I love suggesting Christmas gifts for gardeners, and this year there are really neat things to give your friends. Some of the best garden products on the market are:
Deck Flosser. It’s something I’ve been wanting for ages. This long pipe with an angled, pointed end cleans the muck from between the spaces on the deck. It works just as well on the stuff that I don’t want growing between the bricks in the walkway. I use the Flosser all the time. It’s so useful you wonder why no one thought of it before. Available at Cruickshank’s, 1015 Mount Pleasant Rd., Toronto. (416-488-8800). $24.95.
Billy Goat Glove. Gloves are a pain. I’m constantly losing mine because after wearing them about 10 minutes, I rip them off in frustration. Now I’ve finally found the perfect set. They are made of goatskin, but not like any I’ve had before. They can be washed and, if they get wet, they don’t lose any suppleness. My hands don’t have the usual pineapple surface of other years. Is it my imagination or are my nails growing? You can order the Billy Goat Glove from Gardens Past, 22 King St. E., Cobourg, Ont., K9A 1K7. (905-372-5847). $25 covers everything.
I have recommended Crabtree & Evelyn’s Gardener’s Hand Scrub and Hand Therapy before, and I’m sticking with them. Superb products, they cost $13 (the scrub) and $25 (the therapy). There are new products in the line: Gardener’s Defense Body Spray $15; After Work Scrub Grains $15. All are widely available.
Every season at least one Big Book is published. This year it’s Color by Design: Planting the Contemporary Garden by Nori and Sandra Pope, photography by Clive Nichols. It’s divided into colour sections with a superb gallery of seasonal plant portraits. The ideas for using colour in any garden are excellent. This book is a real treat. (Soma, $43.50)
At last there is a book about children and the garden that’s really worth the price. A Child’s Garden: Enchanting Outdoor Spaces for Children and Parents by Molly Dannenmaier is just that — enchanting. The pictures are wonderful and have none of the sentimentality so many of these books do. The lavish designs are beyond what most of us could possibly afford but are, nevertheless, stimulating, and the general information is sensible. There’s good stuff in here. (Simon & Schuster, $47)
Paddy Wales is a photographer I’ve worked with and admired. Her new book, Journeys Through the Garden, is a treasury of concise writing and articulate photographs, and is not just for West Coast residents though the flavour is definitely regional. Gardeners anywhere will really enjoy it. I have a bias here: I wrote the introduction (and meant every word). (Firefly, $34.95)
A new book by Patrick Lima is always an occasion for cheering. This is certainly true of The Art of Perennial Gardening: Creative Ways with Hardy Flowers,with photographs by John Scanlan. This is a wonderful book jammed with good information about putting plants together and with superb examples that will prove helpful as well as inspiring. (Firefly, $24.95)
Lorraine Johnson has become the guru of the native-plant set, and her new book Grow Wild!: Native Plant Gardening in Canada and Northern United States, with photography by Andrew Leyerle, is very appealing. She tackles all the joys and problems of native-species gardening with her usual humour and clarity. The gardens she’s scouted reveal a new esthetic in native plantings that is exhilarating for those of us who love these plants. (Random House, $26.95)
1998 has definitely been the year of the garden memoir. Some are boring; others splendid; none is illustrated. I’ve gone through quite a few and these are the ones I like the best:
Our own Des Kennedy’s The Ecology of Enchantment is definitely on the must-have list for those who love his gardening column in The Globe. This diverting book is filled with good information. His usual sharp insights and humour are on every page. (HarperCollins, $20)
The writing of (the late) Beverley Nichols has always made me laugh and over the years I have collected his books from old and used book stores. Now the best of the lot, Merry Hall,has been re-issued and it’s a sheer pleasure. (Timber Press, $35)
Another pleasurable writer is Ann Lovejoy. The U.S. author’s memoir is called The Garden in Bloom: Plants of Wisdom for the Year-Round Gardener in the Pacific Northwest. I found myself poring over it in spite of the regional nature of the book. There is wisdom here as well as really useful information. (Sasquatch Books, $22).
Two of my garden writing idols are Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd. Not only are they great gardeners, they are good writers too: pure, clear and opinionated. Dear Friend: Letters on Life and Gardening is the best bathtub reading going. In it, the two ponder the vagaries of using computers and offer much talk on plants. (Frances Lincoln, $30)