From books to plants, here’s what the nature lovers in your life want to find under the Christmas tree
Gardeners are so easy to buy presents for, and there’s something in every price range, from a packet of seeds to designer wellies and fancy tools.
For those stormy days when we can’t get out to the garden, it’s lovely to curl up with a gardening book indoors. In Kiltumper: A Year in an Irish Garden by Niall Williams and Christine Breen brings you on a journey through a couple’s garden in rural Clare, month by month. It’s full of relatable gardening information, but is also a compelling tale of the impending arrival of wind turbines close by that threatens the idyllic Eden they have created for themselves — an absorbing and thought-provoking read.
Another book which is sure to delight is The Wildflowers of Ireland by Zoe Devlin. She explores the fascinating world of Ireland’s diverse and astonishing collection of native wildflowers. The new edition reflects the many changes to our botanical knowledge since it was first published in 2014.
Devlin uses easily understood terminology and puts focus on the main identifying features of each plant, by colour, size, shape of flower, leaf, habitat, flowering season, and where in Ireland it might be found. This is a must for enthusiasts of all ages and levels of experience. It is published by Gill Books.
Artists continually seek inspiration from nature, so it’s not hard to find artwork to please those who appreciate plants. The Graphic Studio Gallery in Dublin is a good hunting ground, where you will find work by Ireland’s leading print artists, such as Gráinne Cuffe’s exquisite renderings of sweet peas, tulips and irises. I also love Corkbased artist and printmaker Anita Geaney’s vegetable paintings, which are available as beautiful cards. You can find her on Instagram (@geaneyanita).
Connecting to Nature is a new Irish seed company set up last year by Julie Power. This Waterford based company grows and supplies wildflower seeds, with a huge range and easy-to-follow instructions. It can be found on Instagram (@connectingtonature.ie).
Seedaholic, based in the west of Ireland, has a wonderfully comprehensive catalogue of ornamental and veg seeds. Every package of seeds comes complete with colourful and detailed descriptions.
The past year has inspired many people to take up gardening for the first time, and they are hungry for knowledge. There are many courses around the country for amateurs as well as experienced gardeners.
TJ Maher runs courses in his beautiful garden in Kiltegan, Co Wicklow. Maher is also a painter, and he teaches how to use colour creatively in the garden. For further information, email: email@example.com.
Shane Pedlow is still at school in Dublin, but he also makes Business Enterprise award-winning products — handmade nest boxes for garden birds, including owls. They would make the perfect gift for wildlife and garden lovers.
Constructed from European sustainable plywood, and treated with a water-based preservative, they are child/pet/wildlife friendly, and there are different styles of boxes to suit robins, blue tits, swifts, sparrows and woodpeckers. Prices start from €25. Visit nestboxireland.com for further details or see Pedlow’s Instagram (@nestboxireland).
Plants themselves make great gifts. At this time of year, there’s plenty of seasonal favourites, such as the ubiquitous but oh-so-festive poinsettias, cyclamens, orchids and wonderfully fragrant hyacinths.
Houseplants have established themselves as more than a passing trend, as the value of greenery indoors is appreciated for its aesthetic and calming benefits, and there’s one for every budget.
Lush calatheas, round-leaved Pilea peperomioides and monsteras are popular choices. Other great gifts include tools, Felco secateurs, a subscription to the resurgent RHSI, gloves, kneelers, hats, magazine subscriptions, and even tickets to next year’s Chelsea Flower Show,
Also known as the Japanese aralia, this is an elegant evergreen shrub with eye-catching foliage. Its lush palmate leaves lend it a subtropical appearance, so it is very useful if you like exotic-looking planting schemes. Good in sun or partial shade in well-drained soil. At this time of year, there is the added bonus of its unusual panicles of creamy flowers that form globes at the end of the stems, which will later develop into black berries.
I have lots of geranium and fuchsia plants in pots in my garden that I want to keep over winter to plant out again next year and to take cuttings from. Can you suggest a way of keeping the plants over winter that doesn’t involve buying a greenhouse, please?
The easiest solution is to bring your plants indoors and, if you have the space, pop on a window sill. An alternative to a greenhouse is a cold frame. This is a box with a glass or plastic sloping roof that is used to protect plants. It’s ideal when you don’t have the space or desire for a greenhouse — it’s like a mini greenhouse. There will still be a risk to the plants if temperatures drop below 5°C, so you can install a simple heated propagator mat at the bottom, or even throw an old carpet over the box on very cold nights.
Submit your gardening questions to Diarmuid via his Instagram @diarmuidgavin using the