Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

That's a Wrap

by Hannah Stephenson

Christmas is just around the corner, so Hannah Stephenson gets a head start by choosing presents for your green-fingered family and friends.

As shops are already adorned with baubles, tinsel, fairy lights and mistletoe in preparation for the Christmas rush, come in from the garden for a few minutes to consider what your gardening friends and family might like under the tree this festive season.

Every year, garden centres turn themselves into sparkling grottos, offering all sorts of gifts - ranging from practical tools to aromatic room fragrances, seeds in beautiful packaging, deluxe outdoor clothing, bird boxes, hedgehog houses and other gardening paraphernalia.

So, what's new? The gardener who needs somewhere to put his secateurs and other small tools while he's working should check out Burgon & Ball's new Poc-kit utility belt (right), a comfortable belt with waterproof neoprene pockets, which will house small tools such as a pocket knife and plant labels, and has its own twine dispensing eyelet. Available in a range of colours, £14.95,

Those who want to house larger tools, such as forks and trowels, may prefer a full-size gardening apron. Bag a bargain with the Esschert Design short textile Garden Apron (left), which is full of pockets and pouches for your tools. Currently priced at £7.20, from

If you are a Havaiana flip-flop fan in the summer, you may want to take a look at the bright and beautiful rain boots those Brazilian maestros have come up with in firework brights or classic winter shades, ranging from black to super pink, in full length or mid-calf. Perfect for the garden and so comfortable. Prices start at £45, from

For the gardener who likes all-in-one gizmos, a really useful MultiTool Garden from Wilkinson Sword (left) may be just the job. Made from black anodised aluminium and stainless steel, it boasts 14 different functions, including pruner, a knife, spanners, screwdriver, a saw, can opener, bottle opener and a file. Not only does it have a solution for all outdoor situations, it is also small enough to fit in your pocket. £17.99 from

There are so many bird boxes on the market, but if you want a stylish version for your loved one, the Posh Bird Box (right) is beautifully hand-crafted. Handmade from high-quality redwood timber, the cedar shingle roofs are removable and easy to clean. The boxes are available in a range of colours - standard colours £35, or bespoke colours for £50 inc p&p, at

Personalised items often go down well with gardeners, from flora and fauna calendars to aprons, shed signs and mugs. Personalised wooden boxes to house gardening bits and pieces are available (from £24.99), while Christmas dinner and home-grown veg could be served from silver-plated vintage vegetable serving spoons (above) with a quirky engraving on the spoon. £27.99,

Alternatively, create your own hamper of gardening goodies, including unusual plant labels and seeds, decorative seed tins (I like The Perfect for Pollinators Flower Collection and Award Winning Vegetable Collectioncomprising 10 packets of Johnsons seeds in a high quality reusable tin, £14.99, (right), colourful gardening twine and pretty notebooks. Add some pampering items and you're on to a winner for her.

These might include a luxurious Gardener's Hand Healer Duo from Le Couvent Des Minimes (£15,, which comprises Ultra Cleansing Gel and Smoothing Moisturising Lotion with essence of lemon and geranium (right).

Alternatively, if your pal likes to languish in a hot bath at the end of a long day's gardening, the ultimate in luxury is Jo Malone and this year's Christmas range is wrapped in mistletoe green. The Bath & Body Collection, of Orange Blossom Body Creme, Blackberry & Bay Bath Soap and Lime, Basil & Mandarin Shower Oil (right)will keep the scent of the garden wafting long after the sun has gone down. £48, for stockists visit

Of course, the most ardent gardeners will make their own jams and chutneys from home-grown produce, but what they may not be able to make themselves is a festive Spiced Apple & Cocoa Nib Chutney from Hotel Chocolat (left), featuring top-quality roasted cocoa nibs, Granny Smith apples, grapes, cinnamon, ginger with a dash of rum and brandy. £5, for stockists visit

With the craze in adult colouring, you could slip in Johanna Basford's Secret Garden Journal (right), in which the recipient can write notes on flora and fauna, as well as colour in 72 garden-based illustrations. £12.95, published by Laurence King on November 16,

Providing a good Christmas for gardeners could prove an easier job than you thought.

Best of the Bunch

Autumn cyclamen

Autumn-flowering cyclamen hederifolium, emerge in autumn, their delicate hanging buds opening to reveal flowers in shades of white, pink, cerise and magenta.

The first blooms appear before the ivy-like leaves. They prefer a slightly shaded spot and thrive best when there is plenty of moisture from autumn through to spring without the ground becoming waterlogged. Cyclamen coum, which forms a carpet of kidney-shaped, silvered leaves, decorated with nodding flowers, are perfect for lighting up areas of moist shade next to paths, or planting between trees and shrubs where they will tolerate dry soil.

They make wonderful partners for heucheras and hellebores. Florists' cyclamen persicum, are large flowered and sold as winter bedding or house plants. Don't overfeed or overwater them or they will flop and, if you're keeping them in the house, make sure they are in a cool, well-ventilated spot.

Good enough to Eat


Spinach is best sown in succession through the summer and cut when small, before it starts to bolt.

The first sowings can be made in February in short rows once every three weeks, directly into a well-prepared seedbed in drills 1cm deep and 30cm apart. The first leaves should be ready for cutting around 12 weeks from sowing, but don't sow in summer or the plants may bolt quickly. However, true spinach can be cut right through to November, although you may have to protect it with cloches if you live in a cold area. Types like 'Giant Winter' will overwinter from an autumn sowing.

  • Prune tall hybrid tea roses slightly to remove old flower stems and old wood.
  • Place forcing jars over rhubarb clumps to encourage early stems for harvesting.
  • Continue winter digging if the ground is not frozen or waterlogged.
  • Plant bare-rooted shrubs and roses in prepared soil.
  • Lift and store swede and turnip for winter use.
  • Keep your bird feeders well stocked and put out fresh water each day.
  • Scrub out old flower pots and seed trays and store them in the shed for future use.
  • Send off your orders for potatoes, onion sets and shallots, if you haven't already done so.
  • Check that climbers and wall shrubs are secured to their supports to stop them being damaged by winter winds.
  • Firm the soil down around newly planted stock to prevent it being lifted by frost.

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