Snoqualmie Valley Master Gardeners: Gifts of the Season for the Gardener in your Life

In their latest guest post, The Snoqualmie Valley Master Gardeners offer up some great holiday gift ideas for the gardener in your life. Happy Holidays Snoqualmie Valley!

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It takes just a few days of freezing temperatures for us to think about our yards and gardens during the winter months – will my shrubs withstand the cold? (probably); do the birds and deer get enough to eat when everything is frozen? (most likely); and what do I get for the gardener in my life? (easy question – just keep reading!).

Sasanqua Camellias Brighten Winter Days

Sasanqua camellias are one of the few shrubs that bloom this time of year. Although not as well-known as the more popular spring blooming Camellia japonica varieties, sasanqua camellias can begin flowering as early as October and continue through fall into winter. Native to China and Japan, these awesome plants differ from the more commonly planted spring blooming camellias in several ways: their growth habit is more open and graceful; their flowers are often fragrant; their leaves are smaller; and they are very adaptable to different types of soil. One of the favorites among home gardeners this time of year is the cultivar “Yuletide”. Just in time for Christmas, it bursts into bloom with its fiery, bright red petals which circle bright yellow stamens.

There are countless other cultivars of sasanqua camellias. Flowers range from single, semi-double, or fully double flowers that are small, medium or large in shadescamelias of pink, rose, red and white. These plants tend to be hardier than the spring-flowering japonicas and will tolerate more sunlight. The ideal planting location, however, is still shade to part sun and shade. The sasanquas are also easy to prune and make good hedges and are easy to grow in containers. By choosing both Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica, gardeners can have the best of worlds: spring and winter bloom and great summer time foliage.

Standard varieties grow to become large shrubs up to 10 feet or more in height and 6 feet in width. There are now dwarf varieties that are somewhat shorter and have a more compact habit of growth.

These broad-leafed evergreen shrubs can be used in several ways in the landscape. They are well adapted for hedges or screens, in mass plantings, as foundation plants for large houses and as freestanding specimens. They have the ability to grow in sun or shade, are easy to care for and live for hundreds of years.

Camellia sasanqua are near-perfect plants for our gardens. Their colorful blooms during our short and often gray winter days are a welcome addition to any landscape.

Gift Ideas for the Gardener on Your Christmas List

Does he or she like reading mysteries as well as gardening? Give a book or e-reader gift card for:

  • Pushing Up Daisies or Dead Head both by Rosemary Harris
  • Pretty Poison by Joyce and Jim Lavene
  • Garden of Secrets Past by Anthony Eglin
  • Down the Garden Path by Gerald Hammond
  • The Garden Plot by our own Seattle garden writer, Marty Wingate

How about something to help protect gardening hands?

  • Ratchet Hand Pruners are great for gardeners with a bit of arthritis. Fiskar and Corona offer them in the $15 range. Florian has models from $30-$50.
  • Crabtree and Evelyn offer a lovely Gardener’s Hand Cream.
  • And, every gardener loves receiving a new pair of garden gloves. You can spend less than $5 for a colorful pair of Atlas Garden Gloves or a bit more ($20-$30) for West Country Garden gloves.

Offer to take your gardener on a walk in the Winter Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. Or, accompany them to the Garden d’Lights festival at the Bellevue Botanical Garden (through January 4, 5-10 pm every evening).

If a donation to a favorite charity is something your special gardener appreciates, you could make a contribution in their name to:

Reading gardening magazines and seed catalogs is what gets us gardeners through January and February. A subscription to someone’s favorite gardening magazine would be a welcome gift. Is your gardener also tech minded? Give an app store gift card so your gardener can enjoy their favorite gardening magazine on their tablet. Here is a list of some popular garden magazines that offer apps for on-line reading:

  • Fine Gardening
  • Organic Gardening Magazine
  • House and Garden
  • Mother Earth News

And, best of all … The New Western Garden Book by Sunset is now available in digital version.

If none of these suggestions have captured your imagination, here are several books that might do it:

  • The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Greatest Drinks by Amy Stewart, 2013
  • The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World by Sandor Ellix Katz, forward by Michael Pollan (check it out on Amazon and read some reviews)
  • Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Washington by Pamela Camp
  • The Signature of All Things, a novel by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers by Teri Dunn Chace and Robert Llewellyn

Hopefully, you are inspired to find just the right gift for the special gardener in your life!

Additional information on winter gardening practices can be found on our website at www.svmastergardeners.com.

[Acknowledgements. The Camellia article is reprinted with permission from the author, Don Tapio, Grays Harbor County Extension Specialist (now retired). Kaye Moreton, a master gardener in the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program contributed the article on gifts for the gardener. Note that the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program endorses none of the gift suggestions. Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office.]

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