Gifts for green thumbs


Local fruit trees make great gifts for the gardeners in your life—and winter is the perfect time to plant them. File photo. Local fruit trees make great gifts for the gardeners in your life—and winter is the perfect time to plant them. File photo.

Gardeners can be a fussy and opinionated lot, which makes them hard to shop for. As Christmas approaches, here are some gift ideas for the gardener in your life.

Fruit trees. Winter is the best time to plant fruit trees. Because the trees are dormant, their chances of survival and getting well established increase dramatically. Locally, you can source a wonderful variety of interesting and hard-to-find apple and other fruit trees from Vintage Virginia Apples in North Garden (grab a swig of their hard cider while you’re there). Edible Landscaping in Afton has a remarkable selection of unusual edible perennials of all types—perhaps the adventurous gardener would like to try growing Goumi or Medlar this year?

Workshops and events. For the gardener who has everything, why not give the gift of education? Winter is a wonderful time to take a class and dream big for the growing season to come. The Virginia Association for Biological Farming hosts its annual conference (geared towards farmers and gardeners alike) January 31-February 1 in Richmond. Topics on the conference agenda include biodynamic beekeeping, raising small-scale poultry, year-round seed germination, and more—and the group’s popular organic foods festival is not to be missed.

If you’re looking for something more hands-on, head back to Vintage Virginia Apples and check out its workshops, including pruning (February 15), grafting (February 22), and planning and planting the home orchard (March 1). Keep tabs on the Local Food Hub’s website as well, for additional hands-on programs for farmers and gardeners.

Local flavor. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, located in Louisa, is a great resource for the home vegetable gardener. Consider a gift card for the purchase of heirloom and organic seeds, or something from its wide array of gardening books and resources. New this year is Ira Wallace’s book Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast (Timber Press, 2013), a guide to growing successful organic vegetables in our region.

Gift cards can also be purchased for many other seed suppliers—at the top of my list are Fedco Seeds in Maine, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri, and Hudson Valley Seed Library in New York.

Charitable gifts. Perhaps you’re opting out of material gifts this year—good for you! There are a number of worthy and wonderful non-profit organizations that specialize in food- and garden-related work that would welcome your gift donation on behalf of a friend or family member. Some of my favorites include City Schoolyard Garden, engaging Charlottesville public school students in hands-on garden education; Local Food Hub, working with farmers, institutions, and the public to promote more locally and ecologically grown food; and Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary, promoting the sustainable and biodynamic practice of bee-keeping, and dedicated to protecting honeybees.

Merry Christmas! And may you reap bountiful harvests in 2014.

Gardening columnist Guinevere Higgins is owner of Blue Ridge Backyard Harvest, which provides consultation, design, and installations for home-scale edible gardens. When she’s not gardening, she works in fundraising for the Center for a New American Dream.