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Good enough to eat: The perfect presents for horticulturalists


There's a whole separate category of presents, aren't there, which we could just call "sigh presents". Gifts that just seem designed to make  you depressed at the effort which has been wasted on them.

Presents that make this particular gardener sigh include ornamental trugs that will never be of any use to actually carry anything; fancy pastel-coloured enamel containers with "seeds" written on them; padded kneelers for weeding, guaranteed to make the recipient feel 100 years old; and hand-painted signs that read, "Sorry, Out Gardening".

However, there are loads of presents that will cheer a gardener's heart. Plants themselves are a good bet, but which to buy? If you always choose orchids, try something different: scented geraniums, with old-fashioned fragrances that lift the heart. The Gluttonous Gardener (glut.co.uk) has a sumptuous selection, delivered in a rustic wooden crate: its scented geranium set is £40 for three plants.

Thompson & Morgan (thompson-morgan.com), meanwhile, has a gorgeously plain linen bag crammed with snowdrops (£13.99). Though on arrival it will look to the untrained eye like a sack of grass, it will burst into flower within a fortnight or so of receipt, filling the house with honey scent.

If your gift-getting gardener prefers something more traditional, Waitrose has plain-white cyclamen in a lead-effect planter for £25, to calm the yuletide sighing of even the fussiest gardener. And one of the nicest and smartest gifts comes from M&S: two bay trees, £60, with bases tied in little hessian sacks, a lovely idea for either side of a front door.

Of all the horticultural stuff aimed at kids, I'd recommend two books, both full of projects to see the junior gardener through the year. Dawn Isaac is the mother of three who advises CBeebies' Mr Bloom what to grow in his nursery, and this year she published Garden Crafts for Children (£14.99, Cico). You don't even need to wait for spring:

Christmas will light up with Jam Jar Garden Lights and a pretty Alpine Wreath. The other book I'd want in my kid's stocking is I Can Cook from the Garden (Hamlyn, £12.99). TV favourite Katy the cook presents a range of veggie-rich recipes all designed to be child-sized, but the book also contains a substantial section on growing written by expert Martyn Cox. Buy it for his list of super-fast-growing veg alone – great for the impatient.

Finally, for quirkier horticulturalists, try the Organic Gardening Catalogue's garlic Vallelado, one specially adapted for our conditions (£4.45, organic catalogue.com). Or send them on a course: the RHS (rhs.org.uk/courses) has Grow Strawberries for Wimbledon on 6 April 2013 at Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, £35 for a morning (£30 for members), including plants to take away.

Failing all these and if you have the energy, consult Debora Robertson's Gifts from the Garden (Kyle, £16.99, above). From scented pelargonium sugar to edible wreaths, this is full of lovely projects. Guaranteed no sighing at all.

Gorgeous gifts

For the eyes

Sarah Raven has five bulbs of sumptuous blue hyacinth “Peter Stuyvesant” in a hessian sack tied with ribbon. £5.95, sarahraven.com

For the head

Andy Hamilton’s Booze For Free (£9.99, Eden) is a wonderful guide to garden-based DIY concoctions. Serve in Conran’s definitely not-for-free leather flask. £80, conranshop.co.uk

For the stomach

Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars (£16.99, Running Press) began as an award-winning blog, but has wound up as a delicious gift for anyone who ever suffers from gluts of home-grown produce