The classic and sturdy Felco #2 (right). Then to the left is the #910 holster that attaches to a belt. Also pictured are the accessories to keep the #2 in great shape from a sharpening stone to a spring and replacement blade. The entire "kit" will run just over $100. At the top is a jewelers loupe used for garden insect ID. A lanyard helps to keep from losing it. The loupe can run from $10 to $20. ANDREW MESSINGER ANDREW MESSINGER
The Hartley Victorian Lodge is a simple yet elegant greenhouse that would adorn any Hamptons property with enough space for a modest plant collection or year-round greenhouse workspace. Hartley offers many styles of greenhouses with all the options to satisfy the deepest pockets and growing needs. The gift for the gardener who thought he or she had it all -- or wants it all. ANDREW MESSINGER
My two-cycle Mantis tiller with folding handles and kickstand. This model can edge, till and cultivate from 9 inches (two tines) to about 12 inches (four tines). Mantis tillers are available from about $300 to over $500 depending on engine type and accessories. ANDREW MESSINGER
It’s just weeks away from the holidays and gifting season, so this week, my annual suggestions for holiday gifts for your favorite gardener. With a little Hamptons twist.
We’re in an area that is known for the wealth of many residents. Many of them have extraordinary landscapes and plant collections. Over the years some of these deep-pocketed gardeners have gotten in touch with me so I know a few read this column. For them and for those gifting to and for them, I have one spectacular holiday gift suggestion: a greenhouse.
I have experience with all kinds of greenhouses, from fiberglass greenhouses that have sagged and bowed from heavy snow loads to wonderful glasshouses large and small. Some of my fondest memories are of being inside my 1,200-square-foot glasshouse in Shinnecock Hills in the dead of winter. Outside it was freezing cold, allowing the brisk winter air to make the stars twinkle as I looked up through the glass surrounded by a sweetly scented ripening pineapple plant, bananas ripening just a few feet away. Among the hundreds of plants of all sizes there was also a night-blooming Cereus whose perfumed scent is said to be an aphrodisiac. It was heaven.
It was a good thing that I didn’t have to pay for the greenhouse or the heating bill. Even a small greenhouse can cost as much to heat in a cold winter as a modest two-bedroom, two-story home. But, from small to large, there is so much you can do with a greenhouse. It might also surprise you that not all greenhouses are built and designed to be warm. A cold greenhouse, often referred to as an alpine house, will limit your collection but still give you a chance to grow plants that otherwise wouldn’t survive out here and with little to no heating costs.
But we’re dreaming here, and that’s what it’s about. There are several greenhouse manufacturers and several materials that greenhouses are made from. For most of us I think an 8-foot-by-12-foot glasshouse is perfect. There are two companies that are known for their classic glass houses. One is Lord & Burnham, and the other an English firm, Hartley Botanic. It’s nearly impossible to pin them down on prices because these houses are custom made with dozens of possible options, but for one magnificent 8-by-12 greenhouse designed, delivered, then installed, it’s going to set you back at least $40,000 and probably much more. And while you can place an order before Christmas and let your intended know what’s coming, don’t plan on that greenhouse being usable until summer. Oh, but next winter … mmm.
If a greenhouse is in your plans as either a gift to another or even yourself, let me know. There are ways to reduce the costs, but you won’t end up with a classic glass greenhouse. A greenhouse also requires time and dedication. They don’t take vacations when you do, but for the hard-core gardeners like me or those who can afford to pay one, the rewards are just sublime.
A bit less expensive and a lot more practical for the rest of us is a compact garden tiller/cultivator. These machines replace the garden fork and shovel when building a new garden, tilling between rows in the garden and doing garden renovations. I’ve had a two-cycle Mantis (gas/oil) tiller for decades. It can be used to edge garden beds, weed and till between rows in the vegetable garden, till new garden areas while mixing in compost, peat and other materials. Yes, it sits in the barn most of the year, but it also saves me hours and hours of work that can literally be back breaking.
There are plug-in electric tillers, but those freak me out. The two-cycle tillers that run on a mixture of gas and oil are easy to operate but don’t do well in heavier soils. There are also battery-powered tillers, but they lack the power most of us need for this kind of work. For soils that have some rocks and clay, the gas tillers are best, though a bit heavier. In all cases, I’m referring to the mini-tiller that will till from 9 to 15 inches wide. Some of these tillers also have attachments that can be used for furrowing, dethatching and edging.
Mantis tillers are probably the best mini-tillers (Mantis.com). Depending on the type of engine and width of tilling they run from about $275 up to $600 and more. You can find them at local mower shops and home centers, or you can look online at mowersdirect.com. Unlike larger garden tillers, these fold up and can be stored in small spaces.
Weather stations also make a great gift for your favorite gardener. After nearly two years of testing, there are two I’d recommend. For simplicity and ease of use there is the Tempest weather system. This one is easy to set up and is maintenance free. It will link to your phone where you can see the temperature, wind, forecast, humidity, UV, solar radiation and lightning strikes within 25 miles.
This station is available directly from Tempest (weatherflow.com) or Amazon. Set it up on a pole in about 10 minutes, and after a small amount of local input it’s all set. There are two drawbacks. The first is that it seems to have trouble gauging wind-driven rain. The second is that it can’t measure the soil temperature, which can be critical for some gardeners.
If you want more flexibility I highly recommend the Ambient WS-2000 for $300 or the WS-5000 for about $450. Both give you a full range of outdoor temperature, wind, rain gauges and several other helpful features including a remote console to view the station information via Wi-Fi. Both models also allow you to add other sensors including a soil temperature sensor. The 2000 model uses a rotating wind cup and wind direction vane, which are mechanical, as is the tipping bucket that measures the rain. The 5000 model uses ultrasonic sensors so it has none of the mechanical sensors that can break or might freeze up in ice or snow. I’ve been using a 5000 for nearly two years, and it’s proven to be reliable and sturdy. I highly recommend it. Ambientweather.com.
In the under $50 range there are several great options. A 10x jewelers loupe is a must for any serious gardener with indoor or outdoor plants. This a small but handy magnifying glass that gets you up close and personal to insects like mites, scale, mealybugs and thrips among others. There are many for sale on Amazon with some having magnifications above 10x, though 10x is just fine.
These small magnifiers are perfect for seeing who’s on the foliage and stems, and that knowledge allows you to go on to the next step — the insect management so you can get rid of these critters. I have several loupes. They’re easy to lose but inexpensive.
Next is the one thing every gardener needs: a good pruner.
There is nothing better than a Felco. Felco makes a line of pruners to fit every pruner need, but the one that works for everyone is the Felco #2. They all are sturdy with replaceable parts, and if well taken care of they last for years. There’s even one for left-handed pruners, model F9.
The Felco F2 can be found for about $50 online and at local garden centers. When gifting, consider adding a replacement blade for about $20 or a spring/blade kit for a few bucks more.
An Amaryllis makes a great gift. You can give this winter-flowering bulb as just a bulb or as a kit with soil and a pot. The White Flower Farm (whiteflowerfarm.com), while expensive, seems to be able to ship them for the holidays, and they also have the largest selection of bulbs and kits. Many local garden centers also sell the bulbs and save you lots of money. Only buy large bulbs (as in big and fat) as these produce the best and largest number of flowers. If gifting to a neophyte gardener please include directions on how to pot, start and rebloom this wonderful plant.
A new suggestion is tickets to the Philadelphia Flower Show. This is one of the world’s premier flower shows, if not the premier flower show. This year’s theme is “United by Flowers,” and the show runs from March 2 to 10.
The show includes massive gardens (indoors) that are just remarkable. There are growers, nurseries and seed companies from throughout the United States as well as judged competitions. Go for the day (Amtrak) or make it an overnight adventure. You and or your recipient will never, ever forget this inspiring event. You can purchase tickets at tickets.phsonline.org, and for more information go to phsonline.org/the-flower-show.
My last suggestions are subscriptions. Horticulture magazine just seems to get better and better. With a garden full of contributors and covering all the aspects of gardening, it’s simply an incredible and inspiring resource. A subscription is available digitally and or in print at hortmag.com.
Garden Gate magazine comes in second. This magazine has a more down-home feeling with more practical articles that might appeal to some. It covers several more topics in each issue than Horticulture, and the articles are not as technical and sophisticated but they are practical, unpretentious and great for garden projects and ideas. Gardengatemagazine.com.
Don’t forget gift certificates to local garden centers as well as online nurseries like plantdelights.com for the gardener who likes to explore their limits or bluestoneperennials.com for the more traditional and less challenged gardeners. Both may offer discounts on holiday gift certificates — great for giving to yourself and getting a 10 percent discount.
Happy shopping. One can never read enough about gardening, learn enough about gardening and remember my motto: When it comes to plants, there’s always room for one more. Keep growing.
One fine body…