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Last-minute gift suggestions for the gardener on your list

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: December 21, 2017
  • Published December 21, 2017

An amaryllis is easy to grow and produces beautiful, large blossoms. (Getty Images)

The loyal reader knows my feelings about suggesting holiday gifts for the gardener. It is the "red sweater" syndrome as far as I am concerned. Sure, your giftee will most probably act thrilled upon receiving your gift, but you can really never know what a gardener needs unless you ask her. Anyhow, it is law that I have to make some suggestions for those last-minute shoppers.

So, here goes. Most of my suggestions you can get locally. If not, you can print a picture of any of the web offerings and put it into the proverbial stocking as it surely won't arrive in three days. Don't wait so long next year!

Let's start with bulbs. This year you can find both paper white narcissus as well as amaryllis for sale, as both vie to become more traditional holiday gifts. Both will bloom this winter, in a couple of months, and both with simply the addition of water. The former offers flowers with fantastic fragrance. The latter produce really big flowers, the likes of which you don't normally see indoors or outdoors.

You can buy both of these as single bulbs, multi bulbs, bulbs in pots and even in special containers. The only caveat I offer is that both of these are so easy to grow and induce into bloom that the expert gardener may be a bit insulted with either as a gift. Put another way, this is a terrific gift for the gardener on your list who is new to the hobby or to whom you wish to introduce the joy of producing simply stunning blossoms with no fuss or muss.

Next, how about a lighting system for your gardener? I constantly urge all Alaskans growing plants to get a set of lights under which to grow them during the winter months. You can help me. There are several so called "gro-stores" here in Alaska. Each has multitudes of options when it comes to indoor lighting. You can get everything from LED lights in strips to high power HID lamps. Systems come in all sizes and all costs. This is a gift that will be brightly received.

If you are not sure what kind of lights your giftee might like – or better put, need – you can always get a gift certificate. Make sure to pick up brochures, in the meantime, so there is something to put into the stocking Christmas Eve.

There are certain things that I write about that your gardener will surely use and thus presumably would appreciate receiving. At the top of the list is mycorrhizal fungi. All off the crops we grow partner up with one or more kinds. You can find these for sale locally, but just for fun why not head off to This product contains the mycorrhizal fungi that associates with cannabis as well as most annuals we grow. Order now and print the picture of the big pumpkin. Your gardener will appreciate this gift, if not now, after harvest next summer.

I am often asked about books. In addition to the obvious three that I wrote (ahem), most thinking gardeners will appreciate "Bringing Nature Home" by Doug Tallamy. I have written about this book before but think the argument that what we plant influences everything from insects to birds to moose and more. We have to start thinking about what we are doing when we create subdivisions and roads planting with plants that are not normally grown here.

Finally, the new landscape book that everyone is reading and talking about is "Planting in a Post Wild World" by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West. Why do we have lawns instead of paths that take us to places? it asks, and so much more. This is a fantastic book. I am not sure how it translates to Alaska, but I am going to try.

Finally, as I always end this column, an offer of helping in the garden is the best gift of all.

Jeff's garden calendar:

Alaska Botanical Garden: Join. It makes a great gift to yourself, your family or your friends. It is the one thing every gardener needs and needs now. Help the garden grow. (

Christmas trees: Check the water every day. And, yes, there will be ALPAR sponsored recycling of Christmas trees this year. Stay tuned.

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