Making up Christmas gift lists can be a pain. My kids say they have trouble buying for me because I seem to have everything I want — and if I need a new tie, I just go buy one. Perception is their reality: I haven’t bought a new tie in years.
This is how it has worked for me: I have a son-in-law who is a green architect. He ventured into the field with an eye to making the planet a greener place. “Martin,” I said to him, “why not take me on a bicycle tour of ‘green’ buildings in Toronto. Show me your favourites and explain why they are so special.” He did, and we had a wonderful day.
Here are other suggestions for gifts of time:
1. A trip to a park. Not just any old park but one with flowers and heritage trees, such as High Park. Tour a local community or allotment garden, in season. The Leslie Street Spit provides the perfect place for nosy gardeners like me to poke around and pick up all kinds of wonderful ideas for our own gardens.
2. An outdoor garden concert. Check out the concerts planned for the Toronto Music Garden, the Toronto Botanical Garden or the Royal Botanical Gardens. You might not get the detailed schedule of events until spring, but the idea is there. Print off the homepage from any of these venues and enclose it in a card with a note that reads, “I will take you and bring a picnic at a time of your choosing.” Most of these concerts are free (the Royal Botanical Gardens charges admission but it’s worth every penny).
3. Garden tours. There are lots of public tours of private gardens every season. The biggest and best (in my opinion) is Through the Garden Gate, in Toronto. Celebrating its 25th year in 2017, every gardener on the planet would enjoy this tour. Especially if they get to share it with someone special. Check out the tours available at your local garden societies on their websites.
4. One-on-one gardening. Offer to plant a gardener’s garden come spring. Or dig the holes, do some weeding or pruning, or fertilize the lawn. You get the idea. YOU are the gift: your time, talent and energy.
5. Bee hotel. This idea is taking off across the country and I take full credit for it. Take just about any old stuff you have around the garage and build a habitat for beneficial insects and small animals, such as toads, frogs, snakes and salamanders. Remember: the secret to attracting “beneficials” is rot and decay. Most of us have old bricks, sand, flagstone, lumber, firewood, mouldy cardboard or what-have-you lying around somewhere.
If you’re a gardener, you’re also one of the easiest people to buy for. Here are a few other gift ideas:
Plus: Flexible plant ties, plant ID stakes, spiral tomato stake, lawnmower scraper, box of plant fertilizer, several seed packets (with a seed catalogue, free), Harrowsmith’s Almanac or Garden Making (Canadian) magazine.
Less than $ 20: Garden gloves (good ones). Cheap ones are a waste.
Plus: Stainless-steel garden scoop, hand trowel, short-handled garden fork or cultivator, garden twine and dispenser, clay pots, hummingbird feeder, quality birdseed, bee hotel, lawn sprinklers and handheld hose end nozzles.
Less than $ 50: A back hoe (my version of the ultimate weeding/planting tool), quality watering can (check out the Haws brand), quality hand pruners and tree loppers, bird feeders, butterfly habitat, terrarium planter kit, balcony planters, window boxes, stainless-steel digging tools and frankly this list could go on and on.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, Order of Canada recipient, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new bestseller, The New Canadian Garden, published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and on Facebook.