(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on November 23, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

The secret to giving the perfect gift lies in giving the person what he or she desires. So many get confused, instead giving the person what the giver wants him or her to have. Whether you are an excessive giver, a thrifty giver, a practical giver, or a giver who hates shopping, the gardener is easy to buy for if you buy your gardeners what they want.

Like to do things on the extravagant level either for the purpose of shocking the receiver with delight or simply making yourself look good?


Consider giving your gardener a truckload of gifts that keep on giving. We’re talking mulch here. Or even manure. Picture in your mind’s eye your loved one pretending not to notice there’s no gift for her under the tree. Then without warning on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, she hears the sound of a dump truck in the front yard. She rushes out, sees the evidence dropping on the driveway, and shrieks. (Feel free to picture her in bathrobe and slippers.) She runs back in, smothers you with kisses, and squeezes you to the point you can’t breathe. Manure by the truckload will do that.

Are you more practical than extravagant?

There is an answer for you at the local hardware store. Gardeners love bulb augers and complicated watering apparatuses. They like tools with long handles and tools that sound powerful. The sky is the limit here. Before going to the store, make note of what is currently in the garage or shed in the way of tools. Take pictures if you have to. Then go buy your gardener a tool he doesn’t have. Understand that it does not matter at all whether the tool is something he will use. What is important is that he doesn’t already have it. Doubly good is something he’s never seen or Imageheard of. Even at the local Lowe’s or Home Depot there are long-handled tools with ambiguous purposes. Get one of those, and let your gardener determine what it’s supposed to be used for.

Chain saws are good too. It’s irrelevant if all your trees are small and won’t need trimming for 15 years. Every gardener wants a chain saw. Don’t trust your gardener with a chain saw? Then for safety’s sake, get one that’s difficult to start and keep running. They’re inexpensive and easy to find.

Is money a factor for you?

Perhaps you are young, still in school, and your gardening mother doesn’t want you to spend a lot on her anyway. Start saving milk jugs. Milk jugs are the perfect gift for a gardener. I know it sounds ridiculous, but don’t argue with me. Enlist the help of your friends and your friends’ mothers to get zillions of them. Fill your entire car and trunk with the gift.

If you haven’t seen your gardener hoarding milk jugs in the past, simply write on the card that you understand there’s a Wintersowing Forum on Dave’s Garden. Your gardener will never again throw away a milk jug and will love you for introducing her to a way to enjoy gardening in the dead of winter. A gift like that might even make her forget last semester’s grades. Who knew a milk jug had so much power? Do not substitute something else thinking it will suffice. It must be milk jugs. Beer bottles will not have the same effect. I know it sounds ridiculous, but don’t argue with me.

Can’t stand the holiday shopping and crowd? Usually opt for a gift card instead of a wrapped present?

There is a way to give your gardener a gift card that is sure to please all year. First of all, be certain to go to his favorite nursery or the one he rarely shops because although their merchandise is out of this world, their prices are too. Go to one of those spots, or both, or three or four. You know how gift cards are decorative now? Buy one of each decoration. This is why you may have to go to more than one store, but the idea is to get 12 different decorated gift cards. Mark each gift card with a Post-It Note with the month on it. For example, one will say “January,” another “February,” and so forth.

When your gardener opens his gift, convince him that the gift cards may only be used in the month noted. Lying is permitted at Christmastime. Regardless of whether each gift card is for $5.00 or $50.00, you have just given your loved one an excuse to spend money at his favorite place every single month for a year. Be sure you budget extra each month to cover the amount over and above the gift card that the gardener will spend. Double the amount of each month’s gift card is a wise budget.

You will be a hero to your loved gardener whichever gift you choose. The added benefit is that you will be a hero elsewhere as well. Telling your friends that you introduced your mother to a new hobby involving recycling over Christmas makes you sound intelligent, caring, and green-loving. And can you imagine going to work where men are bemoaning their wives’ responses to their gifts and being able to say, “Yeah, I got her a truckload of manure and she loved it.” You will become a folk legend.