Welcome to wonderland
Enter our horticultural Santa's grotto – and get a sneak peek of what Emma Townshend will be buying her gardener friends this Christmas
Ack, Christmas time again, that dangerous shopping period, when you find on the way home that you haven't purchased a single thing off your list but bought 29 presents for yourself. Ouch.
This year, the highlight of my self-purchased Aladdin's cave is Val Bourne's Colour in the Garden (Merrell, £18.95). Bourne is pretty much Britain's most underfussed-over garden writer, deserving of fine crystal goblets full of vintage champagne, at the very least.
Her book is a total treat, partly because she is gifted at describing plants (she's the whizz who writes all the tempting summaries on crocus.com) and partly because it is divided into brilliant, original categories of colour such as Spring Zing (lime greens and blues) and Winter Festivities (wonderful dark leaves and rich red berries). Buy one for yourself, natch, and one for another serious gardener in your life. Delightful.
Those who take an austere and ninja-ish approach to gardening, on the other hand, may prefer Jake Hobson's latest. Hobson once lived in Japan and trained in niwaki, the fine art of tree pruning, before returning to the UK to evangelise. The Art of Creative Pruning (Timber, £25, above right) is full of fab photos and detailed instructions on how to tackle all sorts of severe horticultural reshaping. And for the converted, add a stunning pair of genuine Japanese one-handed Tobisho topiary clippers (£73, niwaki.com).
If you are a soft-hearted type who spends the winter encouraging wildlife, there is a sweet new design of hedgehog shelter on the market, more suited to hoggish needs than the usual wooden box. The flexible, woven Hogitat will provide years of warm wintry slumber for your neighbourhood's best slug-clearance expert (£25.49, shopping.rspb.org.uk).
For kids, go for Grow My Pet's Food (£3.35 from suttons.co.uk) for carrot, broccoli and dandelion leaves; or track down a completely cute Minibugs Solitary Bee House. These bee houses are intended for the 250 species of native British bee which don't like to live in a hive, and in my experience they're quick to move in (£9.95 from harrodhorticultural.com).
Grow-your-own fans have been spoilt for pressies in recent years, and 2011 is no exception. Bring a new twist to home brewing with Burgon & Ball's Fill Your Own Herbal Tea Bags, £3.95, adding a lavender and a verbena plant if you're feeling nice, from jekkasherbfarm.com. Or why not treat your favourite allotment holder to a Potato Harvesting Scoop, which cunningly stops you spearing your spuds when you dig them out (£14.95, both from burgonandball.com).
Finally, for those who intend to see in the New Year in style, try Vic Brotherson's Vintage Flowers (£25, Kyle). This is probably the most jaw-dropping flower-arranging book I've ever seen, imbued with perfect velvety elegance; no wonder Kate Moss chose the author as her wedding florist.
And party throwers and home bunnies alike can light the garden for New Year's Eve with Paper Moon's fantastic outdoor lanterns (£21.99, amazon.co.uk). Flame-retardant, they come with suitable candles and you can buy refills online.
Even more ideas
1 For lovers of the exotic
Mark Diacono, River Cottage's head gardener and exotic fruit-and-veg expert, will be giving a one-day course at Sarah Raven's Perch Hill HQ in March, ranging from advice on quince-growing to planting Szechuan peppercorns. £150 including two-course lunch, sarahraven.com
2 For the environmentally minded
Bottle Top Waterers convert an old plastic bottle into a useful temporary watering can, with fine flow. Great for greenhouses and windowsill seedlings. £2 for four, shop.wwf.org.uk
3 For bird lovers
Tiny birds such as wrens need a warm place to sleep on winter nights to avoid losing body weight. These woven roosting net pockets are just right. £1.99, ecotopia.co.uk
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