Choosing Christmas presents for gardeners is not always straight-forward, unless you know them well enough to predict the response.
Clothing from top to toe is a sensible enough subject area for presents, but there is the lingering concern about getting the size right.
Tools, as in secateurs, spades, trowels, knives and the like, are also a sound enough choice, but not without pitfalls. Most gardeners like to handle several designs before buying the model that suits them best.
A seasonal pot plant, suitably wrapped, is a lovely gift with general appeal, but remember, it does come with the responsibility of keeping it alive. Imagine presenting one to a friend and revisiting one month later to find it gone, the result of over or under-watering, even cold draught treatment it received well before you bought it.
The safer approach would be to buy a pack with indoor bulbs, a container and compost, which can be cultivated from scratch.
I particularly like the single hippeastrum bulb with all the ingredients for indoor growth. It comes beautifully presented in a gift box.
Christmas potted plants and bulbs are on display at present, and what a colourful spectacle they make.
The majority are perennials that, with a little coaxing, can be encouraged to bloom year on year. This is something to bear in mind when mulling over the price.
Consider four favourites capable of brightening up any Christmas scene – cyclamen, poinsettia, azalea and stephanotis.
Their flowers (bracts in the case of poinsettia) last longer indoors with good light conditions, modest warmth and water because they’re actively growing.
The compost will become dry quicker if a central heating setting is high, but balance watering to allow for any overnight fall in temperature if it’s turned off for economy.
After flowering, feed for a while, then allow the cyclamen to dry off in the pot and rest on its side over summer. Re-pot in fresh compost as autumn approaches to encourage new growth.
Prune and re-pot poinsettias in springtime, avoiding contact with the milky sap as this is a euphorbia capable of blistering skin. To encourage scarlet bracts, give the plant 14 hours of darkness each day from late September. Pop it in a cupboard each afternoon or enclose it in a black polythene bag.
Azaleas are best plunged, pot and all, in the garden for summer and brought inside to bloom before frost.
The gloriously fragrant stephanotis just keeps growing so prune it occasionally and take stem cuttings for friends.
Books and DVDs abound, covering a diversity of gardening subjects, but for something different try www.notonthehighstreet.com which offers 543 ideas.
Personalised items include a gardening apron at £28 and gauntlet gloves for serious rose growers at £59.95. But I won’t be dropping hints for the blackbird garden sculpture at £34.95. We have enough of the real thing in this garden.
If after spending so much time searching to no avail, take the time-honoured easy option and buy them a gift voucher.