Published in the Toronto Star – December 10, 2018
Christmas gift lists can be a pain. My kids tell me that they have trouble buying for me as I seem to have everything that 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. I have come up with an answer: I don’t want you to buy me anything. All I want for Christmas is you.
Indulge me for a moment and maybe a light will come on in your head that will make this Christmas an easier one for those who buy for you.
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 of it.
Another son-in-law loves to play golf. “Rene” I said, “how about taking me out for a game of golf and we just enjoy that time together.” We did and it was wonderful. No diversions like kids with wet diapers.
If you are a gardener, you are among the easiest people to give to. Think of all of the experiences that you would value sharing with family and friends.
- A trip to a park. Not just any old park but one with flowers and heritage trees, like High Park. Tour a local community or allotment garden, in season. The Leslie Street spit provides the perfect place for nosey gardeners like me to poke around and pick up all kinds of wonderful ideas for our own garden.
- 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, “I will take you and bring a picnic at a time of your choosing.” Or something to that effect. Most of these concerts are free. While you will have to pay to get into the Royal Botanical Gardens it is worth every penny.
- Garden tours. There are myriad public tours of private gardens every season. The biggest and best (in my opinion) is Through the Garden Gate in Toronto. Celebrating their 25th year every gardener on the planet would enjoy this. Especially if they get to share it with someone special. http://torontobotanicalgarden.ca/enjoy/special-events/through-the-garden-gate/ The Applewood Garden Society in Mississauga has an annual tour as do many others. Check out the tours available on the website of your local garden societies.
- Just you and me and the bees. Offer to plant a gardener’s garden come spring. Or dig the holes (more to the point!), do some weeding, pruning (if you are competent in this area) or fertilize the lawn. You get the idea. YOU are the gift: your time, talent and energy.
- Bee hotel. This is an idea that is taking off right across the country and I take full credit for it. Take just about any old stuff that you have around the garage and build habitat for beneficial insects and small animals like toads, frogs, snakes and salamanders. Remember: the secret to attracting ‘beneficials’ is rot and decay. Most of us have lots of old lumber, firewood, mouldy cardboard, bricks, sand, flagstone or what-have-you lying around somewhere.
Admittedly, not everything listed here is free. So while we are on the topic, here is a short list to help make it easy for you.
Dirt bag. You think I am kidding? You can buy very good quality soil for under $10. Look for product with my name on it, or a brand that you trust, similar to my own and perhaps almost as good.
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 All Canadian Almanac or Garden Making (Canadian) Magazine.
Garden gloves (good ones). Cheap ones are a waste.
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 hand held hose end nozzles. And my newest book The New Canadian Garden ($20, Dundurn Press, www.dundurn.com).
A Back Hoe (my version of the ultimate weeding/planting tool), quality watering can (look for ‘Hawes’ –best in the business!), 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.
I think you get the idea.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah.