Debra Prinzing

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Gifts for Gardeners: Hoe, HOE, Hoe

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Garden writers often dread the perennial assignment that happens around August or early September when an editor summons us to say: “It’s time to do that round-up story on holiday gifts for gardeners.” 

For as many of these puff-pieces that I’ve written over the years, I guess people really do read them. I’ve witnessed first-hand how such stories influence the behavior of desperate gift-givers with the calendar racing toward December 25th.

One year, when I was “The Weedy Reader” newsletter editor at Emery’s Garden nursery in Lynnwood, Washington, we sent around gift ideas to local columnists. We had this rather funny non-gardening item ~ a paper-mache pig with wings. It was about the size of a piggy bank. We had them hanging from the ceiling of the cashier-checkout area and someone (probably Amy Tullis, our genius marketing manager), put up a sign that read: When Pigs Fly.

The famous and widely-followed Ann Lovejoy picked up on the pun and mentioned Emery’s pig-figures in her column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. We couldn’t keep those pigs in stock. They really did fly — straight out the door! There were piles of fine hand tools, lovely leather gloves, and beautiful plant books. But everyone wanted a pig. Who knew?

This year, a few really good ideas just plopped in my lap from the gift gods. I’m sending up thanks to them this very moment (I should actually call this unseen, heavenly entity “The Patron Saint of Deadlines,” because he/she has so often appeared just when I so desperately need an idea while on deadline!).

I met a few people at the Garden Writers Association annual symposium who suggested ideas; I received some other tips unsolicited by mail. Editors and their market scouts even did some of the legwork for me. Yay! Oh, I did find one great gift all by myself – an ExOfficio hat that I purchased at SeaTac Airport. It’s probably designed for people who go fly-fishing, but I think it’s an excellent gardening hat.

I wrote two December stories – one for Seattle Homes & Lifestyles and one for 805 Living Magazine. Isn’t that funny? The former periodical is published in my prior environs – Seattle; the latter is circulated here in Southern Cal’s Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, where I now reside. Is it possible to be contributing garden editor for both? I really do have two lives!

Before I run Debra’s list of great gifts for gardeners, I want to tell you what I’m giving my gardening pals this year. The idea is part of the Alternative Christmas Market that my parish is hosting this Sunday. I’ve already perused the fine catalog of gifts with meaning for worthy causes in Haiti, Kenya, Mexico, Thailand, Turkey and our own country.

One program in the catalog really stood out to me. It’s run by FLORESTA, a non-profit Christian agency that “plants hope” in communities through environmental restoration, community development, micro lending and more. 

Floresta’s programs enable farmers to make the best possible use of the resources available to them. Programs teach agroforestry, reforestation, soil conservation, and a host of other sustainable techniques. One way to support Floresta includes funding the planting of trees to restore deforested areas ($10 pays for an orchard of 10 trees; $100 pays for a forest of 100 trees). You can also finance a small farm loan ($25 pays for a vegetable garden; $100 pays for an agroforestry loan). I like the idea of giving a gift on behalf of one of my gardening friends to truly help a person in need change their life for the better. Imagine: giving up lattes for a week could transform the lives of a family in need? Gardening is truly a powerful source for change around the world