Not only have I not bought anything for anyone, as yet I don't even have ideas about what to get for friends and family for the holidays this year. Maybe I've been inhaling the pine-scented candle too much, but it feels like there is still plenty of time to come up with brilliant gift ideas and then actually acquire and give them.

But do I know what I want under the tree? Of course. Here's my list of five great gifts for gardeners that will fit any budget and will be not just appreciated but actually used.

For the frustrated gardener: a quart of red pepper flakes.
There are few things more exasperating than watching squirrels purposefully dig up, eat, or simply scatter freshly planted bulbs and container plantings. Some gardeners resort to covering swaths of the garden with chicken wire, but there's an easier method that also works. A thick sprinkling of red pepper flakes on the surface of containers and on the ground after planting bulbs deters squirrels for several weeks. Although birds are immune to the effects of Scoville units (heat in food) mammals all feel it. Pepper flakes are available for less than $5 a bag at Mexican and Asian markets. Pour them into an empty mayonnaise jar, put a ribbon around it, and you're done.

For the plant lover: a hardy Gardenia
Certain fragrant plants have the tendency to evoke fond memories, and Gardenias are at the top of the list. If you've ever vacationed someplace with a gardenia bush nearby or been given a potted gardenia for special occasion, you know how the wonderful fragrance brings back thoughts of happy times. Plant breeders and climate change have teamed up to make growing gardenias in the Philadelphia area a year-round possibility. There are several varieties hardy to zone 7, which includes all of Philadelphia County and areas south. I wouldn't try it in Allentown, but in a protected location you should be able to grow this plant successfully in your garden.

For the practical gardener: a personal sharpener
Gardening tools get dull just like kitchen knives, and using dull tools requires more elbow grease for worse results. A great stocking stuffer is a personal tool sharpener. For less than $12, this small tool can be used to keep pruners, loppers, and even shovels sharp-edged.


For the reader:
It's surprising how many books have been written about gardening and gardens in Philadelphia, going back to the early 20th century. These books are fun to collect and often have interesting historical information, great images, and advice that withstands the test of time. They're available on used books sites for anywhere from a few dollars too much more. Here are a few easy to find titles that your gardener may enjoy:
Portraits of Philadelphia Gardens, by Louise Bush-Brown (1929)
The Wissahickon Hills, by Cornelius Weygandt (1930)
Old Gardens in and Around Philadelphia, by John T. Faris (1932)
Germantown Rare and Notable Plants, By Edwin C. Jellet (1904)

And for the gardener that has everything, or for the gift-giver whose clock has run out for making an actual purchase, consider a membership to one (or more) of the many remarkable public gardens in the Delaware Valley. All gardens give special benefits and discounts to members, and rely on their support for operation. A list of most of the gardens in the area can be found under the "gardens" tab here, at the Greater Philadelphia Gardens website.

Happy Everything, and good luck crossing names off your list.