Some say the best holiday gifts come in small packages. Others prefer them by the truckload.
A University of Georgia scientist said a truckload of manure -- or compost or topsoil -- isn't a bad idea for an avid gardener.
"For hard-to-buy-for people, holiday gift-giving can be a chore. You're in luck, though, if you have gardeners to buy for," said Wayne McLaurin, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"There's always something new, or coveted, in the gardening world," McLaurin said. "And there are plenty of places to find them."
Gardening is the No. 1 hobby in the United States. And whether interests lie in flowers or trees, vegetables, fruits or houseplants, new equipment and cultivars appear almost monthly.
"Many of the new plants coming out are excellent," McLaurin said. "A Georgia release that comes to mind, called 'Honeycomb,' is a butterfly bush (Buddleia) that has nice yellow flowers and attracts butterflies."
If you can't find the plant your gardener wants, get a gift certificate. Most gardeners have patience to wait for just the right plant. And gift ideas don't stop with flowers.
"Don't forget about containers to put them in," McLaurin said. "Clay, ceramic, brushed metal and plastic baskets all make nice gifts."
If you buy a potted plant and a container, remember the plants' need for drainage. "Leave the plants in the uglier plastic pots," McLaurin said, "and set them down in the decorative containers. Don't forget to buy a plastic liner to catch runoff."
If you don't want to give a living plant, or you need to mail the gift, many gardening catalogs will mail direct.
"Gardeners never get enough tools," McLaurin promised. "There are shovels and trowels, rakes and hoses. Drip irrigation sets, or outdoor lighting kits, solar lights, stepping stones, soaker hoses and mulching machines abound."
If you're shopping for a major gardening gift, this is a good time of year to buy weed whackers, lawn mowers, tillers, wheel barrows and edgers.
Hand tools for weeding, raking and planting make good stocking stuffers.
"Recycling and composting are popular among gardeners," McLaurin said. "Start your gardener off with a variety of compost bins. The larger ones will work best. For the experienced composter, consider compost thermometers, turners, test kits and sieves."
If gardening gadgets are taking over, look at some storage components, from storage benches to shelves or tool racks. Outdoor models come in many sizes, from big enough for a few tools to those that can house a tractor.
Gardening and nature go hand-in-hand. What about bird feeders and bird houses? Then there are bat houses, butterfly houses and even toad abodes to shelter the frogs and toads that visit your garden. Ladybug homes and bee hives can add even more to your garden.
Other great gardening gifts:
- Decorative items like statuaries, fountains, bird baths, garden sculpture or ornamental trellises and archways.
- Patio furniture: garden benches, tables, shelves, umbrellas, potting benches, kneeling benches, work stools and rolling carts.
- Books on every aspect of gardening: technical manuals, decorative tabletop books, garden journals -- or try a subscription to one of the many gardening magazines.
- Clothing: a garden apron, work pants, garden smock, tool vest or belt, gloves to fit all jobs, waterproof garden shoes and boots, rain suits, bug suits (with protective bug netting) and all kinds of hats are sure to please.
Still can't decide?
"Most garden centers are as ready for holiday shoppers as malls are," McLaurin said. "Even if you aren't an experienced gardener, experts will be on hand to help you pick the right gift for the gardener in your life. And if all else fails, remember that load of manure."
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)