Mark Cullen’s Gift Ideas for Gardeners


I know you don’t want to hear this, but there are only a few weeks of shopping until Christmas. As you comb your
mind, trying to be creative and thoughtful on the giving side of the ledger, I’m here to help. People who love to
garden should be among the easiest people to buy for. So while you contemplate what you are going to get for the
gardeners on your list, I offer these suggestions

Let’s start with stocking stuffers. One trip to your local independent garden centre or hardware store will provide oodles of gift ideas. Here are some that I have discovered.


This is a fragrance-free or scented soap that works well on the dirtencrusted hands of a gardener. Usually gardener’s soap contains a fine grit that helps dislodge dirt from the pores of skin and the cuticles of fingernails. Keep in mind that the person who cleans the washroom or kitchen sink really appreciates it if the gardeners clean up outside…for obvious reasons. If you can find a clay or wooden “shelter” for the soap and mount it on the wall by the faucet or rain barrel, so much the better.


You know your gardeners well, you will know what they like to plant. The average price for “garden-variety” seeds from McKenzie or Ontario Seeds. My own Mark’s Choice vegetable seeds are premium quality for $1.99 a packet. If you choose to go for organic, heritage or some unusual varieties, the price can climb up to $5 a packet. Still a deal.

WATER WICKS Decrease the amount of water that you apply to your plants by up to three times. These water-retaining “tea bags” contain all-natural ingredients that absorb up to 400 times their weight in water. For use indoors or out.


There isn’t a gardener alive who can remember the name of every plant they put in the ground from one year to the next. These aluminum plant markers are perfect, and they are the only ones that I use, because they are rigid, indestructible and hold the ink of a permanent nursery pen or Sharpie for at least one season. I have about 300 of
them on the go in my garden at any one time. Price: Five for $10 at garden centres and Home Hardware. For an extra $3 or $4, you can throw in the marker, too.


I am a real Almanac fan. I read it from cover to cover every year. Filled with weather, folklore, country-living tips for city people, gardening tips, and an article by yours truly, there is no better New Year’s reading than the Harrowsmith’s Almanac. It is a classic, loaded with information that all of us really need. For only $9.99, you can’t go wrong.

Available at Home Hardware and magazine retailers.

Ed note: Yes, we’re a little biased with this one.


OK, a quality amaryllis is not in the $10 price range. No problem! Give five paperwhite bulbs instead. Paperwhites will grow in anything, including gravel, and only need water and light to grow and bloom.

And when they finish flowering— which they most definitely will— they can just be thrown into the compost or green bin.


Forget “under $10.” How about zero dollars? I am talking about you: give some of yourself as a gift.


Offer to donate several hours of weeding at a mutually convenient time. Every gardener alive gets weary of
pulling or hoeing out weeds, especially after the initial thrill of it concludes sometime mid-June, around Father’s Day. Offer
to bring your own weed puller or sharpened hoe. Maybe the lemonade, too. And remember that it is not only the weeding but also the company that you provide that will be appreciated.


Many gardeners enjoy taking pictures of their own garden. Some do not. In either case, I can guarantee that you
will see their garden through a different lens than they do. The pictures that you take will show the gardeners a side of their work that will hopefully open their eyes to a garden that they did not know exists. And it will get their creative juices flowing once again. For a small investment, you could even print the images. Otherwise, just send them by email.


Not many of us enjoy cutting our own kids’ hair. Many gardeners feel the same way about their plants. Offer to come over with your loppers, shears and a green-wood saw, and do some trimming. Take away the trimmings as a bonus.


If you love to garden, offer your services to people on your list who have
a moderate relationship with or interest in gardening. Your experience is worth something,
likely more than you know.

Can you give advice on plant placement? Soil preparation? Accompany your friend to your favourite garden retailer this
spring and offer your opinion on good deals and even explain why. (Hint: The best deals are not always the lowest price.
Quality counts for a lot when purchasing plants!)


A quality pair of hand pruners will feel good in the hand, will hold an edge for a long time and will not twist as you
tackle the tough job of pruning a thick branch or limb. In the Mark’s Choice line, I have a new hand pruner that features a titanium blade—it’s strong and very tough. A thick limb is best attacked using a pruning saw with extremely sharp teeth that cut on the forestroke and backstroke.

The best pruning saws have a Swedish blade (even saws made in Canada). For some reason, the Swedes make the best blades in the world.


I love to dig, and I am not alone. Sometimes I feel alone, but that is only when I am in the company of people who have not yet discovered the euphoria that comes with the appreciation of a quality digging experience. There are gardeners out there reading this message who are nodding their heads right now in agreement.

A quality digging experience begins with a shovel or spade made of the best-quality steel— steel that is welded (not stamped) to the shaft. A stainless-steel blade allows the dirt to fall off of it when you pull it out of the soil, plus it sharpens well with a bastard file and holds an edge after many diggings. Buy your loved one a quality digging tool, as well as a can of lubricating oil to keep the tool rust-free and to help the soil drop off of it when it is removed from the ground. Include a bastard file,
and you have a gardening gift to die for.

Mark & Ben Cullen
Mark & Ben Cullen

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster and tree advocate
and holds the Order of Canada. His son, Ben, is a fourth-generation
urban gardener and a graduate of the University of Guelph and Dalhousie
University in Halifax. Follow them at, @MarkCullen4
(Twitter) and @markcullengardening (Facebook) and look for their latest book, Escape to Reality.

Follow them at, @MarkCullen4, and biweekly on Global TV’s national morning show, The Morning Show.

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Posted on Wednesday, December 9th, 2020
Filed under DIY | Gardening

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