Three Gifts Especially for Northern Gardeners

Tis the season for lists of gifts for gardeners. There are lots of tools and books that make great gifts, but for cold-climate gardeners, you have some special choices.

Here are three any northern gardener would love.

A Mosquito-Proof Jumpsuit

mosquito jumpsuit gift
Photo courtesy of Meshed. Jumpsuits fit intentionally lose.

I was the lucky winner of this mosquito-proof jumpsuit from Meshed at the Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin, Texas, in May. The suit is made of a mesh material and is designed as a nontoxic way to keep mosquitoes, ticks and other nasties off your skin while gardening or in the outdoors. The suit fits loosely but snugs up against the wrist and ankles. The loose fit is intentional, and the suit can be used by pregnant women, as in the photo. Obviously, if you are going to be outside in the woods or garden in Minnesota, you want to add socks and shoes to your ensemble. Disclaimer: I did not get as much of a chance to test out the suit this summer as I had hoped. My new urban garden has fewer bugs than the one I had in rural Minnesota so I did not use the suit much. Still, this is a great idea, and if you are haunted by ticks or mosquitoes on your property, it would certainly be worth a try.

An Ice Scraper

The year my husband gave me a long-handled ice-scraper and chopper for Christmas, our daughters groaned. Really, can you get any less romantic? I had requested the scraper and I use it proudly still, though it’s now more than 20 years old. If you garden in the North, you likely have iceĀ  andĀ  hard-pack snow — on your sidewalk, your driveway, paths you want to keep open — and nothing is as good at removing snow and ice as a long-handled scraper/chopper. Using a scraper will keep your walks clear of ice and safer to walk on, as well as reducing the need for deicer, which can be harmful to gardens. Scraping up ice is also a great way to work out your aggressions about why winter is lasting so darn long!

apricot amaryllis in bloom gift
Amaryllis are easy to grow and bring a lot of joy to the cooped up gardener.

Something to Cheer Them Up

The holidays are wonderful, but those long dark days of December and January can be a real drag on gardeners. So give a gift that cheers them up. An amaryllis bulb in a decorative pot will grow and bloom for several weeks. A less-expected gift would be some new seed-starting equipment. I love the four-bulb shoplight I got last year — much better than a two-bulber for starting seeds. Or, how about this greenhouse ornament? That’s something a gardener could wish upon during December.

And, of course, you could always get them a book.

Happy Holidays!


Amaryllis in the Morning

'Exotica' amaryllis
‘Exotica’ amaryllis

I’ve been the recipient of several homeless houseplants over the past couple of years, so I’m hesitant to add too many more to my collection. But when the folks at Longfield Gardens offered me (and several other garden writers) a free amaryllis kit this fall, I was happy to give it a try, and am surprised by how truly stunning the amaryllis is turning out to be.

The kit came with a whopping big bulb, a cute tin container, some soil, mulch and instructions. Back in November, the kit arrived, and I potted it up on Nov. 17. Per the instructions, I gave it a pretty thorough watering, and that was probably the last time I watered it. In a few weeks, the bloom stalk appeared and it grew so fast that I started to measure it. One day it was 11 inches, then 12-1/2, then 17. It topped out at just over 20 inches without the blooms.

amaryllis plantI was hoping the bulb would bloom in time for Christmas, but it started blooming about a week later. The bulb was located in my kitchen sink window, which is the sunniest spot I have in December, but possibly not as warm as the bulb would have liked.

The blooms are a delicate cream color with streaks of yellow and apricot. I’ve been posting a few shots on Instagram and it’s fun to see how the Instagram filters change the look of the bulb. (The photo above is without any filtering.)

The blooms should last another week or so. There’s also a second stalk coming off the bulb which looks like it will bloom after this one fades. You can keep amaryllis bulbs for use the next winter. This involves removing the flower stalks and setting the bulb and its leaves in a sunny spot over the winter before moving it outside in the summer to build up the nutrition the bulb needs to bloom again.

For more information about forcing bulbs, check out the November/December 2014 issue of Northern Gardener. There is a fine article by Margaret Haapoja on which bulbs to force into bloom and how to do it.