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Monty Don advises what to give a gardener in your life this Christmas

Gifts for green fingers! From secateurs to seeds, give the gardener in your life something they really need this Christmas, writes MONTY DON

  • Buying things for gardeners can be tricky as they tend to have what they need
  • Monty Don suggests secateurs for the most keen gardeners for Christmas
  • UK-based garden expert loves Japanese models as the steel is better  

Buying presents for keen gardeners is hard as we tend to be particular and already have the things that really matter. But I would advise anyone going for presents for a gardener not to overlook the obvious. 

We gardeners are always grateful for a packet of lettuce seeds or a nice pot or plant supports – even if we have loads already. You can never have too many of these kind of things. 

Secateurs are an essential part of any gardener’s armoury. The secret is to find a pair that fits comfortably in your hand, that will hold an edge (blunt secateurs are as useless and as dangerous as blunt kitchen knives) and will last. 

I prefer Japanese models as the steel is better, which ensures they stay sharper longer, but expect to pay up to £80 for a decent pair. 

Buying things for gardeners can be tricky as they tend to have what they need. Monty Don suggests secateurs for the most keen gardeners for Christmas

MONTY’S PLANT OF THE WEEK

All Christmas trees have evolved to thrive in cold, damp climates – the opposite of most modern, centrally heated rooms

All Christmas trees have evolved to thrive in cold, damp climates – the opposite of most modern, centrally heated rooms

There is a high chance that, by Christmas Day, your tree will already be shedding its needles. This is because all Christmas trees have evolved to thrive in cold, damp climates – the opposite of most modern, centrally heated rooms. The tree will respond to having no roots and dry heat by shedding leaves to reduce water loss. The answer is to put it in the coldest place possible and treat it like a cut flower: set it in a holder that can be topped up with water, and keep that water renewed (above) throughout the Christmas season. 

If a blade of any kind is sharp then it will do the job easier as well as leave clean cuts, which means that disease and fungi are much less likely to enter the plant, and therefore be much safer to use. So something to keep edges honed is essential. 

There are a number of alternatives out there but it is always useful to have one small enough to keep in a pocket. 

Along with secateurs, every gardener must have a sharp penknife which will hold that edge despite repeated use. It should also fold away easily and not be too heavy. 

Avoid multi-blades, because one good blade will do most jobs, although ideally you should have two knives – one with a straightedged blade for taking cuttings and another with a slight curve for twine and deadheading. 

A fresh roll of twine might seem a meagre present but no gardener would turn their nose up at this, especially if there were two – one made up of a thick gauge for supporting heavier, thicker stems and one of a finer gauge for lighter stuff like sweet peas. 

The point of twine is that it does not cut into the delicate growth that it’s helping to hold up – and it biodegrades, so it can be added to the compost heap. 

A few packets of organic seeds will be welcomed by any gardener. If you know that someone is a keen veg grower, try giving something a bit unusual like purple-podded peas or red Brussels sprouts. 

Give herb seeds like chives or parsley to those who have a window box or a kitchen windowsill; for those with a larger garden, you can never have too many annuals like marigolds, cosmos or tobacco plants. 

A simple propagating kit with a seed tray and a clear plastic lid with ventilation is a good present for the first-time gardener with little space. 

This can be upgraded to a full propagating set with space for three large seed trays and electrically controlled heat. It will transform seed production, which in turn saves money. 

A garden diary is really useful to record what is planted, what flowered, what was harvested, what the weather was up to and any other observations that seem important

A garden diary is really useful to record what is planted, what flowered, what was harvested, what the weather was up to and any other observations that seem important

I rarely wear gloves in the garden as I regard my hands as an invaluable part of feeling, testing and evaluating the soil, but every spring I do suffer from cracked hands and the only answer is good hand cream. Badger Balm or O’Keeffe’s Working Hands both do the trick rather fabulously. 

A garden diary is really useful to record what is planted, what flowered, what was harvested, what the weather was up to and any other observations that seem important. This is invaluable as a record to draw upon for future yea rs when planning what to do and when to do it. 

Finally, it would be disingenuous of me not to recommend a book that combines wonderful pictures with lots of fascinating inspiration all set in the most beautiful city in the world: Venetian Gardens, with photographs by Derry Moore and text by a certain Monty Don… Have a truly wonderful Christmas, and I will be back here on these pages in the New Year.

ASK MONTY 

Q I’ve pruned my summerfruiting raspberries down to the ground. Will they produce fruit next year? 

Mrs Denise Farrow, IoW 

A Summer-fruiting raspberries produce fruit on canes that grew the previous summer, so you won’t have any next year. But the canes will regrow and bear fruit the following summer. 

Green unripe fruits, such as those on a fig tree should now be removed

Green unripe fruits, such as those on a fig tree should now be removed 

Q My fig tree produced ten fruit this year but they never ripened. Now all its leaves have dropped and the unripe fruit are left. What should I do? 

Brenda Morrison, Hants 

A I’m afraid that any green, unripe fruits that are larger than a pea right now will never ripen and should be removed. 

Q My 25-year-old Gleditsia suddenly died. I’d like to keep the structure and grow a climber on it but a fungus has appeared at the base – will that hinder plants growing on or around it? 

Barbara Denham, Som 

A It may have been honey fungus that caused your Gleditsia’s demise. If so, it would be best to grow resistant plants such as quince, box, salvia… the list is long and easy to look up. 

 

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