with more than a hundred Newsday readers participating in the Garden Detective Great Long Island Tomato Challenge each year, some of whom grow hundreds of tomato plants in their backyards, I can attest there's a need for canning supplies on Long Island. This set gets it right, providing everything tomato lovers need to enjoy their harvest all year long: A 10-quart pressure cooker, jar lifter, jar wrench, magnetic lid lifter, stainless steel funnel, stainless steel ladle, canning rack, bubble freer and a cookbook with a step-by-step instructions and more than 30 recipes. $159.95 at Burpee.com.
Start off right
Soil blockers have been used for a long time, with some sources dating them to 2,000 years ago. They're used in modern-day agriculture, and are available in smaller sizes for home use. Here's how they work: Moisten potting mix until it's the consistency of oatmeal, press the soil blocker into the soil and give it a twist to fill its chambers. Squeeze the spring-loaded level to release blocks and plant a seed in each hole. It's easy and fun, and eliminates the need for plastic cell packs or seed pots. The soil is compressed so tightly that it won't fall apart as seedlings grow. What's more, because there is no pot surrounding the soil, plants will not become root bound, as they simply stop growing when they reach the outer edges of the cube. I like Jason Beam's Mini 2-inch Potting Blocks, which allow gardeners to make four soil blocks at a time. $29.95 at pottingblocks.com.
Back in the day, our ancestors used to place colorful bottles around the garden in the hopes of warding off evil spirits. Doing so today is just plan celebratory! This bottle tree lets you create a glass sculpture of your own using 16 of your own one-liter or smaller bottles. Just slide bottle openings over wires and voila -- an instant garden sculpture! $29.95 at gardeners.com.
Easy on the knees
I've tried many kneeling pads in my day, from plain rubber mats to rectangular garden kneelers, and most suffice, but the Jolly Kneeler, with its supportive polyurethane knee rest is so comfortable, it has me looking for excuses to kneel. Plus, the built-in carry handle doubles nicely as a hanging hook for storage. $29.95 at gardeners.com.
Whether or not one grows lavender, I've never met anyone who wouldn't appreciate its aromatherapeutic, calming fragrance. Warm this lap blanket in the microwave for three to four minutes and then wrap it around your shoulders. The rice, flax and lavender-filled blanket has a soft chenille cover that removes for washing. $49.95 at gardeners.com.
A 365-day gift
Remind your gift recipient that he or she is in your thoughts all year. This kit includes everything for a small windowsill garden that can extend the gardening season to 12 months. Included are 12 seed packets -- petunias, marigolds, pansies, lobelia, alyssum, zinnias, impatiens, baby's breath, dianthus, cosmos, poppies and sweet peas -- 12 small candy-colored earthenware pots, a bag of soil and growing instructions. $79.95 at redenvelope.com.
Kill bugs naturally
Mosquitoes and biting flies can interfere with backyard relaxation. This new power swatter electric bug zapper lets you kill bugs while you practice your back swing. The racket's triple-layer can prevent accidental shocks to the user or pets. Also great for indoor use. $17.99 at Brookstone.com.
Keep it untangled
If you're anything like me, you have lots of tangled twine. I love this simple twine dispenser because allows for easy unrolling and looks much nicer on the kitchen counter than a ball of twine. $14.95 at gardeners.com.
For the birds
Art deco crackle-glass bird feeders, available in purple and spring green, hold three cups of seed or can be stocked with fresh fruit to attract orioles and tanagers. Also available is "Moon," a doughnut-shape feeder that holds two cups of seed and provides a spot for birds to perch. $24.95 apiece at gardeners.com.
Bird seed chalet
Made of wood and covered in bird seed, and measuring 10 1/2" wide x 5 3/4" deep x 8 1/2" high, this high-quality, beautiful feeder is available for $39.95 at redenvelope.com.
Wild bird seed wreath
Covered with black oil sunflower, peanuts, colored safflower and red millet, and adorned with a raffia bow, this feeder measures 9 3/4" x 9 3/4" x 3 1/4". Available for $15.95 at burpee.com.
Coles Hot Meats birdseed is infused with hot Cajun chili pepper that’s harmless to birds but reviled by squirrels. Though the latter surely will sample the goods, they won’t be back for seconds, and the seeds will be left for your intended fine feathered friends. $14.99-16.99 for a 5-pound bag at area garden centers. For a list of online retailers, visit coleswildbird.com.