Whether stuffing a stocking, finding the perfect hostess gift or presenting a significant gift that will bring lasting pleasure, there’s something to satisfy any gardener on your Christmas list. Here are a few suggestions.

Root Assassin and Mini Root Assassin Shovels

One look at the saw-toothed blade on the full-sized and Mini Root Assassin shovels, and you know these tools mean business. They can cut through turf, slicing through the grass’s thick mass of roots like a hot knife through soft butter. The pointed tip is designed to penetrate through tough soil like the heavy clay found in much of our region, also gnawing away at underground roots that interfere with the digging.

Not only are they good digging shovels (although not so useful for edging, which requires a straight blade), they also can saw off branches. While it is more awkward to use a shovel for pruning, rather than a proper saw, it does work, saving a return to the tool shed (or garage) while you’re working and on an impulse decide you need to remove a nearby dead branch.

Built of solid steel and with a comfortably wide handgrip made of a durable, slip-proof, reinforced rubber, both models are tools that you’ll pass on to your heirs.

The Mini Root Assassin is as solidly built as its larger mate, but weighs much less. It is superb for smaller people, as well as for cutting deeply and cleanly in tight-fitting spaces without disturbing the surrounding landscape.

Stocking Stuffers for Gardeners

  • Gardening gloves: Because eventually (or very soon if they’re cheap), gardening gloves wear out, a spare pair is always welcome. Avoid cotton gloves — they wear out too quickly – and choose ones with Velcro closings. Good quality brands include Blue Hawk, Wells Lamont and West Country Gloves.
  • Hand pruning shears: The best quality brand is Felco. The Swiss-made tools have strong, sharp blades that do not distort when cutting thick branches. The blades are made of hardened steel and all the parts that experience wear and tear are replaceable with their lifetime guarantee. The company makes different models for different uses and hand size. For example, the F-6 model is ideal for small hands. F-9 is designed for left-handed people and F-100 is designed for clipping roses.
  • Small hand saw: Felco makes a high-quality folding hand saw that fits in a side pants pocket. The pull stroke pruning saw is made of high quality steel with rust-resistant chromed blades for clean, precise cuts.
  • Natural garden twine: Biodegradable jute twine is the only twine you should use in the garden. Other products are made of plastic, which never rots.
  • Tool sharpener: Sharp garden clippers and loppers are not only easier to use, but they also are healthier for the plants, as a sharp blade makes a clean slice. A good brand is the Speedy Sharp carbide knife sharpener. It’s an easy-to-use, compact device that fits in a pocket. In addition to garden tool blades, use this device to sharpen knives and scissors. The company website has a sharpening instruction video.
  • Poison ivy cleanser: It’s the oils in poison ivy that irritate the skin. The sooner you wash them off, the less likely you are to break out in a rash. The go-to brand for poison ivy washes is Tecnu. Opt for Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy and Oak Scrub. Even after the rash has appeared, it washes away urushiol, the toxic resin that causes the rash, allowing the skin to begin its natural healing process.

The Gift of Garden Books

A good book that draws you in and engages your mind and spirit is always welcome. Here are two garden books that are well-written, as well as rich with practical advice.

“Succulents Simplified: Growing, Designing, and Crafting with 100 Easy-Care Varieties” by Debra Lee Baldwin

Succulents and cacti are not just for the desert. A surprising number of these plants are hardy here at Smith Mountain Lake. They are a seductive group of plants with an incredible range of shapes, textures and colors. Those features, plus their low-maintenance, drought-tolerant qualities make them great assets in the garden. In addition, they lend themselves to a myriad of craft projects.

In her latest book, Baldwin, who is one of the world’s leading experts on succulents, as well as an accomplished artist, covers the basics for caring for and propagating this group of plants. It also includes a useful directory of 100 easy-care succulents. But the fun part for Laker gardeners who like to combine crafts with their love of plants is the middle section: “How-to Projects that Showcase Succulents.”

Project highlights include: creating a living, vertical garden with succulents; a low-light dish arrangement; topping a pumpkin with succulents for a striking fall decoration; making succulent-covered earrings and hair clips; and building succulent topiary spheres. Each project includes a list of materials you’ll need, recommended plants for the project, directions for making it and care instructions. Excellent photographs complement the step-by-step descriptions and give you a pay-off picture of the completed project.

Gardeners, man your craft stations!

“The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants that Everyone Can Grow” by Tovah Martin

The title says it all. Martin presents 200 easy-care houseplants, describing the plants and explaining their care. She calls these houseplants “the botanical versions of the Marines.”

The featured plants are arranged alphabetically from African violet to ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). If the latter is not a plant within your ken, you’re not alone. Martin writes, “I ignored ZZ until it walked into my life and after that it was sort of like a Great Dane – big, sleek, affable, and easy. I love that Zamioculcas zamiifolia takes up a generous chunk of real estate but doesn’t require an equally dedicated allotment of time.”

Martin’s style is whimsical and amusing, making the book a delight to read. For example, she explains, “Many of the plants in this book could use a dusting off. You knew them way back when, and you are prone to dismiss them as part of the murky past, like bell-bottoms and fondue.”

Of African violets, she says, “It is so strongly linked with doilies and tea parties that many indoor gardeners figure it doesn’t have a future. But these plants survived indoor gardening’s dark ages intact…”

In another section, Martin shares, “I never thought I’d fall in love with a philodendron. …the plant just didn’t strike me as cohabitation material. I draw the line at scruffy when I invite plants into my home. A dress code isn’t necessary, and I’m totally willing to do rehab. But I don’t need one more mess in my life.” Martin is one of us. We can relate to her.

“The Indestructible Houseplant” is an exceptional reference book, as well as one you’ll want to read cover to cover for the sheer pleasure of spending time in Martin’s excellent company.