Thursday, December 6, 2007
Gifts Suggestions for Hawai’i Gardeners
My friend Julia brought me a pair of poinsettias. "Oh, more container plants," I said. She laughed because she knows, like most other people do, poinsettias are lousy container plants, especially after Christmas. People either stick them in the ground or let them die, because they aren't worth the hassle as potted plants. Still, I like them better than a cut tree, because at least they're rooted and living for a while. If someone could figure out how to crossbreed a Norfolk pine to make it smell nice without making it a GMO, maybe they'd stop shipping in those containers of Douglas Firs and yellow-jackets. But I digress. Pass me the holiday cheer!
Just in case you’re stuck, here are some gift ideas. As always, shop around for the best deals. You still have time to order online, but I'm into shopping small independent local businesses whenever I can. I'm just providing links so that you get the full description of the item. (By the way, I have all of these, so this doesn’t work if I’m on your list. Sorry, family and pals.)
New pair of gloves, or two. Nitrile coated knit gloves are great for light jobs like repotting and propagating cuttings. Thicker rubber coated knit gloves are perfect for the bigger jobs like pruning, turning compost and hoeing. I like Atlas brand that I get in the hardware store, but use whatever feels comfortable for you. Just try not to go without. My 70-year-old gardening buddy grew up on a plantation and never wore gloves and never had a problem, but I’ve heard enough horror stories and had enough unpleasant, ungloved personal experiences to convince me that it’s wiser to wear them while working in the garden. Pruning a finger that had to have stitches wasn’t so bad, but soilborne fungal infection, what can I but say but yeccch. Don’t forget to wash gloves: turn them inside out (gently poke the fingers out with a chopstick), scrub clean in warm, soapy water, rinse and hang them to dry thoroughly in the sun . That’s why you need at least two pairs.
Natural bug repellent. Not for the plants, but for you. One of the nicest discoveries I made this year was Burt Bee’s All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent. It smells lemony and keeps the mosquitoes away while I work in the greenhouse. I photographed Akaka Falls for two hours without a single bite, while everyone else was smacking away at themselves. Neem spray, the kind formulated for your skin not plants, also works well, but to me it smells like nicotine. By the way, SPF 50 sunscreen is also good for gardeners to have on hand. A surfer chick I met in Longs recommended Coppertone Sport because it’s waterproof, lasts a long time and doesn’t sting your eyes. I tested it out, and she’s right, it’s the best thing I’ve found in a drugstore.
Pair of righteous bypass hand pruners. I love my Felco No. 6 for small hands, but the most popular is Felco No. 2. Sure, high-quality pruners cost more, but they last almost forever, and if you prune a lot they're extremely sharp and make quick work, so you might even be able to save yourself from developing a cramp, or worse, carpal tunnel sydrome. Shop around for the best deals! Get a leather holster, too. (I once took a pruning workshop taught by a wiseguy who used an old policeman's holster he found at a flea market, just so he could pretend his pruners were a .38 Magnum. Gardeners really are weird.) Felco also makes models with ergonomic features.
Kickin’ pair of Crocs. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear your Crocs in public, just in the garden when rubber slippers aren’t enough. Unless you live in Puna. Then you must wear them in public.
Groovy water bottle. Nalgene water bottles, the kind for hiking, are odorless, tasteless and now come in lots of fun, bright colors and styles. Fill with some of your recipient’s favorite seed packets, a Swiss army knife and/or a garden shop gift certificate.
Magnifying glass or loupe. At least 10x power is helpful. Everyone needs one to see the tiny world within the garden up close, especially when looking at plant damage (is it a disease or an insect?) or insects and their allies ( “good guys” or “bad guys”). I bought my folding pocket magnifier when I was taking an entomology class. The instructor ordered a bunch of them from the very cool Bioquip catalog, but shipping rates can be high for Hawaii sometimes.
Nice gardening book. You know what I’m giving this year.