Christmas gift suggestions for the older gardener

Good quality tools are always a hit as Christmas gifts. Lightweight aluminum trowels with a narrow scoop are much easier on the muscles than larger steel trowels, writes gardening expert John DeGroot. A good quality sharp pruning tool is essential for those who may have wrist issues. John DeGroot photo

My new-found friend Sam moved to Sarnia this spring. He’d been living in Calgary for three or four years, and then landed a job at Nova. His elderly parents now live with him, and the Sarnia lifestyle is suiting them just fine. A smaller city, reasonably priced housing, good health care and our proximity to Detroit, Chicago and Toronto all make for a comfortable lifestyle.

Sam’s parents are getting on in years. They seldom leave the house, unless for health-care appointments. Mobility in the house is just fine but wandering around in the garden is beginning to become difficult. Years ago, Sam’s dad was an avid vegetable gardener, but a complicated knee injury caused him to leave the shovel and hoe in the garage.

Like many middle-aged folks, choosing Christmas gifts for parents is difficult. I suggested to Sam that he put up two or three raised flower boxes and set them on the patio. Sam’s dad could tinker endlessly in the backyard, pruning, watering, tending to herbs, pinching flowers and enjoying the fruits of labour. Fortunately, Sam’s family room opens up to a large south-facing raised patio that could easily accommodate several raised planter boxes.

The other worthwhile gift for any gardener over 65 is kneepads. As bending over becomes a chore, knee pads are almost a necessity, especially if the soil is hard or damp. Garden kneelers are an option for those who want assistance getting up off the ground. Some models can be flipped over to serve as a garden seat.

Garden clogs are great for a quick dash into the garden to pick a few herbs at dinnertime. Look for slip-on rubber or plastic waterproof clogs that are easy to get on and off. Supplement the gift with a wide brim gardening hat that will provide protection for those long summer days.

For elderly gardeners who have everything, consider a gift of service. Make up a gift voucher that’s valid for six hours of hard labour in springtime. Many gardeners are fine with planting flowers, but need help digging holes for trees, laying patio stones and cutting out sod for a new garden area.

Good quality tools are always a hit. Lightweight aluminum trowels with a narrow scoop are much easier on the muscles than larger steel trowels. A good quality sharp pruning tool is essential for those who may have wrist issues. Look for a model that is rust-proof with an easy open and close mechanism.

Gardening gloves that fit like a second skin offer more dexterity and comfort than traditional work gloves. Good quality gloves will cost a few dollars more but will last many years.

For impatient gardeners who can’t wait till spring to get their hands dirty, consider a selection of tropical plants that will brighten the indoors during the dreary winter. For those who are new to indoor gardening, I suggest starting with a few easy-care plants such as sanseveria (snake plant), agloneama (Chinese evergreen) or philodendron (pothos).

Bird feeders are wonderful for those who spend much time indoors. Perch the feeder on a steel shepherd hook and place it near the window for easy viewing. When choosing a bird feeder, I recommend looking for a large capacity feeder that is easy to fill.

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