Connolly: Gift ideas for gardeners

Gardening gloves, anyone? A new hand spade? Perhaps a potted amaryllis? No doubt about it, the gardeners in your life can put all those gift items to good use. If you're scratching your head for a unique gift, however, how about going local? The five ideas below come from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts:

Spear Head Spade

Daniel Matthieu of Windsor has been an inventor by nature all his life. When, in his 80s, he found the garden more of a challenge, he did what any good inventor would do: He created a new shovel that makes digging and dividing plants a lot easier.

"His shovel proved so popular with everyone who tried it, we decided to bring it to market," says his son, Julien. (To wit, Suzanne Thompson, a contributor to The Day and an enthusiastic owner of a Spear Head Spade TM, suggested the product for this article.)

For three years, the company has been marketing the shovel, which the younger Matthieu describes as a "combination of a shovel and a knife." They manufacture and ship two models from Coventry to retail locations and consumers all over the country. They plan to introduce a third model in spring 2014.

It's not too late to have one shipped for Christmas. "We offer next-day shipping in New England at no additional charge," says Julien Matthieu. Visit www.SpearHeadSpade.com to learn more, buy online, or find a retailer. Or call (860) 688-3280

Ratchet pruners from
Florian Tools

Any "yardener" knows that there's no replacement for a good pruner. The original Ratchet-CutŪ Pruning Tool was developed and patented by R. Stuart Florian of Southington in 1965. Now in the hands of a third generation, this Connecticut manufacturer employs 25 to bring its line of pruning tools to market (along with many other landscape-related products).

The pruners work a lot like a car jack, using a ratchet to increase the power of the pruning cut while reducing hand strain. According to Beth Florian, one of the third-generation owners, the blades are high quality, Teflon-coated carbon steel and the handles are nylon-wrapped fiber glass.

"The pruner allows people with arthritis, carpal tunnel or diminished hand strength to enjoy gardening," she says.

The company offers four models. In addition, they support breast cancer research with a pink-handled edition - a program which has resulted in donations of $30,000 over the past 10 years.

If you want a pruner in time for Christmas, visit Ballek's Garden Center in East Haddam or order directly from Florian before Dec. 19. Contact them at store.floriantools.net or by phone at (800) 275-3618

Rain barrels from the 'Water Lady'

I found two rain barrels under the Christmas tree (figuratively speaking) more than a decade ago and they continue to be among my favorite gardening items. To buy one that's locally sourced, try Beverly O'Keefe in West Kingston, R.I., "the water lady." Having worked for years at water companies and water protection agencies, O'Keefe now sells these thrifty, ecologically beneficial devices to consumers, municipalities and organizations. She offers the New England-made barrels in partnership with Great American Rain Barrel Company of Hyde Park, MA.

Part of her mission is education, so she also offers information on her website as well as seminars. Visit www.riwaterlady.com or call O'Keefe at (401) 486-5389. She says she has plenty in stock, so there's no problem getting one in time for Christmas.

Seed collections from
Kitchen Garden Seeds

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds in Bantam offers a holiday gift certificate. They list a number of popular collections on their website, including an Easy Direct-Sow Flower Garden, Easy Direct-Sow Vegetable Garden and Essence-of-Summer Sunflower Garden. If you're looking for a winter project for young gardeners, they suggest their indoor Sprouting Seeds. They say they can send the gift certificate to you or to another address in one day. Call (860) 567-6086 or visit www.kitchengardenseeds.com.

Connecticut Gardener
newsletter

Gardeners, in my experience, are enthusiastic readers - which is why a subscription to the Connecticut Gardener newsletter could make your intended gift recipient very happy. The publication started 19 years ago and continues to be written by local experts about local gardens and landscape conditions. Publishers Will and Ann Rowlands bring it out four times a year during the growing season. One of my favorite features is the calendar of gardening-related events all over the state. Visit www.conngardener.com or call (203) 292-0711. They offer a gift certificate option on the website.

I hope these suggestions help your search for a thoughtful gift for your favorite gardeners, including yourself.

KATHY CONNOLLY WOULD LIKE TO KNOW OF OTHER NEW ENGLAND-MADE GARDEN AND LANDSCAPE PRODUCTS. VISIT WWW.SPEAKINGOFLANDSCAPES.COM OR EMAIL HER AT KATHY@SPEAKINGOFLANDSCAPES.COM. CONNOLLY IS A LANDSCAPE DESIGNER, GARDEN WRITER AND SPEAKER FROM OLD SAYBROOK.

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