Depending on the depth of their practice — some call it addiction — gardeners usually spend the dark months counting down the days till February, when they can plant peas and start seeds indoors.
Being that the holidays drop midway through this gardenless season, your gardener might appreciate a gift evoking their favorite pastime, even though it still might be a couple months before it's put to use.
The selection of garden gifts is almost endless, but you can narrow the choices down by determining what stage the garden is in — young, evolving or mature — or by considering the gardener similarly. This is a gift area where context matters.
Young gardens and gardeners are easy to buy for because there are so many ways to get it right. This is the stage where choosing a high-quality tool can make a long-term difference. "Hand tools are always good," says Don Steyskal, lawn and garden associate at Medford's Grange Co-op.
He recommends the ergonomic models offered by many tool makers. These have a "fatter" grip and sometimes finger holds, which promote joint-friendly movement. Hand grips on pruners should reside closer together when at rest, he says. They should also have a spring return to cut down on muscle use.
Books are a good choice for any gardener, but for the new gardener, books can be instructive as well as inspirational.
"You can't consider yourself a gardener in the Rogue Valley unless you have 'Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley: Year 'Round & Month by Month,' by the Jackson County Master Gardener Association," says Steyskal. The book was revised in 2007, and covers mostly food gardening.
The midlife of gardens allows for a lot of play. Changing plant styles or colors is the prerogative of the gardener in this stage. It's about improvement, rather than establishment, so a small tool carrier might fit the bill.
"You can just hook it on a belt or hand cart, and you have all your tools right there," says Steyskal. Choose one with mesh pockets and a nylon body. It's easy to keep clean because the dirt falls out or washes off, he points out.
Colorful gardening clogs are a fun gift, says Judy Bateman, manager of Hubbard's Ace Hardware in south Medford.
"You get them muddy, and it rinses right off," she says. Bird feeders, seed "or even a bird house" are other options, Bateman says.
A fan of whimsical garden items, she suggests garden flags.
"There's one for every holiday, and one for every month of the year. They are so fun."
Here's where comfort starts to make a play for prominence. Ergonomic tools should replace any less joint-friendly paraphernalia. Gardeners with arthritis might really appreciate a ratcheting bypass pruner, says Bateman. Demonstrating a model manufactured by Corona, she shows how the workings shift gears when they meet the branch. "It has the strength if you don't," she says.
A new take on an old tool, the ohoe, combines two stainless-steel disks on a long ash handle with a sharp edge. You can use the tool as an edger, chopper and aerator, and it slides easily under soaker hoses and fences to cut the crowns of roots cleanly off. It's a locavore choice, created by Carol Maurer of Gold Hill.
"Ohoes are unique because they cut in all directions," says Maurer, who sells her tool for about $30 at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market, as well as at Southern Oregon Nursery in Medford and Morrow's in Gold Hill. The tool holds its sharp edge for a long time and can be "freshened" with a metal file, says Maurer.
Stocking stuffers include kneeling pads and garden seats, the kind you can tote around the garden with you. These make getting down into the dirt a lot easier, says Steyskal.
And perhaps your shopping is now easier, too.