Gardeners are easy to shop for any time of the year: many of the items they need are used up, worn out, or have gotten to the stage where they should be thrown out before the next season. A recent rummage through my own basket of garden tools revealed a favorite hand weeder with a duct-taped handle, two pairs of stiffened, cracked, grungy gardening gloves, some broken tongue depressors used as plant markers and, now that I take a look at it, the basket itself is no prize. It may seem less than thrilling to give a practical or prosaic gift, or one similar to what you’ve selected in a previous year, but I was raised that way: throughout my childhood almost every Christmas meant a new pair of ice skates under the tree. I knew they were coming, as my toes were tightly crammed in the old skates, and the distinctive square box was a dead giveaway. But that didn’t lessen the thrill of shining white skates, smelling like new leather, waiting for that personal touch of jingle bells or pompoms on the laces. So for me, spanking new garden gloves — cream-colored ones, say, with roses printed on the gauntlet — would be a welcome, not boring, gift, as they might be for your gardener as well. But I do have my eye on a few other items that might find favor (Santa, are you listening?).

With the rain and snow that makes up a coastal winter, hallways and mudrooms seem to always be awash in gritty slush or puddles. Those plastic boot trays meant to corral the mess just aren’t up to the task and ugly as well, another piece of plastic for the recycling bin at the end of the season. I’ve seen in my gift searches a handsome boot tray made of powder-coated galvanized steel with a copper-colored finish, approximately 14 inches wide, three feet long and two inches high. If you don’t need it in the mudroom, it can house several houseplants, the kind that need lots of water and misting so that they can survive in the Sahara-like heated interiors of our houses. If you have a large or messy dog, it can also serve as a tidy spot for its food and water bowls.







If that seems like an odd gift suggestion, the next one may be worse. Here’s a quiz: What sits on your kitchen counter, is used every day and is uniformly unloved? If you answered “the compost bucket,” you’re correct. Having a handsome stainless steel or ceramic bucket still doesn’t alter the fact that it’s a stinky chore to empty its contents, which is why I hanker for a 2-in-1 compost pail. A pale spring-green in color, with “compost” neatly lettered on its face, this one-gallon-capacity pail is made of metal and looks very businesslike perched on the kitchen counter. Inside the outer green metal can is a sturdy polyurethane plastic inner bucket with a lift-up handle. Best of all, the green lid has a clear rubber ring that seals all the odors inside, always an issue with compost pails, even if you’re religious about changing filters and scrubbing them clean after emptying the scraps. With this one, you open the lid, pick up the full inner bucket by its metal handle and transport scraps to the compost pile. It’s lightweight, making it easy to rinse clean, and can even go into the dishwasher, if you’re so inclined. Both the boot tray and the compost bucket lend themselves to filling with other, gaily wrapped smaller gifts like botanical soaps, small garden tools, jams and jellies or jars of exotic condiments and sauces.

For a more modest and slightly more traditional gift, a copy of “The Naturalist’s Notebook” would be welcomed by any gardener or nature lover who always means to be a good record-keeper from season to season but never quite manages to fit it into a busy schedule. The five-year calendar format of “The Naturalist’s Notebook” helps to create a long-term record of memorable events, such as the first songbird you hear in spring, the first day the breeze off the bay is actually warm, the first monarch butterfly sighting or fully opened rose of summer. Biologist Nathaniel T. Wheelwright and best-selling nature writer Bernd Heinrich, a Maine resident, teach would-be naturalists and gardeners what to look for outdoors. This is a beautiful book, with gilt edges, a burgundy ribbon bookmark, and pages of Heinrich’s meticulous classic illustrations for inspiration.

For the gardener who likes to be tidy and keep track of things, reusable garden markers are a thoughtful gift. Popsicle sticks will do in a pinch, but for durability and unobtrusive identification, the best markers to use are rustproof, silver-gray zinc nameplates with galvanized steel wire uprights to sink into the soil. They come with a marking pen and will last for years. Best of all, it’s always easy to find them, even at the end of the season when plants are big and bushy.

You can also make some markers yourself between now and Christmas. Because antique stores and flea markets are one of my favorite shopping places for gifts, I often pick through the odd pieces of beautiful old sterling flatware looking for a nice pie server or large spoon that can be polished up and used as a stocking stuffer. You can find inexpensive old tablespoons and turn them into one-of-a-kind garden markers. In addition to the spoons, you’ll need a hammer, an old cutting board or large piece of flat scrapwood, a permanent ink stamp pad and alphabet markers. Hammer the spoons flat from the back side, print out your labels on the fronts — herbs like parsley or basil, or common vegetables such as carrots or lettuce, are useful — and set them out to dry well so they don’t smudge. Tie a bundle with a bow and you’re all set. Make some for yourself as well or tuck some supplies for the making aside so you can have a winter project to turn to in between seed catalogs.