THE other day, I received two unexpected, though perhaps
tongue-in-cheek, compliments on my footwear. I had left the back
door en route to the compost heap when I heard it snap
shut. There was nothing for it but to walk the mile or so down the
road to my friend and spare key-holder.
I was wearing my Shedshoes, a kind of plastic clog, based on
those worn by hospital workers, but covered in a photographic image
of grass, such that my feet would have disappeared against a summer
Against a muddy tarmac in November, the lurid green shone out
and attracted attention, which I tried to deflect with a rather
embarrassed "They're very comfy." I remain loyal to my trusty
lightweight, grippy slip-ons that have served me well on so many
back-garden errands. I can report that they are supremely
comfortable - even after two miles - and might make a fun Christmas
present for the gardener in your family. There is quite a range of
designs: tulip, tomato, rose, chilli, sunflower, and bluebell,
Transferring attention from feet to hands, wearing gloves can
make gardening more enjoyable, and a little safer. In the past, I
tended to be in the "I need to feel what I'm doing" camp, but have
been converted by a pair of "Joe's" gloves. Joe sells four types,
including "The Dexterous One" for weeding and delicate jobs, and my
current favourite, "The All Seasons One", which is cosy and yet
When choosing a gift for a gardener, it is tempting to go for a
plant. You may even find one with a particularly fitting cultivar
name. Use the Royal Horticultural Society online Plant Finder.
Entering "Diane" could lead you to the winter-flowering witch hazel
Hamamelis x intermedia "Diane"; "Dawn" to a hybrid
Viburnum with fantastic winter scen; and "David" to a very
fine Rhododendron, for example.
Most plants would not fare well wrapped and under the Christmas
tree for long. A National Garden gift voucher is one solution, and
is available from, and exchangeable at, many garden centres.
Another, with perhaps less keenly felt delayed gratification for
the recipient, is to give packets of seeds. I would go for easy
perennials that, sown early, will flower in their first year, and
then with minimal care will bulk up over the years.
The family-run Chiltern Seeds has provided me with many of the
stalwarts of my garden. Achillea millefolium "Summer
Pastels Mixed" gave me a huge colour-range that I have gradually
whittled down to my favourite ochre and lemon tones over the years.
Geum "Lady Stratheden" and "Mrs J. Bradshaw" are both RHS
Award of Garden Merit winners, and easy from seed. Polemonium
caeruleum "Blue Pearl" has flourished from an early spring
sowing, three years ago; its sprays of azure-blue flowers are now a
key component of my Marian border each summer.
A packet of seeds may seem a small offering at the time, but my
Persian silk tree, Albizia julibrissin, grown from just
such a gift ten years ago, is now a beautiful and dramatic presence
in my garden.